Category Archives: Harris County

The Race for County Commish Pct 3 – A Forum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo:  Erik Manning (Southwest Democrats)

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

A Weekend of Voting and Cultura

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It was a pretty active weekend of voting and culture this past weekend.

Early Voting Sabado was huge and I got to experience a part of it by spending some time at Moody Park with the hard-working folks of Tacos and Vote and then headed out to MECA’s  and Casa Ramirez’s Dia de los Muertos festivities to get a dose of culture.

My friend Dr. Reynaldo Guerra and his crew put together their Tacos and Vote GOTV effort at three early voting locations. Open to all, the festivities included a Taco truck, mariachis, a jump house for kids, and plenty of fun at Moody, Bayland, and close to Ripley House. All of this after blockwalking the surrounding neighborhoods. It was good seeing Adrian Garcia, Democrat for County Commissioner Pct 2 working the crowd at Moody. From the looks of it, Moody had a good turnout on Saturday and reports from the other locations stated their events were a success.

Afterwards, it was off to MECA to enjoy some culture while celebrating and honoring  those who have departed this life. From the looks of it, a diverse group of thousands enjoyed all sorts of food, music, ofrendas, and the Retablos31 exhibit throughout Saturday and Sunday.

I caught an excellent performance by Mas Pulpo–Vladimir Castellanos on guitar and Roberto Rodriguez on the squeezebox. They took us through some classic Tex-Mex standards that all enjoyed, but their show-ending Volver Volver was cause for a sing-along.

After a taco at Teotihuacan on Airline, it was off to Casa Ramirez, the folk and culture bookstore on 19th Street in the Heights. They held their annual Dia de los Muertos Celebration and March. The ceremony was opened by Danza Azteca, which provided Aztec ritual, history, and dance before hundreds of attendees joined a march to Casa Ramirez. Attendees enjoyed tamales, polvorones, and live music by Bossa II, while visiting the ofrendas offered by families honoring deceased loved ones. It was definitely a family affair enjoyed by all. And emotional, too.

I don’t care what the high-priced consultants tell you, politics and culture go together; especially if we’re adding some resistance to it. Brown folks have a target on their back and it is through cultural celebrations and political resistance with which victory can be achieved.

Early Voting Begins Today, October 22!

Today, October 22, 2018 is the first day of Early Voting for the 2018 general election. You get to vote on US Senate, state officials, state judges, and your county officials. And in many cities, municipalities, and school districs, you also vote on anything from charter amendments to bonds.

During early voting, you may vote at any location in your county. CLICK HERE to look up Harris County’s map of early voting locations. CLICK HERE to get a copy of your sample ballot. Just fill in the blanks.

Voting hours during early voting in Harris County are as follows:

October 22 – October 26
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

October 27
7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

October 28
1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

October 29 – November 2
7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

If you live anywhere else in Texas, you can find your early voting polling location by clicking here. Fill in your address, pick a day you want to vote, and you’ll be provided a location. (And the email is optional!)

DC’s Endorsements

I’m voting a STRAIGHT DEMOCRATIC TICKET. The Democratic Party is offering voters the best slate of candidates, including Beto O’Rourke for US Senate, Lupe Valdez for Governor, Mike Collier for Lt. Governor,among others, as well as a great list of judicial candidates, including Judge Steven Kirkland for Texas Supreme Court, Rabeea Collier for Judge of the 113th, Lina Hidalgo for County Judge and Raul Rodriguez for County Criminal Court #13.

It’s a long ballot (here’s my sample ballot). At this point, it’ll be hard to study every single candidate and chances are you’re hearing more from the few on TV and radio. So, if you want to trust me, do what I’m doing and vote a straight ticket. I’ve not only studied the candidates, but I’ve met the vast majority of them and I haven’t been prouder to vote a straight ticket in a midterm election in a long time.

Get it done early!

 

Little Joe Headlines Houston GOTV Event

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Around 200 East End voters and activists attended a Get Out The Vote Rally at the East End Events Center on Saturday afternoon. Headlining was the legendary Little Joe y La Familia, with Dallam County Band opening the event with some toe-tapping country tunes.

Little Joe has endorsed Lupe Valdez for Texas Governor and was part of this event which also showed off Sylvia Garcia for Congress, Lina Hidalgo for County Judge, and Adrian Garcia for County Commissioner, Pct. 2. But beyond the political speeches, it was good mix of multi-generational fun and celebration of cultura–all a great combo when it comes to Latino GOTV.

There was no doubt as to the progressive nature of the event–the Harris County Democratic Party was among the driving forces behind the event, so Party Chair Lillie Schechter deserves kudos for this. But it was the candidates and their stories which energized the crowd. Whether it was farm worker kid Lupe Valdez going through the ranks to become Dallas County Sheriff or Lina Hidalgo’s trek from a drug-torn Colombia to the United States and a life of public service, the crowd was energized by all of the candidates.

Little Joe Hernandez, the King of the Brown Sound, also spoke on the importance of this election, giving a rousing endorsement of Valdez while also declaring victory after viewing Valdez’s debate performance against Greg Abbott. “I had never been prouder of a candidate for representing us and fighting for us. As Dolores and Cesar said, “Si, Se Puede!”

Valdez spoke regarding the uphill battle, as Abbott is running anti-Latino ads on TV paid for by wealthy friends who then get appointed to choice positions in the government. “This campaign will be fought, not bought,” has become theme for all Democrats. Valdez added that she’s fought uphill battles all her life–in life, in the military, and in politics. “One more battle is nothing!”

Lina Hidalgo reiterated her theme that she’ll show up to work as County Judge every day, and not just when it floods, noting that the people of Harris County need a proactive leader that gets ahead of problems, rather than waiting for problems to arise.

Adrian Garcia, vying to upend an entrenched Republican who has cut various program that benefited families and the community stated that his opponent and the current administration play off the same sheet of music and that new leadership is needed. He also pointed to the campaign of Penny Shaw, running in Pct. 4, as a need for change and a new majority in Harris County.

Leading the charge was State Senator Sylvia Garcia, who for all intents and purposes, will become the next Congresswoman of the 29th District. Still, she hasn’t stopped getting out the vote for Democrats. “Vote Straight Democrat and we’ll elect the right people–all of them,” she stated. It should also be said that she arrived after an afternoon of blockwalking in the East End.

Also at the event were judicial candidates Raul Rodriguez and Alex Salgado; Richard Cantu for Harris County Dept. of Education Trustee; Carol Alvarado for HD145 and SD6; among other elected officials.

Hopefully, this is the first of many GOTV events targeting Latinos.

 

#AbolishICE and Other Things Causing Liberal Freak-Outs

There’s a movement happening, but it’s a movement that has been ongoing for decades, now. For many Democrats, though, it seems very new to them–and something to avoid.

While immigration/deportation reform activists have been at it for over 30 years (the recent battles), Democrats have always shown a little fear of the movement–fearful of losing the white vote. But even the weakest positions on the issue haven’t been winners for Democrats.

Reagan’s amnesty increased enforcement. Bill Clinton’s immigration reform of ’96 was a joke and gave a big shove to what is today’s deportation and detention boondoggle. Given steroids by Bush and made  worse by Obama, it is no surprise that a white supremacist (Trump) is now doing whatever he wants today. But it must be said:  It didn’t start with Trump. And yes, Democrats did it, too. And it must be stopped.

Immigration advocates were very critical of Obama. But people didn’t believe us. He was the “hope and change” guy. How could he be so cruel? But (former Vice President Joe) Biden was sent to Central America, falsely telling the families that their children will not get asylum. Obama has an interview with (ABC News anchor) George Stephanopoulos, saying to people: Don’t send your children. We will send them back.

So many of the things are happening have been happening for a long time. And again, they were wrong then and they’re wrong now. But the stupidity of one administration cannot justify the malice of another.

Now, because of the heightened level of cruelty, it’s visible.

This interview on CNN gives a better view of what ICE really is.

The creation of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) back in 2003 was in response to 9/11, fear of immigrants, and especially fear of Muslims. In other words, its reactionary creation was based on hate and bigotry. Given a two-prong job, enforcement/removal and crime-busting, ICE has become a gestapo of sorts, utilizing illegal tactics, racial profiling, and hate- and fear-mongering from the current president to destroy families, steal children, affect local economies, and create an air of fear within targeted communities. All the while making profits for the border boondoggle. In fact, it was created to act in these ways.

People must be reminded that ICE and Customs and Border Protection (Border Patrol) are two different agencies. CPB enforces the border. ICE does not. In fact, if you read the interview, it’s pretty obvious that ICE interferes with the others’ duties. Given reports of abuse of immigrants and children, both sides of this coin must be investigated and reformed–or even abolished.

This said, there’s been a bit of a freak-out among Democrats who fear Republicans will now start saying that Democrats are for open borders as activists and candidates call for ICE to be abolished or reformed. It’s gotten so bad, there’s even been some Whitesplaining and Demsplaining toward the movement, which doesn’t help one earn votes. It’s also insulting, so, stop it.

Our own Texas US Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke is part of the chorus for reform, as is 2020 prospect Kirsten Gillibrand. Others, have called to abolish ICE, such as future Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio and others running for Congress across the country. One way or another, candidates are listening and going beyond the usual weak campaign positions.

The big question:  When haven’t Republicans said Democrats are for open borders?

President Obama deported 3 million, warehoused hundreds of thousands more and Republicans said he was for open borders when he signed a doomed executive order (DACA) that didn’t do anything but protect a few from deportation. Hillary Clinton wanted expedited removal of unaccompanied children in 2014, voted for the original “border fence” and Republicans said she was for open borders. Texas gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez ran 287(g) during the Obama Era and Republicans attacked her as being for open borders when she called out Greg Abbott’s SB4 racial profiling law.

The Republican chorus is a broken record on Democrats who have supported the weakest of immigration reforms–open borders, open borders, open borders.

And still, the liberals–the Democrats– freak-out because they think they’ll get attacked for calling to #AbolishICE? Take a chill pill, people. Surely, we’ve learned to fight back, rather than to cower in weak, losing positions.

If there is ever a time to unite with a movement that wants to stamp out a corrupt and broken immigration system it is now. Whether it’s to #AbolishICE or to reform it, or even a call to simply stop warehousing children in prisons, the Republican attack will remain the same. So, stop the freak-out and step up to the fight. You never know how many non-voters whose trust you’ve lost may step up–to the voting booth.

 

Beto O’Rourke Meets With Houston Latino Leaders

Continuing to make the rounds around the state of Texas, Beto O’Rourke, Democrat for US Senate,  has spent a couple of days in Houston rallying supporters and volunteers. Friday morning, one of his stops was at Irma’s Restaurant in downtown for a meet and greet breakfast with local Latino activists and community leaders.

A capacity crowd enjoyed a frank conversation with O’Rourke, who touched on issues such as post-Harvey efforts, health care and public education; however, a good portion of his presentation and the Q&A that followed concentrated on the human rights crisis at the US-Mexico border. Much of the crisis has been given steroids by the Trump administration as they separate families and warehouse children in badly managed private prisons.

Although he states that he is and has been willing to work across the aisle on sensible solutions, he states that Republican delays and obstruction to these solutions will only be ended at the ballot box when Democrats become a majority in both houses of Congress. O’Rourke stated his strong opposition to family separation, arrests and prosecution of parents requesting asylum, and child imprisonment. He also stated that he’s among those in Congress working on comprehensive solutions today, as we can’t wait for things to align before doing something.

During the Q&A, one elected leader, Goose Creek ISD Trustee Agustin Loredo, brought up the fact that much of the migration has been caused by US government and US corporations interfering with social, political, and economic standards of Mexico and Central American countries. O’Rourke agreed that there must be a better way to help these countries succeed that respects their government and economic systems, citing past US military operations which have removed democratically-elected leaders, only causing chaos and destabilization.

After taking questions, O’Rourke spent time speaking one-to-one with those attending.

I’ve always been impressed with Beto O’Rourke and remember when he defeated an entrenched–Bill Clinton-endorsed former Border Patrol chief–incumbent. So, he knows about tough political work. Above all, he’s a good listener. Honestly, I haven’t felt this good about a ticket-topper as O’Rourke doesn’t respond to issues based on polls, but on real solutions. He’s sincere and the real deal.

Asked about how he will win, he doesn’t mince words. The solution is voter registration, outreach, and GOTV–especially of those non-voting registered voters who have grown disillusioned with voting and government. While he knows his task is a tough one, he also says that it’s up to those who support him to spread the word–call by call, door by door, family member by family member.

So, let’s get to work!

 

 

Poll: There Is No Trump Party

A political consultant FB friend dropped this polling info from Gallup. Where did presidents stand with their own political party at Day 500 of their presidency, is basically what is asked. Some are surprised at Trump’s high GOP approval rating and others are seething that Democratic presidents’ approval is lower. My response is a scholarly, “Duh!”

Lately, I’ve been frustrated with Democratic activists. It seems they are spending more time trying to save the Republican Party than working on winning in 2018. They’ll defend Republican “moderates” as if they’re not apologists for the hate the GOP espouses. As if the Republican Party is somehow different than it was in years past. The only difference is their leader–a leader who embraces his racism through hateful rhetoric that his supporters eat up and spread. The apologists go merrily along. This political party is still one whose candidates have thrived on the worse the Republican Party offers as far as supporters go. Especially during a primary election where it’s a game of “Whose sheet is whiter?” when their TV ads go up. And they thrive on bigoted policies, such a racial profiling (SB4), and get energized with anti-immigrant executive orders from the Orange One. And the “moderates” don’t seem to mind unless they’re quitting, like Jeff Flake.

So, when I see Democrats sharing an article where old leader Boehner describes the current situation as a Trump party, rather than the Republican Party, well, I call bullshit. Especially on Democrats who waste so much time on this. Stop trying to save the Republicans! They’re the same old bigots they’ve always been. They’re the same party who use data from right-wing, white supremacist groups like Numbers USA to promote a hateful agenda. And they’re so committed to their rhetoric that they can easily poach weak independents who aren’t presented a strong alternative by the opposing party.

Anyway, we’ve got elections to win, locally, statewide, and in other states. If Dems aren’t energizing the base we’ve got with, I don’t know, progressive policies, defense of whole populations, and sincere gratitude for the existence of said populations, then we’re not getting anywhere. This poll shows us that poaching Republicans may not be such a politically savvy notion. It’s hard to think of this as just a data point.