Category Archives: 2020

State Rep. Gene Wu on COVID19 Situation

Here’s a note my State Rep. Gene Wu posted on Facebook providing an update regarding the COVID19 (Coronavirus) health emergency. It’s got all the right information and links. Thanks, Rep.!

Friends,

The COVID19 situation in Houston is rapidly changing and uncertain. My staff and I wanted to take this opportunity to share resources with you so that you and your family can stay up to date with current and official information from the City of Houston, Harris County, and the US Center for Disease Control.

Both Harris County and the City of Houston have issued emergency health declarations – you may have already heard that the remainder of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will be cancelled as a preventative measure.

Schools and businesses are expected to remain open during this emergency management period, but as the situation is quickly evolving, I urge to you use these official resources to make sure that you are receiving the most accurate and up to date information.

US Center for Disease Control:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

City of Houston Health Department :

https://www.houstontx.gov/health/Epidemiology/2019-nCoV.html

Harris County Health:

http://publichealth.harriscountytx.gov/Resources/2019-Novel-Coronavirus

If you have specific questions please contact:

For Harris County Residents:

Harris County Public Health (HCPH) – Updates regarding Public Health

www.hcphtx.org\COVID-19

www.ReadyHarris.org

(832) 927-7575 – 9AM – 7PM

Harris Health System

www.harrishealth.org

Ask-My-Nurse – Call line for everyday clinical-related questions

(713) 634-1110 – 9AM – 7PM

For City of Houston Residents:

Houston Health Department

www.HoustonHealth.org

www.HoustonEmergency.org

(832) 393-4220 – 9AM – 7PM, M-F, 9AM – 3PM on Sat.

For Fort Bend County Residents:

Fort Bend County Health & Human Services

www.fbchealth.org/ncov

(281) 633-7795 -8AM – 5PM, M-F

Please remember to practice safe hygiene and avoid contact with large groups if you have recently traveled internationally.

My office is here for you if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Gene

The Ghost of HD142

Full Disclosure:  I haven’t worked on a campaign in six years, but I still like to do my internet sleuthing when it comes to campaigns and candidates. No doubt, HD142 caught my eye because I knew there would be a concerted effort to oust incumbent State Rep. Harold Dutton. I was a little surprised to see the name Natasha Ruiz on the ballot back in late December. I’d never heard the name in local politics, and after finding no information on her, I figured it was just another inexperienced candidate with no idea what she was doing. If the candidate remains a ghost, then whomever created her knew exactly what they were doing.

Miya Shay of ABC13 has been on the story, finding all the Texas Ethics Commission paperwork, the filing documents at the local Democratic Party HQ, and checking on addresses and knocking on doors. She even found copies of the currency paid to HCDP ($750 CASH). And nothing. A previous story found that Natasha Demming (whom answered the call from the newsfolks based on the phone number on the docs) is a truck driver in Colorado who had no idea why she was on the ballot. My only question:  Candidates need to also file a financial disclosure form with the Texas Ethics Commission; was any filed? They are no longer posted online, but can be requested with an open records request. If that exists, wow! They’re really good at creating people from thin air in this age of ID requirements. (The notary at HCDP stated the person had an ID.) If not, then it really may be a ghost! Either way, they’re good! [Or as Kuff states, maybe Demming is lying.]

The weirdest part is that Ruiz garnered 20% of the vote! No campaign, no rallies, no direct mail, no robocalls, no signs. It was a 4-person race and the incumbent was forced into a run-off. No telling if the ghost was not on the ballot if there would still be one today. I’m thinking there would still be one. But, who knows? I’ve heard of “low-information voters” but “no information”?

Anyway, this is potentially embarrassing all around. If something happened, who did it? Was it the Russians, again? Was it those opposing the incumbent? Those supporting him? An inside job? Too many questions, for sure. And they’re being asked, or else I wouldn’t be writing them.

Of course, if everything is in order, then anyone can put themselves on the ballot and sit back and watch the dumpster fire that this can become.

Kuff has more.

2020 Dem Primary Results – Harris County

Well, the #StaceSlate did well, but we did end up with some heartbreaking losses and six or so run-offs.

First of all, congrats to my friend Judge Julia Maldonado of the 507th District Court. The family court judge overcame a couple of opponents, including one endorsed by the local fish wrap. But that’s OK, people realized that Maldonado is a good jurist and a great Democrat who serves the community well.

Also, to Natalia Cornelio, whom I wrote about after I met her, who defeated the incumbent quite handily. She worked her way to victory by forming a strong coalition based on the need to defeat an incumbent unfriendly to bail reform. And that’s a good thing.

And Judge Leslie Briones, appointed to the County Court At Law #4 bench after an accidental resignation, defeated the previous occupant. I guess she didn’t need to use the #NeverQuits hashtag I suggested because it seems the voters REALLY like her. Congrats, Laredo!

And huge congrats to my friend Ann Bennett on a decisive victory to remain the Democratic candidate for Tax Assessor-Collector. She’s been an effective officeholder, has improved customer service throughout the county, and is a champion for voter registration. I look forward to her re-election in November.

Of course, I was saddened to see my good friend Judge Larry Weiman defeated. I’ve supported Weiman since he first entered the political atmosphere in 2006–when it was still slightly unpopular to be a Democrat. Two years later, he, along with a great group of Democrats, defeated the Republicans in office. He was definitely a trendsetter, considering he didn’t take money from lawyers who had cases in the 80th District. Unfortunately, and I’ve stated this many times, it’s gotten a lot easier to win as a Democrat in Harris County, so, even the best jurist on the bench can be targeted for defeat in the Primary for no reason whatsoever, other than, because they can. Some long-time judges won’t be as targeted if they are great fundraisers and spread the wealth (protection money?), but some who don’t feel the need be part of the kingmaking class (like Weiman) will be easy targets. And it’ll happen more often, unfortunately, which will ultimately lead to calls for “balanced courts” once November rolls around.

My other friend, Judge Steven Kirkland, was also defeated. He has had a target on him throughout his political career. He was defeated previously thru homophobia and hate, and now, because they could (or maybe both). He is a good jurist, but it’s gotten easier to overlook effectiveness, issues, etc. I’m of the opinion that it could happen to anyone. And it will.

I’m not quite at the point where I would prefer politically appointed, rather than elected, judges, but some hybrid, revolving, based-on-experience track might be nice.

THE RUN-OFFS

It looks like State Senator Royce West snuck into a run-off for US Senate against Washington DC favorite/funded MJ Hegar. I think Christina Tzintzun Ramirez would have done better in South Texas if “Mama” hadn’t been on the ballot. (And did I see Little Joe doing a web ad/vid for “Mama”?) Anyway, #MyChoiceIsRoyce in this one. His experience and a track record of not stepping back from a fight is what we need on the ballot.

Fellow Crystal Citian Roberto Alonzo also made the run-off for Texas Railroad Commissioner. Having served in the Texas Lege for 20 years has given him actual experience in making laws and regulation. Frankly, I think that’s better than being a part of an industry that has shielded itself from all political liability and financial/environmental responsibility. If ever we needed an “outsider,” on the RRC, it is now. Roberto provides that option.

Also, I’m a South Texas Mexican. I’ve had a lot of tios, primos, friends, and probably a few enemies called “Beto” way before the white guy from El Paso came around. So, if you make it about names, realize you sound a little racist. Because I’m getting sick and tired of that crap. (That one was for my late union steward Tio Beto, who also went by Bob to appease those who couldn’t say Beto.)

In the County Commissioner Pct 3 race, Diana Martinez Alexander was the top vote-getter and is in the run-off. Alexander, with little money, but a lot of shoe leather, community-oriented campaigning, and heart earned more votes than her run-off competitor who came in with hundreds of thousands of dollars, glossy direct mailers, consultants, and the support of well-known connected types. It’s a clear choice for me, because, as my momma used to say, “tienes que tener modo con la gente” and Alexander is a great people person who will run a people-centered commissioner’s office while also standing up for our values and needs as a community.

NOT ON MY BALLOT

Congrats to Penny Morales Shaw on making the run-off for Texas House District 148. I think the primary showed that special elections suck and people are still not in voting mode when they happen. Plus, when you throw republinuts into the mix, it just sucks more. Hopefully, voters stay in voting mode for the run-off. Hopefully, voters will get more than the usual arguments of “I was way ahead of the pack” versus “59% of the people don’t want my opponent” and break down the issues that matter. There are differences in this one.

These are just a few of the run-offs on my radar. The run-off is scheduled for late May, so get ready for those picnic grade paper plate placemats (full page glossy direct mail pieces) to start arriving. A few text messages, too. And lots of calls.

More on the #StaceSlate

Some folks have asked me:  Why ________ (this candidate)? For most, I have my reasons. Here are a few races in which I’ve been most vocal on social media.

Bernie Sanders for President:  When it comes to US policy in Latin America, it’s Sanders that gets it. He isn’t afraid to blast US policy supported by both political parties that has been detrimental to native (indigenous) and poverty stricken communities in those countries. Certainly, Sanders doesn’t support policies that bolster the right-wing, anti-indigenous, and anti-poor wealthy class in Latin America. The class that, given the opportunity, will literally impose violence, kill and disappear their opposition as has been ignored by the US for too long . (And these are a few reasons people from these countries are fighting to come here!) The other candidates fall short. Way short. If anything, they support the status quo which tells the poor and native that their votes do not matter, even when they come out to vote in huge numbers and elect progressives to lead. It happens here, too and is one cause of low voter turnout. It is obvious that Sanders’ competition cares little for anyone else but their own political hides when it comes to talking about Latin America, preferring to talk “democracy,” without noticing that they want to impose the same kind of democracy that gave the US Trump. The Democratic Party needs to do a lot better on Latin America and it starts with Bernie Sanders leading the way.

Any opposing argument that questions his support of progressive leaders in Latin America, as well as any idiotic questioning by local elected officials as to his “Democratic” credentials is a weak attempt at red-baiting and an insult to our intelligence as voters.

Royce West for US Senate:  As I’ve stated before, if you ask me for my vote and you haven’t done anything that has hurt native or poor communities, and you have actually defended communities from awful, racist laws (SB4), chances are you will get my vote. No doubt, Christina Tzintzun Ramirez ranked up there in my choices because of her legislative leadership on these issues, but it came down to simply being asked by someone with a track record of political leadership that I trusted. Retail politics still matters in this huge state. All the other candidates fall short of having done anything on these issues that matter to me.

Roberto Alonzo for RR Commissioner:  I’ve known Roberto most of my adult life. We grew up in the same hometown. For many, he’s “un buen ejemplo” because, like many of us, he came from nothing but a loving family. And like many of us, his life was about struggle and helping those that struggled. For Roberto, serving in public office isn’t about some whim that came about after a bad election or finally speaking up after enriching oneself in an industry.  As a State Representative serving in Dallas for two decades, whatever progressive agenda he supported, and he’s been consistent in doing so, has been about helping people overcome barriers, and the poverty and struggle that come with those barriers. His years of service, which includes fighting on environmental issues, qualifies him for this post. So, this one was an easy choice.

I’ll try to write a few more of these before Tuesday. But some asked, so, there you go.

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)

Congratulations, Joe Biden!

Am I the only one experiencing this dark feeling that Joe Biden became the Democratic nominee this week?

I won’t even re-hash the Bernie-Warren spat, but the bottom line is that both campaigns and their supporters have exhibited the worse kind of petty campaign behavior. The kind of behavior that, even if accusations have some speck of legitimacy, goes off the rails rendering both campaigns as childish and immature. The kind of behavior that even though both sides’ points have been made, continues because one or the other continues it and CNN eats it up.

Unfortunately, all this does is make the other guy look stronger, steadfast, and like the image of the granddaddy our country needs, even if he does take us to the woodshed to spank us for questioning anything he might do.

Worse, it’s not even about issues! It’s about what someone else heard someone else say in some candidate meeting. Or some errant staffer on one campaign posting something on a campaign site to which 99% of the rest of us have no access. And that one campaign has talking points on another, as if this kind of thing never happens. Certainly, the only thing we’ve actually heard is whatever CNN’s stage microphone heard after the debate and neither campaign looked good. I guess I just rehashed it.

So, while the facebook arguments will likely continue between Berniestas and Warrenites, I think I’ll spend my time on more productive things. Like, embracing having to vote for Joe Biden. It’s less stressful and a whole lot less petty!

Or, both campaigns can stop the BS and actually campaign so we can let the whitest states in the union decide who will be the nominee. Now, there’s something that should be discussed! Or is race relations in politics just too uncomfortable?

 

 

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.

Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez Enters Senate Race

Have you ever had a bunch of candidates to choose from and still can’t make a decision? Yeah, me too.

But Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez has entered the race for the Senate to rid us of  John Cornyn, so, perhaps the choice is easier today.

Ramirez is an activist and organizer who founded the Workers Defense Project and voter engagement group, Jolt Texas. Many of us have watched her interviews on MSNBC speaking on behalf of the pro-migrant cause during these painful days of mourning since the El Paso shooting and since Trump’s attacks on the Latino community. Obviously, she’s running as a progressive on all the issues Democrats love.

I’m running because I want to ensure that every Texan has high-quality healthcare, to build an economy that creates millions of good jobs and positions our state as the leader in our global transition towards a green future, to protect the rights of immigrant families and communities of color, and to ensure that every single Texan that wants to go to college can afford it and graduate debt free.

Given her positions on these issues, I do not expect her to change her views mid-General to appease the unreachable and unattainable, which happens in most Texas campaigns. So, I expect her to run a strong, grassroots campaign funded by working people who seek real change in Washington, DC.

I’m running because I have the most beautiful two year old son in the world, Santiago, and when I imagine the world he’s going to inherit, and the one I leave behind for him, I want him to be proud of what I stood up for. What we stood up for together. I want him to know that in a moment where 1 in 6 Texans didn’t have access to healthcare and millions were struggling just to make ends meet, when communities were being pitted against one another on the basis of race, and our world was at the brink of an imminent climate catastrophe, we came together and worked as hard as we could to make his life and other children’s lives like him better.

What’s the path to victory? Given her message, it’s through all communities. And that will take visibility across Texas. From the Trib:

Tzintzún Ramirez welcomed a competitive nominating contest as healthy for Democrats, saying the candidates in the Senate race are “all essentially at the same starting place,” unknown to most voters statewide and thus forced to run on the merits of their platforms. Asked how she plans to distinguish herself, she pointed to her forthrightness on the issues and her record of mobilizing the kind of voters often overlooked by politicians.

“I know how to speak to the diversity of this state,” Tzintzún Ramirez said.

This kind of video helps.

The Trib has more.

 

 

An Interesting Poll of Brown Folks

NALEO and Latino Decisions have just released a poll on where Latinos stand as the presidential primary gets going. And the results are not surprising–at all.

Latinos are paying attention to the Democratic primary  process and no one candidate is the de facto Latino candidate. The top five with the highest favorables are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, and Kamala Harris. The poll also shows that Latinos feel that Dems are mostly doing a good job in speaking to Latino voters, while Trump and the Republicans are mostly hostile to Latinos. But Dems still need to work on it–a lot.

In regards to issues, it is health care, wages, immigrant rights, job creation, and stopping Trump’s agenda among the issues of which Latinos are more concerned. As always, immigrant rights may not be the top issue, but it is an issue that affects the Latino community, whether it is about the immigration and detention process or about the racism that is emboldened by Trump and Republicans. One way or another, all of the issues are intertwined.

In fact, 72% of Latinos want Obamacare to stay in effect, while 77% of Latinos also believe that migrants are not a threat and should be allowed through the asylum process. And Latinos respond negatively in high numbers to Trump.

Democrats have a real opportunity for Latino engagement and communication, as always, They just need to want to do it. Considering California and Texas are among the first states to decide on who should be the Democratic candidate, it would seem that small states like Iowa are still the “go-to” states for candidates and it is quite annoying. And it’s an easy way to escape a major portion of the list of issues Latinos deem important. You know, like immigration. The other side is certainly attacking–in rhetoric and policy.

On immigration, I’ve only heard good things from Julian Castro, who has an actual plan, and Bernie Sanders, who has a nice list of policy pronouncements. although Sanders hasn’t been artful in communicating against the Republican “open borders” attack. Frankly, this is an attack that all of the Democrats need to learn to combat. The Republicans are too good at spreading racism and hatred and this poll shows that fact, as well. Latinos are obviously tired of Republican racism.

Thanks to NALEO and Latino Decisions for putting out this poll. I do suggest that a “Latino debate” be held in California or Texas as the Florida one doesn’t excite me at all.