Category Archives: Elections

Julian Castro Begins 2020 Campaign From SAs West Side

Thousands of supporters were welcomed by live mariachi music and were sent off with Selena’s music over the loudspeakers at a powerful kick-off for the  presidential campaign of Texas son and former Obama HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

In making his announcement, Castro listed a progressive platform which included Medicare for All, Green New Deal, fixing the immigration system (no wall and yes to family reunification), jobs creation, supporting early education and workforce education, justice/bail reform, and equality and equity. Offering the exact opposite of Trump and the Republicans, Castro set a high bar for the rest of the coming field of Democrats.

As a Texas Mexican, along with many fellow Texas Mexicans, I can say we’ve been waiting a long time for a Chicano candidate with South Texas roots. Given his appointment to the Obama administration and his trajectory in politics, I didn’t know what to expect from his announcement, but I’m glad that, thus far, he seems to be running on his own platform and not one created for him by some moderate think tank.

That said, there is no doubt he will have naysayers; however, those saying he’s too young/too inexperienced have now switched gears to finger pointing on one  particular thing Castro was in charge of while he was running President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development–dismissing a housing lawsuit against the City of Dallas. One must ask these particular naysayers, though:  Where does the buck stop in the Obama administration?

One other issue that will get some attention is where Castro lands on the issue of the PROMESA bill, which created a US-appointed and unelected oversight board for Puerto Rico, a process to restructure debt (bankruptcy) in Puerto Rico, and placed austerity measures on Puerto Rico, thus, cutting its public service budget. With the US in charge of this, public services could easily be privatized, while its budget would be reallocated to pay debt. After a destructive hurricane, the future of Puerto Rico is at stake, and those more interested in protecting creditors and creating wealth for millionaires, rather than protecting and serving the people, could only make things worse.

NOTE:  Lots of Democrats were on their way to Puerto Rico to discuss the latest on this, while also catching a show by PROMESA supporter, Lin-Manuel Miranda. I believe Julian Castro is included on the guest list and his brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro voted for PROMESA, despite opposition from the people of Puerto Rico and his colleague Congressman Luis Gutierrez (Puerto Rican).

Offering up such a progressive campaign platform, Castro shouldn’t be promising great things for America, while sticking a fork in Puerto Rico’s future. I hope that Castro (both of them) will come to their senses on Puerto Rico and call for reform of PROMESA.

Otherwise, Julian has the best platform I’ve seen from a candidate at this level in a long time. His speech delivery and the energy he received in return is something I hadn’t seen in a long time. I’ve been a fan of the Castros and I identify with their struggle, as do many Chicanos. For all candidates, though, if you run on struggle, it still must match up with policies.

As attacks on Julian Castro will escalate, we will be hearing more about other 2020 prospects. Whether it’s Kamala Harris’ jailing of poor moms because of their kid’s truancy; Klobuchar’s selling out on border wall; Joe Biden being, well,  Joe Biden; and the list will go on, Democrats will get to choose among candidates who have some bad marks. I just want to say ahead of time that criticism should not be thrown only at Julian Castro.

Thus far, given the names announced and talked about, and consideration of bad/good points of these prospects, Julian Castro remains at the top of my list. For Castro, wins in Nevada, California, and Texas would be huge, and my friends in those states are already excited about him.

Still, 2019 is just as important and we must vote in local elections, too.

 

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Same Characters, Same Border Fear-Mongering

The Lite Gov of Texas told El Cheeto he’d build the wall for him and the orange one ran with it.

“One of the things that Dan Patrick suggested, which I thought was very interesting, was: Give the state of Texas a relatively small amount of money — they’ll build a wall themselves, cause they wanna build it,” Trump said.

Talk about boondoggles.

Although, I still think I can do it cheaper than you. … You do things very well in Texas, and I like that idea, so we’ll take a look.”

If this doesn’t sound like a competition for kickbacks on kickbacks, I don’t know what else it could be. Of course, there’s also the racist nature of Trump and Patrick who salivate at the thought of banning brown people from the USA.

Patrick’s idea is a 200 mile wall from Brownsville to Falcon Lake–basically, South Texas. And Texas will still spend another billion dollars on the current boondoggle of a “border surge” that has destabilized communities and militarized the border.

Needless to say, the Texas legislative session just got a little more interesting.

Here in Houston, Chief Art Acevedo joined the debate by stating that the border issue is overblown and that more money is needed for law enforcement on the streets of Houston. A recent murder of a child by alleged gang members has brought the gang issue back into the light.

ABC13 reported on this with the cops union boss blaming the border and immigrants for Houston crime, thus supporting Trump’s policies. This is nothing new as the cops union has supported racist policies like SB4, 287g and Secure Communities in the past.

This is why I’ve always told “progressive” politicians: Stay away from bigoted policies and those who support them! You’ll never out-bigot the bigots.

I’m expecting border issues to become localized as the cops union gets involved and somehow it all makes it into the mayoral debates of 2019. When Houston is experiencing a host of issues, lack of money, and lack of political will, blaming others for problems is to be expected.

Stay tuned, folks.

Chicano Political Prisoner Ramsey Muñiz Released

Although I had heard through activist friends that Ramsey Muñiz had been released in mid-December, the AP finally reported his release from federal prison a month later.

Muñiz, a policy-saavy, charismatic, well-spoken, Baylor-educated lawyer, was La Raza Unida Party’s 1972 gubernatorial candidate. It was those qualities he effectively utilized to put a scare into the Texas Democratic Party by earning over 210,000 votes in a three-way race which almost ended the career of Dolph Briscoe and Democratic power in Texas. The usual historians write it off as Muñiz only garnering 6% of the vote, but it was 210,000 Chicanos who united in calling out the Democratic Party for their lack of respect of the people.

Although La Raza Unida had achieved much in various South Texas counties and even fielded candidates in Houston and Harris County, it was this venture into Texas politics that helped earn it a special place in Texas political history. LRU even fielded a Chicana for Lt. Governor. And it also caused a change in the way Democrats treated Chicanos in Texas–some might say, at least on the surface.

During the time, as Chicano scholar Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez found out through FOIA requests, the FBI targeted various Chicano activists through surveillance and other methods. Chicano political activity was constantly under attack and effectiveness was always challenged because those in power would never allow for shared political power with Chicanos. Gutierrez has a new book coming out in March in which he details the surveillance of the Democrats’ favorite brown person, Cesar Chavez.

It is said that Muñiz was among those targeted when in 1976 he was charged federally with attempting to smuggle marijuana into the US from Mexico. After pleading guilty to one count and being sentenced for 5 years, La Raza Unida Party lost popularity and died a slow death, while Democrats picked up what was left of Chicano activists who were salvageable for political purposes. Later, he’d be charged two more times, thus given a mandatory life sentence in federal prison.

Many believed Muñiz to be a political prisoner imprisoned on false charges, forced to plead out in order to save himself from long-term sentences on the first two charges.

A mandatory life sentence from a 1994 charge, though, is what caused him to reside at Leavenworth the last 24 years. Yes, a military prison for what are small-time charges compared to cartels and major drug dealers. Like other prisoners deemed to be imprisoned for political reasons, he requested early release from Presidents, including Obama, only to be denied. Because of failing health and age, he was finally released on December 10, 2018.

There is little doubt that the burgeoning activism in the Chicano community of the time was demoralized by those in power. That voting and activism in the community was at an all-time high during the time only to be cut off at the knees perhaps shows why Chicano voting patterns have taken decades to improve. No doubt, there is a lack of trust of anyone in power and with good reason. We are seeing similar responses to recently elected Latinos with strong opinions–just a thought.

Anyway, I’m glad that Mr. Muñiz is home with his wife, Irma, whom I met in 2003 at a conference I helped coordinate at Texas State University. She and a close circle of friends never gave up on achieving his release. And he’ll always be considered one of my influences as far as political communication is concerned.

The Border Boondoggle Must End

I skipped Stormy doing the laundry to watch El Cheeto do his usual best to divide and conquer an already divided nation–all for a wall.

What most Americans don’t realize is the “humanitarian” crisis he kept mentioning has nothing to do with mothers and children escaping violence and poverty in Central America. He seems to care more about the sensibilities of his racist base and anyone else who feels victimized by the mere sight of brown people.

Some were predicting lie after lie by Trump, and I haven’t had time to go over the numbers he spouted, nor do I want to. Whether one fact-checks Trump or not, he said it before a national audience and no corrective measure will cause a sudden change of heart in the bigots who support him. Standing against everything he is about is about the only thing that will work, in my opinion.

The Democratic response left much to be desired. Standing against the wall is fine and dandy, but funneling more money into the border boondoggle is not a solution when we throw money at one part of system (enforcement gadgets) but ignore the rest of the system (immigration). Ultimately, all Pelosi and Schumer presented was just another “tough talk” tactic to appease anti-immigrant hardliners to re-open the government and some pro-migrant platitudes from eight years ago. We’ll see how this works out.

Democrats are missing out on a real opportunity to change the conversation toward one that discusses fixing the system. Instead, Democrats want to keep funding a broken system in which human rights are violated on a daily basis; captured children have died; which continues funding baby jail contractors; and keeps the border militarized, in exchange for Trump backing down on a wall. Appeasing evil doesn’t sound workable to me, and Trump is definitely evil.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sure as hell has the right idea.

Raj Salhotra Announces Bid for Houston City Council At-Large 1

During the election and holiday season, I saw this young leader, Raj Salhotra, working rooms and talking to voters and activists about his intention to run for Houston City Council At-Large 1. To say he’s impressive is an understatement. On Monday, he made his announcement through social media:

Today I am excited to announce my candidacy for Houston City Council At-Large Position 1. Houston is an incredible city because of its diversity, its can-do spirit, and its opportunity. I love Houston because it made my immigrant family’s American Dream possible. However, as a teacher, I saw students and their parents who shared my family’s aspirations yet were trapped in poverty because of policy failures. I am running for Houston City Council to build One Houston where every community, family, and child— regardless of zip code—can reach their dreams. I cannot do this alone, so I am asking for your help to join me in building this movement. There are three ways you can help:

1. If you are interested in knocking on doors, phone banking, hosting events, or attending meetings, please visit www.rajforhouston.com/volunteer to join us.

2. If you can contribute financially, please visit www.rajforhouston.com/contribute. Every dollar counts, and I very much appreciate all of your support.

3. Please follow our campaign on Facebook by liking our page Raj For Houston. We will post updates there and would love to hear from you about your vision for Houston.

Thank you for your support, and I know that together we can build a Houston that ensures all of us can reach our dreams.

Visit his website and social media to keep up with Raj Salhotra. He’ll be meeting you soon, for sure.

 

Thoughts on HD145

Well, I’ve been asked what I think of the Special Election for Texas HouseDistrict 145 and my favorite answer to them has been, “I live in HD137!”

Still, when one of the candidates is a long-time friend for whom one has put up signs, passed out push cards, and helped raise money, it’s hard to stay quiet.

That said, there are eight in the running for HD145, the seat once held by newly elected Texas Senator Carol Alvarado (congrats to her, by the way). The most familiar name to me is Melissa Noriega, who temporarily filled the HD145 seat when she was called up to serve in the seat while the officeholder was called to war. She also served three terms on the Houston City Council having effectively earned citywide support, which shows her campaign abilities. In both positions, Noriega served well and was among the most responsive members of the Council during that time. I did my part to get out the vote during my time in the ‘burbs for Melissa Noriega, so, needless to say, I am rooting for her in this race.

Read more about Melissa Noriega. She has served her community in education, nonprofits, and community groups. Always responsive and always ready to listen to constituents–what I believe are the two most important qualifications of a state representative.

As far as the other candidates are concerned, I know De La Garza ran previously for the seat and Del Toro ran with a lot of heart for Pasadena City Council recently. The others, I guess I don’t run in their circles, but I have friends that are supporting one of the others.

I do want to hear more about all of the candidates’ positions as the 86th Lege Session is about to begin and already plenty of bills have been filed. Other than De La Garza and the right-winger, I haven’t seen much in the form of policy pronouncements:  Where do they stand on HISD and education finance? Public schools or charter/privatization? Where do they stand on SB4? Where do they stand on criminal justice reform? Where do they stand on voting rights? Where do they stand on billions wasted on border militarization? You know stuff on which we have been attacked in recent times.

I prefer to see a campaign of issues rather than a popularity contest. But maybe that’s just me. Anyway, some asked where I stood, so, I responded.

Best of luck to the candidates. I know I have friends working in two of the campaigns, at least. Early voting starts January 14th. Election Day is January 29th.

Harris County Commissioners Court: First Meeting of 2019

County Judge Lina Hidalgo reminds us that Tuesday, January 8, 2019, 10AM is the first County Commissioner’s Meeting of 2019. And there is lots to discuss and debate:

Looking forward to an historic day tomorrow for Harris County. Tomorrow is the first Commissioners Court meeting of the year. Flood mitigation, $15 minimum wage for county employees and voting centers are some of the issues up for debate. You may watch in person at 1001 Preston St Houston TX 77002, or online at http://www.harriscountytx.gov/Gov…/Court-Agenda/Court-Videos

Once again, that’s Tuesday, January 8 at 10AM.

For a copy of the agenda, click here.

We may have a Democratic majority on the Court, but accountability still matters. Pay attention!

 

Democrats Sweep Harris County!

Most countywide Democratic candidates in Harris County knew they looked good after the early voting tally was released. But it was the race for Harris County Judge that had many on the edge of their seats until Lina Hidalgo was suddenly leading 11-year incumbent Ed Emmett by 6,000 votes. Things got a little more comfortable a little later, then, Hidalgo became the first Latina to be elected to the County’s executive post.

No doubt there were Democrats who were supporting the Republican, given that Hidalgo didn’t enjoy the extra percentage margin that some of the other Democrats enjoyed. Some of our Latino statewides were going through something similar for some reason.

Congrats to Lina Hidalgo. She came out strong when she announced her run, whether the issue was flood control and response, County services, bail and justice reform, or even immigration. So strong that she was left with no opposition in the Primary. Bottom line:  Hidalgo held progressive policy positions on these issues, while Emmett did not. So, Democratic naysayers, please stop insulting voters’ intelligence and that of the County Judge-elect. We know which political party is on the side of the people, especially locally.

The Harris County Commissioner’s Court now has a Democratic majority as former County Sheriff Adrian Garcia defeated incumbent Jack Morman by around 1800 votes. The outcome wasn’t final until the very end as Garcia was able to overcome a gerrymandering play that changed Precinct 2 to a Republican-opportunity district. A good and disciplined ground  campaign defeated Morman’s negativity and attacks-based campaign.

For those naysayers, a reminder that a Democratic majority at County will actually address the issues that are important to the people. We need action, not just a pat on the head during a hurricane to make us feel warm and fuzzy.

Kudos should go to Penny Shaw who turned Precinct 4 into a more palatable challenge against Republicans. Penny worked hard from Day 1 and deserves Democrats’ thanks for running.

Along with new faces in black robes on the bench and new administrators like Diane Trautman as County Clerk, Marilyn Burgress as District Clerk, and Dylan Osborne as County Treasurer, Harris County has two new Congresswomen in Sylvia Garcia and Lizzie Fletcher.

While Garcia’s road to victory was a little easier and more about ensuring turnout to bolster the bottom line, Fletcher’s team ran a strong field campaign to earn every vote to take out the Republican incumbent. Attacked often on immigration and Nancy Pelosi, Fletcher kept a disciplined message on health care and took it to the finish line.

No doubt, the Beto effect helped turn counties blue or bluer, but in races that were in tough to win districts, it was the field campaigns that put them over the top.

Other surprises included victorious finishes in HD132 (Gina Calanni) and HD135 (Jon Rosenthal) out in the ‘burbs. Adam Milasincic came up 80 votes short in HD138 (Spring Branch) which tells me that district can be taken in 2020. Adam didn’t run away from right-wing attacks on immigration and held his own against an entrenched Republican. Out in Pasadena’s HD144, State Rep. Mary Ann Perez won re-election in huge fashion due to another excellent field campaign.

Update from Milasincic campaign: Unofficial totals show us behind by 137 votes out of 48,000+ counted so far. We have learned that provisional and some mail ballots remain under review.

While Beto was the lead Democrat in the bunch, closer to the bottom of the ballot was Richard Cantu who soundly defeated his opponent by posting Beto-like percentages. So, I don’t know why some losers are complaining about being close to the bottom of the ballot. Richard did great!

It is pretty embarrassing that some would simply blame straight ticket voting. You know, people actually think about Party AND policy when they go into the booth. Most of us actually went back to check our selections since Stanart’s relic voting machines were switching Beto to Cruz, according to reports. To insult our intelligence after losing, well, folks doing that need to hunker down.

Congrats to the Party, the campaign pros, the volunteers, and the voters! Harris County is blue!

TODAY IS ELECTION DAY!

Well, you’ve gotten the calls, the texts, and knocks on your door from campaign pros, volunteers, and even your family and friends who give a shit. If you were not among the 855,000+ Harris Countians who voted early, well, today is your last chance to do your duty.

#NoExcuses #JustVote and #VoteDemocratic

If you’re around the state of Texas, you can easily find your polling location here.

If you’re in Harris County, you can go here to find a sample ballot and YOUR specific polling location.

RECOMMENDATIONS

I won’t waste your time and tell you to read some “non-partisan” guide to help you decide.

I will tell you that only the Democratic candidates support health care for all, educational opportunities for all, an economy that creates well-paying jobs and better job security, and a path toward a better immigration system that benefits the country–without racism, without military intervention, and with compassion.

So, get to it. VOTE!

 

Getting Ahead of the Blame

Today, 11/2/18, is the last day of Early Voting in Texas, and, thus far, over 755,000 have voted in-person and by mail in Harris County. Voting is 7am to 7pm at any early voting location in Harris County.

There have been quite a few articles and even more comments from folks who have laid this election on Latinos. Well, according to Hector de Leon, the numbers guru at the local elections office, the number of Spanish-surnamed voters is up 253% compared to 2014 midterm levels. Or, almost as many as voted in 2016, with one day of early voting left to go. And then there’s still Tuesday. He added that while 27% of Latinos are of Citizen Voting Age Population, and 22% of the voter rolls are Spanish-surnamed, thus far, 17% of those who voted are Spanish surnamed. So, there is that. Patterns of increased participation are being seen throughout South Texas, too.

Which way they’re clicking, is somewhat up in the air, although one can make educated guesses based on geography, voting patterns, etc. One thing is for sure, among those who have already voted, many are first time voters or those who just don’t vote as often. So, it’s true, people think this is a very important election. Whatever the outcome, the uptick in democracy–even with all types of problems and voter suppression–is a good thing.

And, most of all, Latinos cannot be blamed for not showing up. But Im’ sure we will be. Did the candidates fight hard enough for the Latino vote? Well, that’s to be seen, especially down-ballot candidates beyond Beto and el Mentiroso Ted. I’d like to think that there will be a 65-35 split in favor of Beto. There may be another 5% for el Mentiroso if people voted based on surname or bought into the “fake Mexican” Beto narrative. Needless to say, it’s all about GOTV if one wants to overcome the idiocy.

The ad game could have been much better, too, for Democrats. Republicans have been relentless with their MS-13 and caravan narrative. Trump is even threatening to shoot brown folks trying to gain asylum after escaping violence and poverty in their own countries–if any of them throw rocks. What’s next? mass graves in abandoned fracking fields on the border? (I’m serious! What do you think happens when people are killed en masse?) Although Beto had a great response on immigration, others on TV have basically played the willfull ignorance game, or can’t afford a response. Most Latinos cannot vote in CD7, but we sure as hell can see those racist Culberson ads (and the lack of a response to them.)

Whatever the result of the Latino vote, chances are White men still went with El Mentiroso, et al. Where are the white women at? Ay veremos. But if they still love Trump and hate brown/black people, or they’re willing to overlook abuse of brown people and the apologists who look away, I don’t expect much change in this demographic. (Yet, Latinos get blamed, right?)

Keep voting, Gente. Vote for the Democrats.