Category Archives: Democratic Stuff

Lupe Valdez Files for Texas Governor; Farm Worker Family Scrutinized

Sheriff Lupe Valdez has filed to run for Texas Governor in the Dem Primary. It was expected and hoped for by many who have thought of the current choices as a complete flatline–including me. Thanks, Lupe!

Like any major candidate, one attempts to connect with voters with a good narrative. And Lupe Valdez has a story.

Valdez was born in San Antonio in 1947, one of eight children in a family of migrant farm workers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Nazarene University — a liberal arts college in Bethany, Oklahoma — before receiving a master’s in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Texas at Arlington.

The story continues with her service in the US Army as a captain, her work as a federal agent with CPB and as an investigator and her trek toward becoming sheriff of the state’s second largest county. If anything, she was among the first Democrats to inject some hope into Dems about Texas one day becoming blue, having been elected Sheriff in that first blue Dallas wave in 2004.

As Sheriff, Valdez hasn’t backed away from Greg Abbott’s politicization of the immigration issue, particularly the use of 287(g). Valdez at one point decided that low-grade undocumented offenders wouldn’t be reported to ICE, earning her the ire of Greg Abbott and a threat that cities and counties who didn’t cooperate would have their funds cut. Her mention of deportations and family separations in her post-filing speech shows she’s the only candidate ready to take on Abbott.

As excited as I am about her candidacy, I was also a bit irked when I read a “fact-check” article about Lupe in which it seemed her farm worker kid life was being questioned.

“I am the youngest of eight children born to migrant workers.”

The fact-checking PolitiFact Texas project based at the Austin American-Statesman hasn’t independently verified that biographical detail.

What’s Selby looking for? Kennedy-esque 8mm video of the family arriving at some midwestern state? Of them going up and down the plowed fields picking sugar beets? Smiling for the camera? Of old pay stubs, which included the deductions for overpriced rent and groceries billed by the farmers, thus taking most of the summer’s paycheck?

South Texas Chicano families of 10 picking sugar beets in Cassleton, North Dakota, cherries in Sturgeon Bay, WI and tomatoes and strawberries in California and Bluffton, Indiana were the norm in the 50’s. That included the Medellins and the Sernas.

I take it a bit personally, having been the son of farm workers. I even had the privilege of hanging out in a sugar beet field one summer that our family needed to go earn some money. It wasn’t that successful a summer–long story. And I’m sure there are plenty of these long stories that are hard to document, but that many of us wear as badges of honor and with which we can identify.

If Selby and others want to know about Chicano farm worker life, then I suggest he watch “…And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him.” The movie based on the autobiography of Crystal City’s Tomas Rivera.

That said, I’m ready to support Lupe Valdez and I look forward to what develops.

UPDATE:  Lupe Valdez has provided the fact-checkers with photos of her migrant days. Instead of black/white photos, my response to them would have been a lot more…colorful.

 

 

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Looking Forward To The 2018 Dem Primary

Well, looks like all the excitement (and panic) over the race for Congressional District 29 has subsided as current and former officeholders who contemplated running for the seat decided to either run for re-election to their respective seats, or, go in a different direction.

State Reps Armando Walle (140) and Carol Alvarado (145) have decided to run for re-election. Both have served for multiple terms and are considered leaders at the Capitol who will be needed to take on an expected right-wing onslaught of bigoted bills. Of course, both may also be thinking of the free-shot at running for SD-6 without the need to resign if/when Sylvia Garcia is elected to Congress, which we’ll know after the Dem Primary since the district usually goes Democratic in November.

Former Sheriff Adrian Garcia has also decided to go in a different direction and challenge right-winger Jack Morman for County Commish Pct. 2, which covers East Harris County. As much as Adrian Garcia and I have debated on some issues, I’ve always been a fan of his. I think he can run hardest toward November, as well as excite the electorate to vote down-ballot.

Harris Democrats have been updating a page containing folks running for judicial positions. There are a few candidates in contested races that I’m supporting, including Rabeea Collier for the 113th District Court; Fred Cook for the 189th District Court; and Raul Rodriguez for County Criminal Court #13.

I’ve known Rabeea for over a decade, which is most of her legal career. We both organized in the Kingwood/Humble area as activists trying to increase the Democratic bottom line. As an activist, she has worked hard to turn Harris County blue. As an attorney, she zealously represents her clients. She has put in the sweat equity over the years and deserves to be our nominee.

Fred Cook first ran for judge in 2008 in a very contested race in which Judge Steven Kirkland was the victor. I supported Fred back then and we both supported Kirkland afterwards. When I heard he was running again, I felt it was about time.

Raul Rodriguez has run for positions at different times, while also putting in time volunteering in various activities. I mean, whenever I go to something in the community, Raul (and wife Pati) are there! Raul deserves to be our nominee in November. He’s experienced and has a sincere connection to the community.

There will be more to come as more candidates file, especially the statewides. I’m hoping Sheriff Lupe Valdez of Dallas files for Governor, otherwise, I won’t be left with any good choices and I may just skip the race entirely (or hold my nose in November). And I really hope Little Brown Trust Fund Baby gets a challenge for Land Commish.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  And within an hour of this post, this just in:

Lina Hidalgo, Democrat for Harris County Judge, Responds to State of the County

Well, if you’re going to take on Ed Emmett (and Republicans, in general), Lina Hidalgo, Democrat for County Judge, offers up the right attitude and ideas on which to base such a challenge.

As much as it is a message to voters around the County, it is also a message to Democrats who so easily get enamored by so-called “moderates” who still do much for their right-wing-nut-job of a political party. Including staying quiet and raising dollars for them even when laws like SB4 are passed.

Give it a listen!

 

The Undocumented Worker: Hated Until Needed

Some will point to Republican hatred toward immigrants since 2006, and others will point to Bill Clinton’s immigration act which created 287(g) and increased enforcement without fixing the system, but all of this time later, and after $150 billion in Harvey damage, now, there’s a freak-out over the target that hovers over the undocumented laborer who would be tasked with rebuilding Houston if everyone just looked away, especially Trump and his ilk.

All of this time later, various attempts at “comprehensive immigration reform” have failed because Republicans and some Democrats just had to show some artificial toughness to keep the bigoted happy. We’ll let in some people, but we’re going to triple the Mexican hunting police force (border patrol), federalize local cops, start a guest worker exploitation program, and build a fence. I’m all for give and take in a negotiation, but most CIR attempts, even Kennedy-McCain, bordered on ridiculous.

Nowhere along the way has there been much discussion of fixing a broken immigration system–fixing the “line” that everyone tells the undocumented to get to the end of. Nowhere along the way has there been much discussion about correcting US policy in Latin America that supports murderous right-wing regimes and US corporate interests, while attacking progressive leaders who want to provide basic necessities to the poor and indigenous–long ignored by the right-wing and wealthy. Yet, the blame only falls on the undocumented.

Now, you add a despot whose supporters hate Mexicans (and others) just for existing and, instead of looking at the human rights aspect of this, people think, “Who’s going to rebuild us?”

While I appreciate Lisa Falkenberg’s article about the undocumented rebuilding Houston, I’m still irked by the assumption by others that the only reason we need them (at this time) is for cheap, uninsured labor without worker protections. Especially when builders and contractors are the ones crying the loudest as they stand to make the most during the rebuild with this source of cheap labor.

It goes back to why we need more than just a DREAM Act. We need the parents of DREAMers and other workers who make up this exploited labor force, too. They must be protected. They must be paid what they’re worth. They must be insured and have worker protections from bosses who will exploit them during these times. Because, suddenly, it seems they’re not “taking someone else’s job;” they are filling open jobs, if we let them.

As Falkenberg stated:

But honesty takes only mere seconds. Enough with the hypocrisy. We need these workers. Right now, they’re digging Houston out of the worst flood in American history. The least we can do is offer them a path out of the shadows.

 

 

It’s Not Just About Joe Arpaio

There’s a lot of anger and shock at Trump’s pardon of the bigoted Joe Arpaio. All my liberal friends on Facebook sure are pissed. But they need to admit that none of this started with Trump or Arpaio.

Back in 1996, I was pissed, too. That’s when Bill Clinton signed his own immigration act, which included section 287(g), a license to hunt and racially profile brown people for immigration purposes. Back then, many of us in the immigrant rights movement knew what was to come. Everyone else was just playing politics and ignoring the inevitable. And the Joe Arpaios of the world got exactly what they wanted.

Much like Republicans tell us now that laws like Texas’ SB4 are for the purposes of “safety,” Bill Clinton did the same. That 287(g) was about going after “criminals.” And Obama’s expansion of Dubya Bush’s Secure Communities didn’t help, either. Millions of deportations, hundreds of thousands in profiteering private prisons, families separated, racial profiling gone rampant, economies destabilized, apologists for anti-immigrant Democratic candidates, etc, and the politics of this issue have become pretty screwy.

So, I read all this anger and ask, “Where have you been?”

If you’re not willing to stop the root causes, even though us brown people warned you about them 20 years ago, then what are you angry about? If you’re up in arms about Trump and Arpaio, but are apologists for those who gave them the power to hunt and profile, what is the intent of your anger?

Well, if it’s winning elections and going back to the same old Democratic way of addressing immigration, then, good luck with that. We see right through it. And for someone who has voted in every single Democratic Primary since turning of voting age, it’s pretty much killed my love of politics, not to mention my involvement in it.

No doubt, Joe Arpaio is evil. But Donald Trump is just the jet fuel that is being added to a dumpster fire that has existed since the first immigration laws were written–when the United States decided that there had to be an Us versus Them mentality in 1790. “Them” being the original inhabitants of the land, then, those kidnapped and brought over for profit, then, anyone else who wanted to come over that didn’t fit the profile of the original undocumented people.

There’s a lot of hate in the United States and all the “love” memes and frames on Facebook are not going to change it. And surely, liberal, sanctimonious whitesplaining to Latino voters that they need to vote isn’t going to create political victories. As if the 70% of white people who put Trump in office don’t deserve any blame. Since 1996, we’ve seen what Democrats can do with 287(g) and immigration enforcement, too. It wasn’t just Arpaio.

Taking a stand against racist policies, showing unapologetic support for those being attacked and targeted, and proposing policies that benefit people (rather than target them) are what excite people to go to the polls, among other progressive policies. And calling out members of your own political party when they take the politically expedient route to appease the worst among us is a good start, too.

And if your only response to this post is, “Do you want Trump to win?”, well, perhaps you’re not trying hard enough to beat him and the people who continually support bigoted immigration policies.

 

Sheriff Gonzalez Ends Use of Private Jails

Now, this is the kind of news I like to hear coming out of Sheriff Gonzalez’s office.

For years, Harris County has spent millions transporting and warehousing inmates in private jails and prisons because of overcrowding. Sure, the article states that this was done mostly for budget savings and to curb overcrowding, but these private jails are badly run with little oversight. Still, it’s good to see the Sheriff take action on the matter.

“I simply think we incarcerate way too many folks; and there is a cost associated with that. Whether it be the cost of daily housing or sometimes outsourcing inmates. So I think that we need to change those practices… And that’s why I’m a big advocate for reform, and really addressing our mass incarceration complex that we have in this country,” Gonzalez said.

He says there are also other benefits to bringing inmates back in-house.

“We have more control of what we’re doing. You know, the medical records, things like that,” Gonzalez said.

Another benefit? Loved ones can visit inmates, without having to travel to other municipalities or cities.

There are still some major systemic problems that need to be dealt with, but, I guess culture change takes a lot of time to achieve buy-in and implementation. At least that’s what I keep getting told by the local experts.

One thing’s for sure, we really need to do something about that bail system; however, for that, we’ll also need some good candidates to defeat the incumbent county judge and Precinct 2 commissioner.

Still Seeking Statewide Democrats

As Greg Abbott announces his re-election campaign, Democrats are still left wondering who will carry the Donkey flag in 2018 for governor and the other statewide offices. News came out that a Dallasite has announced a run in the Dem primary to take on Abbott, Jeffery Payne.

What caught my eye:

he also opposes the new state law banning sanctuary cities.

While he supports increasing border security, he says those who are in the U.S. illegally should be placed on a path to citizenship.

He got two out of three there. As I’ve always said, never sound like a Republican and “increasing border security” sounds quite Republican. My question to Payne is, what the hell does “increasing border security” even mean?

In a state race like this one, does it mean he supports the DPS border surge which has been all waste, all fear-mongering, and all border militarization? State police border enforcement is OK, but not SB4-type local police enforcement?

Or is he talking about supporting federal efforts, like Trump’s border wall? Or added militarization on the border, except with the national guard?

Or is he just trying to gain a few conservative votes? Ask the last Dems who ran for governor how that went for them, then seek some clarity.

Now, if he is against the sanctuary cities ban, he’s not a bad guy. but seeking “balance” on an issue in which the Republicans have been completely hateful and divisive isn’t necessarily the correct response.

The better response may be to simply call out the hundreds of millions in waste and fear caused by Abbott and his DPS border surge. The increase in crimes not investigated by DPS. The increase of DPS traffic tickets in the Valley. The lack of crime reporting by immigrants and a Latino community that distrusts the police. The travesty of deaths on the border under a hot Texas sun caused by these militarized efforts. Or, the fact that all of this is a political ploy to keep Texans in fear, blaming others, for the problems caused by the Republicans.

We’ve got a lot of material to work with just on this one issue. “Increasing border security” will never be believable to those who vote based on fear and/or hate.

I recently wrote about recent calls for the move to “centrism” as a means of making some anti-immigrant policies acceptable to Democrats. I hope this isn’t the advice our statewides will pay for in 2018.

As West Wing’s Leo McGarry told Jed Bartlet, “Because I’m tired of it – year after year after year after year, having to choose between the lesser of ‘who cares?'”

 

Harris County Republican Commissioners Chicken Out on SB4 Lawsuit

As was expected, the Republicans on the Harris County Commissioner’s Court chickened out when Democrat Rodney Ellis made the motion for Harris County to join the SB4 lawsuit. So chicken were they–at the very least Judge Emmett and Pct. 2 Commissioner Jack Morman–that they wouldn’t even second Ellis’ motion so that a proper vote would be taken by the court.

A diverse set of leaders and advocates went before the court asking for the County to join the lawsuit against the legalized racial profiling law which would allow law enforcement to ask persons of their immigration status. Included in the list were State Senator Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Armando Walle.

As reported by the Texas Observer, it would seem to me that Emmett attempted to provide some political cover for his fellow Republicans.

“Don’t interpret, if we decide not to sue, that decision as an endorsement of SB 4,” he said after hearing the testimony, which lasted about 15 minutes.

“It is!” shouted someone in the audience. She called the commissioners  “cowards,” and promised that she and others would campaign against those who chose not to sue. Police officers escorted her out of the room.

Emmett said SB 4 goes too far in “interfering” with local government, but said that doesn’t mean the county should sue.

So, why not a vote? Admitting to overreach, yet chickening out, says a lot about the lack of leadership that exists in Harris County.

It’s just another way of saying, “We’re not racist, but…”

Anyway, who’s running against the judge and the Pct. 2 commish in 2018? At the very least, we need a good Democratic choice on the ballot, if not a well-funded one. The GOPers sell themselves to the highest bidders.

Democrats, though, seem to be leading the way in fighting SB4, along with various organizations. And as a likely bigoted and anti-education special session nears, at least one Democratic State Rep., Ramon Romero of Fort Worth, has  filed a bill to repeal SB4.

Hey, who knows? Perhaps the ghost of Texas’ Bigoted Past will visit a majority of the Republicans under the dome and they’ll vote for it.

UPDATE:  Kuff has more on the Republicans’ big miss on what might have been a profiile in courage. Morman’s excuse is pretty weak.

 

 

Is “Move to Center” Talk by Dems Code For Anti-Immigrant Talk?

An op-ed appeared in the NYT written by a Bill and Hillary Clinton pollster (Mark Penn and some other guy) calling for Democrats to move to the center because that’s when they were most successful, i.e., the Clinton years. Of course, they get really specific on the definition of “center”: Go to the right on immigration.

Specifically, it states the following:

Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs. They saw the party being mired too often in political correctness, transgender bathroom issues and policies offering more help to undocumented immigrants than to the heartland.

The suggested immigration policy?

Washington should restore the sanctity of America’s borders, create a path to work permits and possibly citizenship, and give up on both building walls and defending sanctuary cities.

They blame so-called “identity politics” and then call on the Democrats to save  others who are hooked on opioids while calling for the ceasing of  pardons and early prison releases of black kids caught up in the US war on drugs.  And that Dems must also stop protecting brown people from deportation, thus, becoming “anti-sanctuary city” like the other guys.

Let’s be honest,  “working class,” is also code for  “white people in Wisconsin, Pennsylviania, and Michigan,” which are the states Clinton lost. So, kicking a group of people around is OK as long as Dems win? While they may consider it a path to victory, some Latinos will consider it a clear path out of the Party, or worse, away from their polling location.

Now, this may be one op-ed in a major newspaper by some high-paid consultant, but no doubt I’ve heard (and read on social media) the conversations by and about Dems needing to become more centrist ever since the big loss last November. “Change, or else!”, is the mantra. This op-ed, though, is the first time I’ve read something so specific. Otherwise, it’s been elected officials and activists on social media (still) whining about railing on Bernie, or on the “fringe,” which could be anything from Black Lives Matter, Immigration activists, and even “bathroom” policy protesters. (I miss the old days when Dems only hated the LaRouchies.)

This isn’t anything new, and I’ve certainly blogged about it many times over the last twelve years. For some reason, immigrants, and by default, Latinos in general, are usually the first groups with a boot placed on their necks in the name of “working class outreach.” I still recall an East Texas Dem Chair telling my client to “go against the illegals” to win the white vote (and probably his own vote). Is this making a comeback? Please, tell us now, instead of a few weeks before the 2018 election.

Obviously, conversations must be had about the Democratic message, perhaps also about candidate quality, and the stances Dems take on issues. There are smart ways to communicate with voters without being openly divisive. Thus far, these members of the consultant-class who wrote the op-ed aren’t very much into party unity, and much less into the defense of those who come under attack for political purposes by the other side. Dems need to be smarter than what these guys offer.

Something on which to keep an eye and ear open, for sure.

5/21/17 ~ Let’s Celebrate Muriel Stubbs

Early in April, we lost an amazing friend in Muriel Stubbs (obituary). For Harris County Democratic Party faithful, she was a committed volunteer who kept the office running smoothly on her day to manage it. She kept the volunteers busy and fed (usually Thomas BBQ or Hartz Fried Chicken). As far as Democratic conversations went, she was a source of history, but enjoyed seeking out others’ point of view just for the added discussion.

For me and my family, she was a wonderful friend, and a resource for all things having to do with literature and historical facts. She was a sweet friend to my mother, Flora, whom we lost over 15 months ago, too. Never had I seen two amazing women with very different upbringings get along so well and converse for hours on just about anything. Needless to say, after Mom left us, we still had a viejita to visit, have dinners and conversations with, and with whom to talk politics and life. And my family is better for it.

I’m thankful for Muriel being in our lives. I will miss her.

Muriel’s family and friends have scheduled a memorial service to be held Sunday, May 21, 2017. Much in Muriel’s style, it will be simple and casual. Although light snacks and cake will be served, the hall will provide a cash bar for beer, wine, and soft drinks.

A life so beautifully lived

deserves to be beautifully remembered

Please join us as we celebrate the life of

Muriel Stubbs

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

2 to 4 p.m.

American Legion Post 560

Garden Oaks

3720 Alba Road

Houston, TX 77018