Category Archives: Elections

Democratic Reaction to Passing of SB4

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These Lawbreakers First!

The Texas Senate passed the committee substitute to Senate Bill 4 on Tuesday night. The bill would stop funding state and local government entities who do not federalize themselves for immigrant hunting duties. As reported by Nacho Aguilar at the Texas Trib:

Senate Bill 4, filed by state Sen. Charles Perry, would punish local and state government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws. Wednesday’s vote was 20-10 along party lines, with state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, absent. Rodriguez was present a day earlier, when the Senate tentatively approved it on a 20-11 vote.

The bill would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. Entities in violation would be stripped of state grant funding and also be subject to civil fines. Department heads could also be subject to criminal prosecution if they violate the provisions of the bill. The bill doesn’t apply to victims of or witnesses to crimes, public schools or hospital districts.

Perry added some steroids to the bill.

Perry amended his bill Tuesday to add tough civil and criminal penalties for entities that don’t comply with the bill’s provisions. One amendment would make a department head whose agency violates the provisions of SB 4 subject to criminal prosecution in the form of a class A misdemeanor. Another added a provision that would subject the local agency to civil penalties, including a fine at least $1,000 for the first offense and $25,000 for each subsequent violation.

The bill now goes to the Texas House for consideration, amendments, etc. Hopefully, House Speaker Joe Straus doesn’t decide to waste state resources, including those to defend from legal challenges. One can hope, right?

Senate Democrats responded:

 

State Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso: “It is clear to me that this is not about public safety. It is about sending a message that immigrants, whether they are legal permanent residents waiting for citizenship, undocumented migrants seeking to join their families, or refugees looking for a chance at a better life, are not welcome.”

State Senator Borris Miles of Houston: “As a former police officer, I know that relationships with communities and police are essential to ensure public safety. I was proud to stand against this measure and vote no. Now, the bill will go to the Texas House of Representatives and I encourage my colleagues there to carefully consider the impact this bill would have on our communities and Texas.”

State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin:  “I love our state. But Texas has a sad, sinful, stained legacy of mistreating people who don’t look like me. This bill and this vote write another ugly chapter in that history.”

 

 

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287(g) Rally: Sheriff, Mayor Respond

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Credit: J.M. Diaz

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez appeared at this morning’s rally against 287(g), a flawed immigrant removal program.

Gonzalez reiterated his support of immigrant rights and his promise to rid Harris County of the controversial program. He did, however, ask for patience and time to study and navigate its ending because of its ties to federal and state funding, and because he wants to ensure that such a program targets violent and serious criminals. During the press conference, he also reiterated that the program is run within the jail and not out in the field and that his deputies will not be targeting individual suspects because of immigration status.

Local immigrant rights activists are seeking policy changes and strong statements of support to undo programs that target immigrants and have run amok of their stated intents. Programs which basically federalize local law enforcement are flawed and have been a cause for racial profiling, wasted resources, family separation, and downgraded local economies.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, also sought out by immigrant rights activists recently responded with his strongest statement yet.

“I know there are a lot of families and children who are afraid and worried right now about what might happen to them. I want them to know that Houston is, and always has been, a welcoming city, where we value and appreciate diversity. HPD is not the Immigration and Naturalization Service. We don’t profile, and we are not going to start profiling people to determine whether they are here illegally. It hasn’t happened under previous mayors, and it will not happen under my administration.”

Still, at the end of the day, it is policy changes that are sought. And political promises that are expected to be met. And in the era of Trump and his rampant executive orders, leaders feel the need to navigate carefully or else funding may be lost. With the State of Texas attacking elected officials and about to begin consideration of a racial profiling legalization bill in Austin (SB4), it seems some fear taking on the Governor and his bigoted threats.

Stay strong, elected officials. People are counting on you!

Click here for video from United We Dream

HISD Board Appoints Flynn Vilaseca to Unexpired District VI Post

hollymariaI was happy and proud to hear that Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca was appointed by the Houston ISD Board of Trustees to the unexpired District VI post which I discussed this past weekend. Here’s the story from HISD:

Houston ISD Trustees on Monday unanimously agreed to appoint Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca to serve the unexpired trustee term representing District VI on the district’s west side.

Flynn Vilaseca, who is fluent in English and Spanish, worked as a bilingual teacher at HISD’s Windsor Village Elementary School as a Teach for America corps member from 2004 to 2006. Since then, Ms. Vilaseca has continued working in the education field with Battelle for Kids, K12 Inc., and thinkLaw.

“I am excited to serve the city and students of Houston,” Flynn Vilaseca said.

Flynn Vilaseca holds a master’s degree in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University, and bachelor’s degrees in Latin American and Caribbean studies and in sports management and communications from the University of Michigan.

Flynn Vilaseca, along with newly elected District VII Trustee Anne Sung, are scheduled to take the oath of office on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Both Flynn Vilaseca and Sung are filling unexpired trustee terms that run through the end of 2017.

I’ve known Holly Maria for about five years now and she’s been nothing short of impressive with her commitment to service and to public education. There is no doubt that she will be a good fit on the Board and for District VI. All one has to do is read her workplace bio:
Holly Maria is passionate about affording equitable access to education to all students and has been involved in the fight towards closing the achievement gap for the past twelve years. The daughter of an immigrant mother and blue-collar laborer growing up in a small town where opportunities were limited, she was the first in her family to go to college…
Congratulations to Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca!

The HISD Board Vacancy: A Few Thoughts

As Kuff reminded us back in December, there is a vacancy on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees after the resignation of Greg Meyers in District VI, and the Board will be appointing a replacement to complete Meyers’ term. A little bird tells me that the Board is getting closer to naming that appointee, so, it’s time the community have a conversation about this process.

District VI stretches from the Sharpstown area through the Westheimer/Gessner area and on to the far reaches of the west side to Highway 6. Given its meandering through these areas, little doubt is left as to its diversity, and this speaks volumes as to the need for added diversity on the school board. If anything, it also speaks to the need for a responsive, action-oriented individual to serve this trustee district.

That Houston ISD is diverse is nothing new. That 62% of its students are Latinos is also nothing new. Notwithstanding the trustee district’s westerly location, out of 15 elementary schools, eight are majority Latino schools, while two will soon reach majority Latino status. The future is not only diverse, but emergingly Latino at Houston ISD. As such, diversity in political representation is something that must be discussed.

Of course, ethnicity isn’t the only characteristic that is at issue. The recent election in which the vast majority of voters chose to not send local dollars to the State of Texas, instead choosing to call on the State Legislature to fix school finance shows that Houstonians are worried about the city’s educational foundation. The Board of Trustees needs someone who will advocate for Houston’s future–the kids–from Day 1 and beyond the rest of the term for which she/he will be appointed.

Some may argue “voter demographics” as a means of choosing a trustee who better matches up to past election results in the district, but there is such a thing as taxpayer demographics. Whether one is a homeowner or a renter, any ethnicity or color, and whether one lives closer to the west side or to Sharpstown, all are taxpayers and all deserve to be heard. Perhaps in the future the board can venture into a fairer redistricting process, but, until then, it is up to the Board in this instance.

Still, others may argue that District VI merely needs a placeholder to serve until the term is completed, while taxpayers wait for the November election to elect a full-term trustee. With the issues that Houston ISD faces, especially as a Legislative session looms, the Board needs a committed individual who is willing to serve beyond the year that is left in the term. It will not be a surprise if any placeholder decides to run for the full-term.

The Houston ISD Board of Trustees has a unique opportunity to be responsive to the needs of constituencies who often go ignored by government entities in this area of the city. Appointing an individual who has worked in and has an understanding of the current and future diversity of the district and who has an undying commitment to public education, K-12 and beyond, is the only path to achieving fair representation.

 

The 2018 Campaign Begins

donkickWell, at least for Diane Trautman, who announced she is running for Harris County Clerk in the 2018 Democratic Primary.

It’s a smart move by the current Harris County Department of Education Trustee, whose term is up in 2018. And this is an important position which, along with various administrative functions, is charged with running Harris County’s elections.

Protecting our right to vote and ensuring a reliable, secure, and convenient voting process is not new to me. As you know, I ran for Harris County Tax Assessor and Voter Registrar in 2008 and 2010 and came very close to unseating incumbent Paul Bettencourt.
Additionally, I am honored to be serving on the transition team for Ann Harris Bennett, our new Harris County Tax Assessor and Voter Registrar, and I will also serve on her voter registration committee. Meanwhile, I will be speaking to voters at clubs and organizations all over the county to hear their ideas, suggestions, and voting experiences. I hope to hear from you as well. Look for more details on my campaign in the new year.

Those of us who use the #FireStanStanart hashtag whenever we await election results are probably a little too excited about 2018. Of course, it will be a test for the Democratic Party, which swept the entire countywide slate in 2016. Can this be repeated in 2018? Kuff has more.

Which brings us to the race for Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. Chair Lane Lewis announced he is stepping down in February. Although he accomplished various goals as the Party Chair, Lewis wasn’t without criticism in regards to fundraising and because he ran for office while serving as Chair. Then, again, which Party Chair hasn’t been criticized for just about anything, right?

There are some rumors going around as to who is running, but I won’t say anything until I get a formal announcement. I will say that Party Chair is a thankless job, it’s unpaid, and more than a few friends have compared it to herding cats. Whomever is in the job needs to be able to deal with more than a few types of personalities which means that person must be a people-person who is able to calm fears and worries and deal with criticism effectively, while getting the job done. Kuff has his thoughts.

I would like to announce that I am NOT in the running. For now, more than one precinct chair should expect to receive phone calls asking for support since it is they who will decide who gets the job to get Dems to a victorious 2018.

Thanks to Chairman Lane Lewis for serving. I could always count on him to get a heads-up on the latest party happenings. I’m sure he’s not done serving in other ways.

 

Greg Abbott’s War on Latinos Continues

uglyLet’s face it, when it comes to the issue of immigration, Republicans like Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Donald Trump have placed a target on Latinos. They’ve gone from supporting a ban on sanctuary cities to wasting billions of tax dollars on a border surge. Now, Abbott wants to target college campuses who protect immigrant college students from immigration raids.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is promising to cut funds to public universities that become what he described as “sanctuary” campuses for immigrant students. The Republican provided no other details.

Abbott tweeted the vow Thursday in response to a story about Texas State University students urging school leaders to declare the campus a “sanctuary” as immigrant students nationwide fear deportation under President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump pledged during his campaign to launch a “deportation force” and end the practice of granting temporary status to students in the U.S. illegally. The University of Pennsylvania, Trump’s alma mater, has pledged to block federal agents without a warrant from removing students in the country illegally.

No, there’s nothing specific, but Republicans in the Texas Lege have already filed bills to ban sanctuary cities, cut financial aid and in-state tuition for DREAMers, among other bills. These racist threats against Latinos have only increased since election day, including a new call to cut funding for city governments deemed sanctuary cities.

Abbott, who gained some favor for his campaign by parading around his hispanic mother-in-law is showing what he really thinks about the Latino community–again! While immigrant students may be the target, there’s no doubt that federalizing local law enforcement will increase racial profiling. It affects us all.

And for what? To earn political capital with his right-wing-nuts?

With exit polls showing Trump earned less than 20% of the Latino vote, the Republican Party is showing how little they respect the Latino electorate. They’ve been doing it for a long time, but in kinder, gentler tones. Now, there’s a good chance their racism will turn into public policy.

It looks like it’s another legislative session on the defensive for Latinos.

 

 

UPDATED: The 29%: Who Are They?

Latino Decisions has come up with a different percentage of Latinos who voted for Trump based on better methodologies–closer to 18%. Let’s face it, the 40% for Bush back in the 2000s was pretty far-fetched and Latino pollsters also criticized that poll. Go with 18, go with 29 or split the difference, the descriptor below of Trump supporters is still right on.


vendidoI spent “the day after” watching pundits and pollsters tell me that 29% of Latinos voted for Trump. A friend of mine said it was our fault that Trump won based on the 29%. Blanket statements like that are bothersome and dangerous, and much like they’ll explain away the fact that 70% of the electorate is white and 60% of white voters voted Trump, the 29% can be explained, too.

Trump split the Latino vote in Florida between Cuban and non-Cubans. Although many didn’t like the anti-immigrant rhetoric, the Cubans’ issue is still Cuba. President Obama began normalization of relations with Cuba and the Cubans in Florida freaked. Trump capitalized on that late in the race, while Clinton only spoke anti-Commie stuff during the Primary in attempt to link socialist Bernie Sanders to the Castro brothers. Non-Cubans still voted 75% of the time for Clinton, according to exit polls.

Are there other reasons in other states? Sure. I guess some put religion over everything, although they forget some of the good parts of their religions (helping the poor) to hate on gays, women, immigrants and others. Yeah, it happens in the Latino community, too. We’re coming around, though. After 524 years of subjugation from a whole lot of non-native folks, things don’t change in a day, right?

And let’s face it, Latinos have never been 100% Democrat. We have vendidos (sell outs) in our midst. Remember the 40% who supported Bush? Romney got 27% in 2012. Trump offered the lowest common denominator and every demographic has people who get off on that kind of stuff. Just some more than others (I’m looking at you, 60% of Gringos!!). Even so, he only bested Romney by a couple of points. Some of the best vendidos (Ana Navarro, Lionel Sosa) voted for Clinton, but didn’t do much to convince their fellow vendidos, apparently.

In a year in which much work was put into replacing (by voter registration efforts) complacent Latino voters with new, energized voters, I think we did pretty good. I think, for now, 25 to 30 percent of Latinos are going to be Republicans. And you better be able to energize the other 70 to 75% with action and not just platitudes. But, that’s a whole other side of this conversation which Democrats always avoid.

*Vendido – A Sell-Out. Usually, someone who got a raise in pay and bought the cheapest house in the suburb or the biggest house in the ‘hood. Thinks they’re Republican, now, so, rails against immigrants, people on food stamps, the poor, the uninsured, etc.  Example:  Paul Rodriguez – Vendido. George Lopez – NOT Vendido. 

 

 

 

Dems Sweep Harris County

donkickWith a little help from a 12-point Hillary Clinton “victory,” the rest of the Democrats on the Harris County ballot managed to defeat every county-wide Republican in office or challenging a Democratic incumbent.

Of note from the point of view of this blogger is my once-client, still-friend Julia Maldonado who defeated her Republican opponent by over 60,000 votes in the race for the 507th Family District Court. I’m so proud of Julia, who was chosen from among several candidates in a “primary” decided by the local Dem precinct chairs. After squeaking by, she campaigned relentlessly. I mean, was that a plane with a Julia banner in the sky? Congrats Julia Maldonado!!!

Also of note was our Sheriff-elect Ed Gonzalez’s resounding defeat of right-winger Ron Hickman. What came to mind was Hickman’s and equally defeated DA Devon Anderson’s anti-Black Lives Matter rally-slash-press conference after the murder of a local deputy. Congrats to Ed Gonzalez and DA-elect Kim Ogg on running some great campaigns.

Of course, there was also a squeaker of a race for Tax Assessor-Collector which saw Ann Harris Bennett defeat the incumbent Mike Sullivan by a little over 7,000 votes. After a contentious primary, I have a feeling that a few Dems supported Sullivan; nonetheless, Clinton’s tide, and an active campaign by Bennett, was enough to seal the deal. Congrats to Ann.

Of course, many old friends were re-elected, such as Judge Larry Weiman. And other friends were elected, such as Judges-elect Fredericka Phillips and Ursula Hall. The list is  long, obviously. Congrats to all of them.

Then there were the “so-close” ones, which weren’t countywide, just as my friend Sherrie Matula in the race for county school board pct 2 who came up short, or Jesse Ybanez in HD-135 who garnered 45% of the vote. Or even Bill McCleod who was everywhere in his race for JP-5 and came up 4000 votes short. And I’ll also give a shout out to former client and good friend Jim Cargas in CD7 who earned a respectable 43%.

And kudos to Anne Sung who will be in a run-off for Houston ISD District VII, and to Mary Ann Perez who returns to the Texas House out of Pasadena.

It’s obvious Harris County can trend blue, even in some of the districts drawn specifically for Republicans. It also seems like Latinos in Harris County made themselves known. A quick look showed turn-out percentage increases in Latino state rep districts of anywhere from a few to 6 points. Of course, Latinos live everywhere in Harris County, so, I’m looking forward to hearing what the ultimate turnout was for Latinos.

One thing is for sure, Latinos did provide much of that margin of victory countywide. And that’s why I’m glad I got to congratulate Mario Salinas and Carlos Duarte and their team at Mi Familia Vota for their voter registration and outreach work, as well as Oscar Hernandez and Carolina Ramirez at United We Dream whose team was working hard knocking on doors. There were so many others, like the great team at Texas Organizing Project whose full-throttle campaign did what needed to be done to cause some huge victories. So, congrats to all who did the GOTV work in and for Harris County.

Obviously, I took a couple of years off from campaigns and even from blogging. I can’t say the top of the ticket excited me, but I knew it would be a catalyst locally. And Democrats winning the straight-ticket race shows more than half of Dem voters still enjoy straight-ticket voting. With Trump in office, I’m not sure how involved I’ll get, but I’m pretty sure I’ll keep blogging. The bottom line, liberals and progressives need to look inward and determine which course to take, at least nationally.

Oh, and with a bluer Harris County, there will be more challenges at the Primary level. I guess that’s healthy as long as we all don’t get crazy like some other parties.

 

VOTE TODAY!

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HARRIS COUNTY:  FIND YOUR POLLING LOCATION

I voted straight ticket Democrat. Yes, I settled at the top after seeing that the 3rd party offerings were just not appealing to me and Trump was just too ugly to allow to win–even in Texas. The rest of the ballot was pretty easy seeing as how, after comparing Party Platforms, it’s the Democrats who have the most forward-thinking platform and candidates.

Now, if you’re one of those “person over party” voters, you have to ask yourself:  Do you really want someone who stands by a bigoted platform? “Oh, but that person is nice” just doesn’t do it for me when the Republicans are too willing to be divisive, racist, anti-woman, and a lot more awful things.

HARRIS COUNTY:  FIND YOUR POLLING LOCATION

So, straight Democrat was the easiest choice. Of course, that doesn’t mean you don’t call them out when they’re playing around once in office. I spent eight years calling out President Obama and the Democrats for not taking a real fight to the other side on immigration reform. Add to that Latin American policies, and Hillary and the Democrats are in for a mouthful (blogful) from this blogger. More on this on Wednesday.

So, get your vote on. And, then, keep an eye on those you support and get into office.

HARRIS COUNTY:  FIND YOUR POLLING LOCATION

Need a ride to the polls?

* METRO local bus, light-rail, & METROLift paratransit service: Free round-trip service to and from the polls on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. For more information, click here to visit METRO’s website.

* Texas Organizing Project: (713) 870-5674 or (832) 582-0061

* Yellow Cab: Offering free or discounted rides to the polls. Download the free zTrip app to schedule a ride in advance or contact (713) 236-1111 to have a yellow cab pick you up and take you to the appropriate polling location. The free rides are restricted to hours when the polls are open.

There are a lot of election watch parties going on, too. Search for them on Facebook.

HARRIS COUNTY:  FIND YOUR POLLING LOCATION

SATURDAY 10/29: Tacos and Vote!

Early voting has been steady all week. After four days, over 293,000 have already voted in-person, while another 73,000+ have returned their ballots by mail. To put things in perspective, that’s about 47% of the total number of early voters in 2012. In only four days. (Did I get that right?)

Some locations are busier than others, but the bottom line is that during early voting, one may vote at any of the early voting locations. As is usually the case, Saturday will be very busy, but it’s a great day to vote. And there are some good folks that want to make sure you get to vote and enjoy some culture. Nothing says culture like TACOS and MARIACHIS! So, here’s a listing of Tacos and Vote polling locations.

Go get you some! And Vote!

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