Category Archives: Voting Rights

QEPD: Ramsey Muñiz

I was saddened to hear of the passing of the first Chicano to run for Texas Governor under the banner of La Raza Unida Party, Ramiro (Ramsey) Muñiz. In 1972, he garnered 6% of the vote, almost causing the defeat of right-wing Democrat Dolph Briscoe. He helped change the face of Texas politics, though, the struggle continues.

Charismatic, politically savvy, and quite the motivator, Muñiz was a Baylor-educated Lawyer and Chicano political superstar who headed up a statewide ballot for one of the most locally effective third parties in Texas whose purpose was not only representation, but progressive policies that would benefit Chicanos all over Texas.

In 2018, I posted about his decades as a political prisoner, which came to an end with a compassionate release. I rank him up there with Leonard Peltier (still imprisoned)–an activist not liked by the federal government, no matter who was in charge. Muñiz resided at Leavenworth, a military prison, after multiple drug convictions with which most end up in a lower security prison. Family and friends, though, kept up the fight to achieve his release. Unfortunately, it took major illnesses for him to be released. Thankfully, he lasted another few years, still gave his speeches, still provided advice to activists, and was able to die with dignity and with his family.

For more on Mr. Muñiz, click here.

For a sample of his speeches:

TexTrib: One Last Reunion of La Raza Unida Party

When I heard that there would be another (and maybe final) reunion of La Raza Unida Party in San Antonio, I was saddened that I would not be able to make it. Thanks to Alexa Ura at the Trib, we have a lengthy report on the confab and even some history to remind folks about a liberal third political party that made a difference during the 70s, while pissing off Democrats and making Chicanos a more serious target of GOTV.

They were once deemed radicals on the front lines of the fight for Chicano rights in Texas. On this cloudy Thursday so many decades later, the visitors of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus were mostly septuagenarians. They arrived from South and Central Texas or made the trek from other parts of the country to revisit a brief but significant chapter of Texas history when legions of Latinos and Latinas banded together in pursuit of political empowerment.

Out of the fight against institutionalized racism and injustices came La Raza Unida Party, a regional political apparatus that for a few years grew large enough to offer Texans a third political party. The party won local elections, made political organizers out of marginalized Texans and brought scores of new voters into the electoral fold.

I always like to say that I was born into a Raza Unida family. Yes, my parents were stalwart Democrats who finally had enough of Dem Party shenanigans that kept Chicanos and Chicanas from elected office through racist voter suppression and supported a third party that was successful locally.

Democratic county officials maneuvered to try to keep Raza Unida candidates off the ballots, and issues arose with the ballot petitions the nascent party submitted. Left off the ballot in three of the four targeted counties, organizers decided to run write-in campaigns for some candidates.

Doing so forced them to confront the far reach of the state’s discrimination. Illiteracy rates were high among the area’s Mexican Americans who had not been afforded an education, and some local officials vowed to continue barring interpreters at the polls even though federal courts said they must be allowed.

In Crystal City, organizers gathered with voters in parks to walk them through the process of casting ballots. In English and Spanish, they helped voters inspect sample ballots so they could learn to measure the spaces between entries and know where candidates’ names should be written. Then, they helped them memorize how to write out the names.

When voters arrived at the polls, they faced intimidation, illegal literacy tests and ballots intentionally printed with races in a different order. Some ballots were tossed based on misspellings even though state law allowed election workers to use their best judgment to accept a voter’s intentions.

Just one of the party’s 16 candidates won. Still, they amassed on average nearly 40% of the vote, according to the retelling in “United We Win.”

In fact, my Mom’s brother, Jose Serna was among the first Chicanos elected under RUP as Zavala County Sheriff after having organized farm workers and townspeople along with his wife, Olivia. Sheriff Serna was also one of the candidates who earned a majority of votes as a write-in candidate, but was disqualified because of different spellings of his name. When Democrats took over later, he was re-elected as a Democrat.

In the 1960s, Black and Latino people walked a tightrope between oppression and possibility.

Some were coming of age after a lifetime in segregated schools. The social mobility education could offer was mired in everyday inequities. In Texas, racist teachers regularly insulted Mexican American students relegated to rundown schools that often lacked air conditioning. Students were shunned, or even abused, for speaking Spanish. Too many did not graduate high school. Too few made it to college, and the cycles repeated year after year.

Politically, Latino Texans battled for even a sliver of power. It hadn’t been that long since Mexican Americans attempting to vote faced violence and brutality often carried out by the Texas Rangers or were shut out by “white primaries.” Hispanic veterans returning from the Vietnam War found the state’s white power structure marginalizing them by instituting poll taxes and banning interpreters who could help Spanish-speaking or illiterate voters cast ballots.

Some Mexican Americans were from families that had been in Texas longer than it had been a state; others were the children of migrant farmworkers eager to form part of their communities. All were consigned to second-class citizenship.

As Greg Abbott and Republicans nationally continue their bigoted attitudes and practices toward brown people, that feeling of second-class citizenship is still in effect, unfortunately. It gets worse when Democrats, even when they have a majority in Washington, DC, fail to do anything about it.

Still, ingrained in many of us who grew up in the time, is the feeling that the fight must continue, “La Lucha Sigue.” But for so many in Democratic circles, this is a history they try to avoid while pretending to be “woke” about Chicanos and trying to earn their vote. Ultimately, if a political party sells the right message to the voters, they will respond. But it better be done with the same “ganas” that brought out voters during this historic time of empowerment and agitation.

“It was women and families that brought the agenda into the party,” said Martha Cotera, a librarian by trade who moved to Crystal City with her husband so they could moonlight as organizers. “The issues of the platform and the values are all reflective of the needs of a multigenerational group of people because if you bring the whole family in, you’re going to bring in several generations.”

I Know We Are Happy, But…

Kuff tells us about the indictment of the local right-wing purveyor of hormone and “Low-T” shots whose involvement in the vehicular assault and illegal detention in the name of voter fraud by a former cop he hired now has him indicted for the same crime.

From the Chron:

Through a group called Liberty Center for God and Country, Hotze funded a private investigation into a conspiracy theory that Democrats had collected hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots, prosecutors have alleged. The group paid (Mark) Aguirre, a disgraced former Houston police captain, $266,400 to investigate the claims.

and

The vast majority of the money from Hotze’s group, $211,400, arrived to Aguirre one day after the alleged assault, previous grand jury subpoenas showed.

Needless to say, a lot of folks are happy to see one of the wealthiest and whiniest republinuts in town in trouble for something after bankrolling all sorts anti-Dem, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-COVID Vax, and anti-anything progressive campaigns and conspiracy theories.

The problem is when you have a local DA who’s in the news for using her office for political purposes whether against the County Judge or a local District Judge, well, cases in which gun violence and politics mix are sure to get tainted, or questioned before the public square.

Still, I’m sure all sorts of folks, including republicans who want some sort of “normal” right-winger behavior, will be watching this story intently.

Thoughts on Viernes…01142022

Netflix Dumps Gentefied

One of the few good things on TV featuring a brown cast was dumped by Netflix. Gentefied featured a good storyline, well-developed characters, and good actors with my favorite city, LA, as the backdrop. I guess the good thing is that there was some sort of resolution to the show at the end of the 2nd season. What’s the reasoning for the slashing? Well, it didn’t appear in the Top 10 Netflix shows, so, I guess that was reason enough. Variety seems to defend Netflix by saying they are producing more shows with a Latin@ bent to it, including “I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” which will be directed and headed up by America Ferrera and others from the Gentefied team. So, yeah, it’s upsetting, but as long as brown actors keep getting employed in the future and more content is produced, I guess I can keep watching Netflix.

Judge Opens Up Challenges to Abbott’s Migrant Round-Up

A state district judge in Austin threw out the conviction of a migrant arrested by Greg Abbott and his thugs for trespassing. Abbott’s new initiative has thrown money at local law enforcement on the border to capture, jail, and prosecute migrants who are simply walking on private land while they escape poverty and violence in their home countries. These trumped up charges have closed down state prisons for use as misdemeanor lock-ups of over 2,000 men in Kinney County, wasting human resources and taxpayer funds. The case was challenged in Austin because Kinney County’s court system is slanted against migrants, with a corrupt judicial appointment system. The judge’s decision challenges the constitutionality of Abbott’s human warehousing program. No doubt, there will be more challenges to convictions of migrants who are being railroaded by Abbott.

Congress Wants to Investigate Abbott’s National Guard Deaths

Thirteen members of Congress have called for an investigation into the suicides within Greg Abbott’s National Guard and Abbott’s treatment of the National Guard as he uses them to add photo ops to his border boondoggle. There is a record of poor working conditions, delayed pay, and then the suicides which have put Greg Abbott in the spotlight, though, the problem is Abbott’s involvement in immigration issues in the first place. Abbott has put on a show for his bigoted base by putting up shipping containers to serve as a “wall,” he’s called up 10,000 National Guardsman from their otherwise private lives for photo ops and news conferences, and is wasting billions of dollars on a a few miles of “wall.” Seems to me he needs to be investigated for a lot more.

Voter Suppression is Real

New Voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots are the cause for hundreds of mail ballot applications being rejected for the March Primary. IDs are not matching up to information in voter databases, thus, cancelling out those applications. Republicans were warned that this would happen, but I guess it became more of an incentive to support it. The voter suppression is working.

Thank You, Texas House Dems

Beto O’Rourke said it best:

Obviously, a lot of the rank and file in the Party are upset at State Reps Walle, Hernandez, and Coleman (and the others who returned previously) for showing up on the floor of the Texas House yesterday, thus, giving the House a quorum.

During these last 38 days of the Democratic exodus to DC, they lobbied President Biden, VP Harris, Leader Pelosi, and especially the hard-headed right-wing Senate Democrats who refuse to budge on voting rights and filibuster reform.

Throughout this time, they also visited, they zoomed, they even did the work of their respective districts with the help of their staffs at home. A couple even took a vacation outside of the country (the rank and file didn’t complain about them). And also, that trip-up with the beer selfie at the beginning certainly annoyed me. Then, there was the COVID-19 outbreak, which showed us that vaccinated people SHOULD NOT be posing for unmasked large group selfies. For the most part, though, it was productive.

For me, the best part was State Senator Carol Alvarado’s filibuster, which actually happened in Austin.

But a protest that costs thousands of dollars per day for 50+ people is unsustainable. And I knew that as soon as I got the first e-mail asking for hotel and food money from a State Rep.

The only failure: A Democratic Congress and a Democratic President did nothing in the form of passing and then signing the For The People Act or the John Lewis Act. The appearance of bipartisanship for the infrastructure bill was more important to those in power, rather than showing some guts and passing at the very least a strong voting rights bill.

Wheres the outrage?

As has been the case historically, “Hurry up and wait!” won the battle. But the things that must be pushed through, even without republicans: voting rights, immigration reform, medicare for all (health care expansion), and expanded federal investment in needed programs, etc., are still sitting in the inbox because of right wing Democrats.

Where’s the outrage?

Don’t get me wrong, returning to the Texas Capitol means a lot more than a bigoted voter suppression bill passing. Greg Abbott has a longer list, now, of bigoted, anti-woman, anti-trans, child abusive, awful items which will surely pass. But I won’t be petty and blame those who returned because the numbers were never there to stop it in the first place. The target should always be the Republicans and those Democrats who support Abbott’s bills.

Ultimately, Texas House Democrats were in DC to lobby against voter suppression and for voting rights. For many, the stoppage of the other special session items were automatically included as a reason for the exodus. But TX House Dems were in DC with one purpose because without voting rights, the rest doesn’t matter. Voter suppression in Texas will solidify Republican seats and the damage to our state will continue.

And DC Dems didn’t budge. People easily forget that it was Joe Biden’s administration who has gone so far as to say that we need to win by working harder to turnout the vote despite voter suppression.

Where is the outrage?

So, who has really given up the fight? Frankly, I’m more demoralized by the Democratic majority and Biden administration who had this amazing opportunity to ride the voting rights train because some rogue Dems from a red state stood up to a bigoted governor. And it didn’t happen.

I know I’m outraged.

I join in thanking Texas House Democrats for taking this fight as far as it could go. I just wish the Democratic Congressional majority and Biden White House which the entire country worked so hard to create (again) would do their job.

Kuff has more, including a mention about a voting rights bill Joe Manchin might support.

What is to come from returning to Austin? Probably a lot of hurt and even more anger toward a few. But, let’s face it, we’ve been heading down this Republican-led road since the 90s and Democrats have been mostly in denial about it thinking they could negotiate the bigotry down during each Lege session. Well, Republicans are no longer interested in doing that.

The DACA Decision Is Still Joe Manchin’s Fault

Salon.com

Back in 2010, President Obama and Democrats held a majority in both the House and Senate. The DREAM Act, which had bipartisan support at one time, sailed through the House. When it arrived in the Senate, Democrats had enough of a majority (60) to pass it and it would likely be signed by Obama. Unfortunately, Joe Manchin and four other Dem Senators voted against it, as did all of the Republicans and the bill only achieved 55 of the 60 needed votes. Note: Manchin couldn’t even be bothered to show up, but was on record against it.

You can blame republicans all you want, but some of us have known their bigoted tendencies for a long time and haven’t been in denial about them.

They were quite evident in 2006 when the Sensenbrenner Act was being pushed by Republicans, along with REAL ID. And this challenge to DACA was brought on by Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott because they are just that hateful.

But FIVE (5) Democrats voted against the DREAM Act in 2010. They blamed their “tough to win” seats and the Democratic rank-and-file went along with it and defended their vote. Thus, by 2012, with no more majority and republicans dead-set against anything President Obama supported, the only thing that could happen was DACA–an executive order for which immigration activists lobbied and practically forced Obama’s hand after he continually denied he had the power to sign it.

DACA has provided over 600,000 DREAMers the benefit of prosecutorial discretion and deferred action, thus barring them from deportation. And for nine years, now, it has been challenged by republicans, in the courts and by Trump. They finally found a federal judge who would call it “illegal,” thus sending it back to Homeland Security to somehow make it right. In the process, all new applications are cancelled, but the 600,000 or so are safe, for now.

I don’t know how many more still need to apply or haven’t for a host of reasons (financial, etc.), but since the legality is now in question, it is worrisome and emotionally tiresome for many. Furthermore, all DACA has ever been is a loose band-aid that leaves young people in limbo, while continuing to expose their parents to deportation and politically-driven harrassment by ICE and similar agencies.

As some Democrats in the Senate have stated, it is high-time to pass the DREAM Act and/or comprehensive immigration reform. But we are in the same predicament as 2010: Hateful republicans and a slight Democratic majority in which a few (Joe Manchin and Kristen Synema) seem to be holding immigrants hostage. They will not make it easy to pass anything; if anything, I expect opposition to citizenship and DREAM-type bills from these two.

Filibuster reform would be great, if Manchin and Synema could be trusted to support immigration reform. With Manchin attending a fundraiser in Texas given by high-dollar republicans, I can’t say I’m hopeful of much; other than being hopeful that la lucha sigue (the struggle continues). Hopefully, Joe Biden will learn to wield power within his own party; which was something in which Obama failed miserably regarding immigration policy.

Finally, I would have hoped that over the last ten years, Democrats would have learned a lesson about using their power when they have it. The myth that is bipartisanship only seems to work when the issue is money in individual members of Congress districts for their own pet projects. If it’s about helping the least among us, it becomes a hot potato worthy of political exploitation. And both parties do it well, as Manchin has exhibited on a host of Biden goals.

Anyway, just food for thought as folks try to find someone to blame.

Christopher Hollins Named Interim County Clerk

Late last night, I got the message that the Harris County Commissioner’s Court appointed local lawyer and Texas Democratic Party Finance Chair Christopher Hollins to serve as interim Harris County Clerk.

The court voted 3-2 along party lines to approve Hollins. Five public speakers urged court members to choose Teneshia Hudspeth, Trautman’s chief deputy. County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said Hollins’ pledge to serve only on an interim basis factored in their decision.

So, it will be up to the Party’s precinct chairs to select someone to be the nominee on the November 2020 ballot. Let the games begin.

Hollins, though, seems like candidate material. He served the Obama administration’s Office of Presidential Personnel as a legal intern before embarking on his career. No doubt, he has some Democratic bonafides considering his current position in the Party.

After navigating the local Party website, I finally found out how to find my precinct chair. Unfortunately, they want all my information before telling me who publicly signed up to run for the office (or got appointed later). Anyway, if you want to lobby your precinct chair, I guess this is how you can start.

 

The Latest in Harris County Voter Data

Thanks to Hector de Leon from the County Clerk’s Election Office, I’ve got my hands on the latest on the county voter registration rolls. FYI, when they break down the Hispanic numbers, they’re just estimates since they go by surnames. When registering, we are not required to give our ethnicity.

That said, there are 2,119,052 voters whose status is active. And of that, 470,041 are Spanish surnamed. That’s 22% of the voter rolls, folks. And if 20,000 or so would fix their status, we’d be closer to 500,000.

When broken down by congressional district, the county finds that 57% of voters in CD29 are Spanish surnamed. But in a show of “we’re everywhere!” we are anywhere from 14 to 22 percent in the other CDs. In the “hotter” races for CD2 and CD7, Spanish surnamed are 16% and 14%, respectively. In my own very Democratic CD9 and in Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s district, Spanish surnamed are at 19%. But when one looks at CD22 and CD36, which are quite suburban, Spanish surnamed are at 22% and 20%, respectively.

We’re everywhere! And this is a good thing because the ability to impact elections in Harris County is not just in one particular area, and “control” of GOTV efforts are not in any one group of politicos. On the other hand, there is plenty of opportunity to GOTV for those who really want to put in the effort and money. [I’m talking to those big money raisers and groups who GOTV, now.] Particularly when it comes to registered non-voting Latinos who often go ignored, or easily scapegoated, depending on the political party.

One particular set of data to note is how County Commissioner’s seats are broken down. What used to be a stronger Hispanic opportunity precinct, Precinct 2, is at 39% Spanish surnamed. I recall arguing before the County’s redistricting lawyers that while I appreciated Precincts 1 and 4 becoming more Hispanic and it seemed like a good thing because it showed we’re everywhere, it wouldn’t take much cutting from both precincts to bolster Precinct 2 as a Hispanic opportunity district. They didn’t listen. This is important as Latino candidates in the Pct. 2 Democratic Primary fight for whom gets to the chance to knock off a GOP incumbent, thus adding some needed diversity to the Court. I guess it’s important for those of us seeking partisan balance at the County, too.

There’s some 2014 data through which I need to sift that gives a clearer picture about where Latinos voted and in which Primary in 2014, and, no surprise, one finds those more “conservative” ones in the more suburban areas of the county. Has there been much change in how these Latinos feel about one side versus the other after a year of Trump? Are there new voters who haven’t even been given attention by either side? Well, I wish Latino Decisions would give it crack to find out.

Anyway, no doubt there has been growth. Voter registration efforts continue and there’s plenty of time to further impact these VR numbers toward November. What this tells either side of the political spectrum is that upwards of a quarter of the voter rolls are up for grabs if a political party takes that segment seriously in its GOTV efforts.

As Tony Diaz and I discussed on Tuesday on his radio show, it takes more than speaking Spanish and eating a taco in public. It takes being in tune to where Latinos are on the big issues. Those are usually Education, Health Care, Economy (jobs), and of course, Immigration. And I’m pretty sure a lot more of us are listening–whether you’re speaking to us or not. And that’s how November decisions are made.

Anyway, this is where we’re at regarding voter registration.

 

 

 

 

Latino Turnout: Are Latino Candidates The Answer?

You may recall I wrote about attending a League of Women Voters low voter turnout forum a few weeks ago. Local professor Richard Murray stated that 2016 could be a good year for Latino turnout if either political party runs a Latin@ VP candidate.

He further cited that 2002’s campaign by Tony Sanchez actually increased Latino turnout throughout the state. I recall Sanchez’s ads and they hit at the hearts of Mexican Americans–I certainly enjoyed them. But when Rick Perry ran ads tying Sanchez to drug dealers and money laundering, even White Democrats believed Perry and voted for him in large numbers.

We’re at 2015 and we’ve had a first test of the assertion that a Latino on the ballot helps drive Latino turnout. Post-election research showing how Chicagoans voted is quite interesting. Hispanic voters gave almost 70% of their vote to Chuy Garcia, while 66% of white voters and 58% of black voters went to Emanuel. As far as the other demographics were concerned, it’s not like Garcia was far from their issues, but they stuck with Emanuel for some reason. Perhaps Latinos were looking for change, but certainly a progressive Latino candidate did help increase Latino turnout in Chicago, according to Latino Victory Project, although numbers were still low.

Will Houston get to test this assertion next? I think it is safe to predict that a left to center Latino candidate for Houston Mayor could increase Latino turnout, but will the end-result be the same as Chicago? Would there even be a run-off? I guess it all depends on if Houstonians as a whole embrace a Latino candidate. Chicago showed a tendency, but obviously not a full embrace.

Obviously, Murray’s assertion is that there be a Latino VP candidate in 2016 to give either party a major assist, but I’m talking about a major Latino candidacy at the top of the ballot. After yesterday’s results, I tend to think results elsewhere would be the same. Latino candidates not only have to campaign to a diverse electorate, but against big money interests, and they also have to combat right-wing, anti-Latino sentiment coming out of state legislatures.

Still, I think it needs to be continually tested, rather than have prospective Latino candidates remain in their comfort zones. Certainly, it would ensure a response to those who would make Latinos a political scapegoat.

Tweet of the Day: Los 20 Latinos

DC followed the Austin “10-1” single member districts battle last year and the result is that Latinos in Austin seem to be running everywhere, and not just in one or two districts. Here’s a Tweet from DC friend Paul Saldaña:

Good luck to the candidates, but I have some favorites, thus far. Here’s the list:

Mayor – Council Member Mike Martinez
District 2 – Delia Garza and Edward Reyes
District 3 – Susana Almanza, Julian Fernandez, Miguel Ancira, Mario Cantu, Eric Rangel, Sabino “Pio” Renteria and Ricardo Turollols-Bonilla
District 4 – Gregorio Casar, Monica Guzman, Marco Mancillas, Gabe Rojas, Xaiver Hernandez, Robert Perez, Jr. and Manuel A. Munoz
District 5 – Mike Rodriguez
District 7 – Pete Salazar, Jr.
District 8 – Eliza May