Tags: Texas

Meet Larry Smith, Aspiring Republican Congressman from Texas


Texas’s 34th congressional district is a new one, created in the southeastern corner of the state after the 2010 census, and includes Gonzales, Dewitt, Goliad, Bee, San Patricio, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Kenedy, Willacy, Cameron, and Hidalgo counties. It goes around, but does not include, Corpus Christi, and it scores a D+3 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Democrat Filemon Vela currently represents the district, and census data indicates the district is 82 percent Hispanic.

Republicans do have a candidate on the ballot (the filing deadline was December 9), Larry Smith, a 37-year-old Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Smith says he has put about 3,700 miles on his truck as he traversed the district. Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in Texas have the option of collecting 500 signatures or paying $3,125 to qualify for the ballot; Smith said collecting the signatures was an important step to symbolize fiscal responsibility, telling the Brownsville Herald, “You don’t just dump $3,000 on bureaucracy.”

Smith, left, with Greg Abbott, the attorney general of Texas and a candidate for governor this year.

Smith is guaranteed to face a tough task in the fundraising battle in 2014, as incumbent Democrat Vela’s personal wealth is estimated to be between $1.2 million and $15 million.

Tags: Filemon Vela , Larry Smith , Texas

An Orwellian Fundraising E-Mail for Wendy Davis


Check out this fundraising e-mail from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a rising star in Democratic circles, touting gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis:

Friend –

I just had a great meeting with my friend Wendy Davis here in San Antonio.

We talked about job creation and economic empowerment for all Texans — and I left reminded of her extraordinary determination to make Texas even better than it already is.

If you caught Wendy’s announcement speech last week, you saw why she’s been able to inspire so many people, both here in Texas and across the country. I’m going to do everything I can between now and next November to make sure she gets to the Governor’s Mansion.

Show Senator Davis she’s not taking on this challenge alone — add your name to say you’re with Wendy for governor in 2014.

Wendy is fearless.

She overcame a background of poverty to put herself through Harvard law school.

She once stood for hours to filibuster a bill that would have resulted in billions of dollars in cuts to public education for our kids.

She’s a proven winner who brings Texans together — elected twice in a swing district that’s considered a microcosm of Texas, where Mitt Romney won easily last November. And she knows that bread-and-butter issues like public education and transportation infrastructure are essential to keep our vibrant economy going strong.

That’s who Wendy Davis is — and that’s why she can win next fall.

Let’s rally around her now and kick off this campaign with a strong show of support.

Join me and say you’re with Wendy:

In this together,


Castro (or the staffer who wrote this) is just flat-out lying.  Davis made a one-hour-and-fifteen minute filibuster in 2011 about public education spending. The only time she stood for “hours” was in her 2013 filibuster to stop a bill that would ”ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards that hospital-style surgical centers do, and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.”

The Castro e-mail is attempting to blur the lines between the two filibusters, perhaps hoping they can fool people that the more recent and high-profile filibuster wasn’t really about late-term abortions but about education.

In fact, you’ll notice the word “abortion” doesn’t appear at all in Castro’s e-mail, nor does the term “choice.”

Why would Castro (or his staffer) lie about this?

Above: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro; state legislator, late-term abortion advocate, and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis; the mayor’s twin brother, congressman, and stunt double, Joaquín Castro.

Tags: Wendy Davis , Texas , Julian Castro

Wendy Davis, the Ned Lamont of 2014


Wendy Davis, the Texas Democratic state legislator who engaged in a filibuster to preserve late-term abortions, is reportedly running for governor.

Republicans should be elated at this development. The Cook Partisan Voting Index scores Texas as R+10, and Davis’s bid will inevitably be defined by her trademark stance. A University of Texas poll found 62 percent said they would support “prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks based on the argument that a fetus can feel pain at that point,” and that same percentage said they support “prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks.”

Yet her status as a heroine to the pro-late-term-abortion Democratic-party grassroots will ensure that she will get a small fortune in donations, money that could otherwise have been spent in more competitive races. She’ll also probably get a lot of national press coverage.

She could be this cycle’s Ned Lamont — the liberal anti-war challenger to Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut in 2006. Lamont was a hero to the anti-war Democratic grassroots — Markos Moulitsas appeared in a commercial for him.

Markos Moulitsas, peering in the window of Ned Lamont’s house in one of the odder ads of the 2006 cycle.

Lamont won the Democratic primary . . . only to lose to Lieberman, running as an independent, in November. A loud but small minority of the electorate at large fell in love with him, only to find that the voters as a whole didn’t agree.

Of course, Ned Lamont spent $16 million of his own fortune on that Senate bid, and collected about $3 million from donations. Davis will require a lot more help from the DGA and Democratic 527s.

Lamont ran for govenror a few years later and lost in the Democratic primary; he is currently teaching at Central Connecticut State University.

Tags: Wendy Davis , Ned Lamont , Texas , Abortion

Getting Out the Vote . . . Everywhere


The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt features a brief look at the Inauguration hoopla, some ominous developments in Mali and Algeria in the war on terror, and then this continuing discussion of how Republicans ought to tinker with new get-out-the-vote ideas and efforts in the races of 2013:

The Importance of Getting Out the Vote in Safe Precincts

The opening section of yesterday’s Jolt was urging Republicans to experiment with getting out the vote in the special elections coming up this year; with most of the races in districts that lean heavily to one party or the other, it’s unlikely any botched experiment would blow a 50-50 race. (If you didn’t receive it, you can read it on Campaign Spot here.)

In response, Morning Jolt reader John E. wrote in:

Appreciated your article today. It brought to mind something I observed in the Presidential election in my neck of the woods. My “neck of the woods” is a county in the Alabama-like Florida Panhandle. John McCain took 72% here and Mitt Romney got 75%. And yet, in 2012, the Obama people had an office in our small town (I think it was donated space), and there was an identifiable presence with signs, bumper stickers and such. In other words, the Obama supporters did not throw up their hands and ignore this area, even though they knew it was hopeless here. Still, their efforts may have squeezed out a few more votes for their candidate. And if you multiply that over several counties in Dixie-ish north Florida, well, you know the state was close and every vote counted.

Indeed; 74,309 votes, or one percentage point, in Florida.

One of the hot political books of last year was Sasha Issenberg’s The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. The book alternated between fascinating anecdotes and a tough slog for me, as if Issenberg really wanted to tell a dramatic story about a punch of political scientists reviewing tables of data and trying to find differences of one or two percent in turnout. But just as if you’re rolling your eyes at another description of a data-crunching poli-sci geek as some convention-defying upstart, rebelling against the system as defiantly as Marlon Brando in The Wild One, you come across some bit of campaign experimentation that you think future campaigns ought to study.

In a chapter about Rick Perry’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Issenberg writes that the campaign agreed to randomize the schedule of visits, to see if there was some measurable impact from each campaign stop. They began the campaign at Texas Tech’s pavilion in Lubbock and then moved on to Addison outside Dallas, where he visited a Texas Instruments plant under construction, then on to Tyler and Beaumont, and so on.

When [data-researching academic and Perry campaign consultant Daron] Shaw reviewed the local media, he saw that Perry’s physical presence had a remarkable ability to drive coverage. In the twelve media markets Perry visited, he earned a report on the evening TV news in nine of them and a story in the next morning’s newspaper in all twelve. And unlike the stories produced by the Austin bureaus of the big Texas papers, which Perry’s aides often felt were unfair to their boss, the local coverage of his trips was almost exclusively positive. When Shaw coded the stories in all twelve markets on a five point scale on how good they made Perry look, they found that the campaign stop warmed the tone of the coverage in all but one. In the eight control markets Perry didn’t visit, the governor was barely covered in the media during the same period.

Shaw could tell that Perry was boosted by the warm reception he got on the road. Contributions went up in the cities that he visited, along with the number of new volunteers. Across the twelve markets, Perry’s approval rating went up from 41 to 46 percent, with his unfavorable number dropping slightly. While Perry gained four points in the four-way horse race, his lead over Chris Bell, the likely Democratic nominee, remained steady, though, each of them appearing to benefit from voters abandoning the two independent candidates. Shaw assumed, sensibly, that this meant that Perry’s presence energized not only Republicans but Democrats, too. When Shaw went back the following week, however, Perry’s lead hadn’t evaporated the way the TV-aided boost had. He held on to four points he had gained.

Obviously, an incumbent governor making a campaign stop is going to attract more attention than a little-known House candidate. But the observation that television advertising’s impact tends to dissipate quickly makes sense, and raises the question if all of that television advertising in spring and summer did much good for the campaigns last year.

If I were a Republican running in Illinois’s second congressional district, South Carolina’s first district, or Missouri’s eighth district in the coming months, I would have campaign “offices” — no matter the size, no matter the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood — in as many communities as possible, and I’d be attending every event down to the opening of an envelope, all over the district. (First step: get the candidate to attend every branch-office opening and invite the local media, all the way down to the local Patch reporters. And order a pizza or two.)

Tags: Campaign Advertising , Campaigns , Florida , Rick Perry , Texas

Will Liberals Learn to Love Ricardo Sanchez?


Democrats think they have a candidate who can win Texas’ open Senate seat: Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

Democrats appear to have recruited retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, setting the stage for the party to field a well-known candidate in the 2012 race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a Democrat, confirmed that Democratic Senate campaign chief Patty Murray, D-Wash., was referring to Sanchez on Thursday when she said Democrats were close to announcing a candidate in Texas.

Sanchez, reached by phone at his San Antonio home, asked where the reports of a Senate run came from and then said, “I can neither confirm nor deny.”

Sanchez, the former top military commander in Iraq who was left under a cloud from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, would not discuss the Senate race.

As far as your usual Senate candidates go, Sanchez will indeed have a more interesting life story and resume: rising from humble roots, one of the top ROTC students in the nation, platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne, led his mechanized brigade to Basra in Desert Storm, director of operations of Southern Command, and of course, commander of Coalition Ground Forces in Iraq. While he led the military effort, Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed and Saddam Hussein was captured.

But sooner or later, Sanchez will have to take stands on the usual domestic, economic, and social issues in what remains a very conservative state, where Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in seventeen years. So Sanchez will either become something akin to Zell Miller, a Democrat who is apostate on so many issues that his own party’s grassroots outside the state can’t stand him (and conservatives make him their favorite member of the opposition), or he’ll have to try to sell liberalism in Texas — in a year when the top of the ticket is Barack Obama, no less. Already, he is emphasizing that he’s going to be more to the right than the average Democrat:

“I would describe myself as during my military career as supporting the president and the Constitution,” Sanchez said. “After the military, I decided that socially, I’m a progressive, a fiscal conservative and a strong supporter, obviously, of national defense.”

Then, of course, there’s Abu Gharib. As Beltway Whispers notes at Red State, some of the Democratic senators who are hailing him as a candidate now were among those furiously denouncing him during the prison abuse scandal:

Senator Patty Murray, who steers the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm and vaguely teased reporters earlier this week of a top Texas recruit, said in 2004 that all those responsible for Abu Ghraib — no matter where they fell in the chain of command — must be held to account for their actions.

“These actions are a disservice to the thousands of American soldiers in the region who serve us honorably each and every day, and, sadly, are likely to make their efforts to calm a troubled region even harder,” Murray said of the controversy.

When former President George Bush tapped then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to fill the nation’s top law enforcement post, Murray joined Senator Maria Cantwell in opposing the nomination over his green-lighting of Sanchez’s interrogation techniques.

In a 2004 statement, Senator Patrick Leahy accused Sanchez of authorizing “the use of techniques that were contrary to both U.S. military manuals but also international law.” “Given this incredible overstepping of bounds, I find it incredible that the reports generated thus far have not recommended punishment of any kind for high-level officials,” he added.

Of course, hypocrisy comes as easily and naturally to the likes of Leahy as breathing, and it seems unlikely that Republicans would try to use the Abu Ghraib issue against Sanchez in a Senate election. (However, Sanchez did call for a “Truth Commission” to investigate interrogation tactics under the Bush administration, a stance that may not play well in the Lone Star State.)

However, Sanchez probably will have a tougher time getting donations and support from the liberal grassroots – and it’s not unthinkable that some progressive Democrat might jump in, lest the party’s face in Texas be the man they hold responsible in part for a terrible national scandal. At Daily Kos, Sanchez is described as “complicit in one of the worst abuses in recent US military history, and worse, was part of an effort to sweep it under the carpet.” Also, ThinkProgress accuses him of lying to Congress; they write, “Sanchez himself wrote and signed a 2003 memo that included specific interrogation tactics approved for use despite noting that they may violate the Geneva Conventions. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sanchez denied signing off on these interrogation methods.”

Tags: Ricardo Sanchez , Texas

A Texas Exodus From the Democratic Party: Call It the ‘Texodus’


Brian Preston sends along word: “In what is believed to be one of the largest numbers of officeholders to change party affiliation in Texas, Lamar County GOP Chairman John Kruntorad and State Representative Erwin Cain announced today that 9 local elected Democrats have joined the Republican Party.”

To the credit of Texas Democrats, they still have dozens and dozens of local lawmakers who haven’t flipped parties yet.

Tags: Texas

Hutchison Retires; Biennial Democrat Comeback Hype Begins Anew


Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced she will not seek reelection. This means that roughly half the Republicans in elected office in Texas will begin thinking about running for her seat.

Inevitably, the Democratic contenders and ultimate nominee will receive national coverage, and we will hear another two years’ worth of stories of “the comeback of the Texas Democrats.” Every two years since George W. Bush beat Ann Richards in 1994, we have heard about the imminent comeback of Texas Democrats; they’re always coming back, but never seem to arrive.

2010: Texas Democrats are raking in funds for ‘10 elections

2008: Texas Democrats believe time’s right for a comeback

2006: Texas Democrats say 2006 could be the year

2004: Texas Democrats feel ready for comeback

Is it possible a good Democratic candidate could beat a lousy Republican one? Sure. But it will be supremely difficult with Obama at the top of the ticket.

Tags: Barack Obama , Kay Bailey Hutchison , Texas

A Texas Party-Flipper to Aim for Congress?


Keeping an eye on the early talk about redistricting in Texas, which is slated to gain four congressional seats:

South Texas should pick up a congressional seat from the four Texas gained during apportionment, but where and how the new South Texas district will be drawn is hard to forecast.

Only U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa’s congressional seat is currently anchored in the Valley. Expect the Valley to anchor another seat with either U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, or Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, pushed out to make way for a new district when the courts approve the final maps.

Republicans in control of the Legislature will decide how the lines are drawn, meaning they’ll want to create a favorable South Texas district that is at least a tossup for a GOP candidate. However, any new district must pass muster of the Federal Voting Rights Act and reflect population gains among Hispanics…

Political observers speculate that the Republican Party will draw a district favorable for state Rep. Aaron Peña, who switched to the GOP last month to give it a supermajority in the state House. A new conservative district for Peña could contain affluent neighborhoods in Sharyland or north McAllen, similar to the GOP-friendly district drawn by the Hidalgo County Republican Party in the last redistricting process that Gonzales has managed to hold despite attempts to unseat her.

Peña, who sits on the redistricting committee, said statewide growth makes redistricting a high-stakes affair.

“Redistricting is always contentious,” Peña said. “I fully expect that regardless of the plan that comes out, the divisions will be appealed to the court system. We’ll eventually have a plan people can run under, but it will take a lot of work.”

Tags: Aaron Pena , Texas

NRCC Targets Edwards, Lassa


TX-17: Embattled Blue Dog Rep. Chet Edwards (D) has been desperately trying to distance himself from the Obama/Pelosi agenda. Well, he supported that agenda more than 90 percent of the time, and the NRCC isn’t going to let voters forget that:

WI-7: Democrat Julie Lassa doesn’t have a national record to defend, but the NRCC is hitting her hard over her record in the Wisconsin state legislature, including her support for a Canadian-style government health-care system, in this new ad:

Tags: Texas , Wisconsin

Chet Edwards Down 19!


TX-17: It’s a Republican poll, but as Jim Geraghty notes over at The Campaign Spot, spot Edwards seven points in each direction and you still end up with a 48-43 lead for GOP challenger Bill Flores.

A new OnMessage Inc. poll conducted for Republican Bill Flores’ campaign shows him ahead of Rep. Chet Edwards (D), 55 percent to 36 percent. The poll of 400 likely voters was taken Sept. 19-20 and had a margin of error of 4.9 points.

Either way, Edwards seems to realize that his chances for reelection are getting slimmer by the day, as evidenced by his campaign’s increasingly frantic behavior. For more on why a once-beloved Blue Dog like Edwards is in so much trouble this year, see here.

Tags: Texas

Chet Edwards Feeling The Heat


In an unusual move, incumbent Rep. Chet Edwards (D., TX-17) has challenged his Republican opponent Bill Flores to a series of 12 debates between now and election day. Edwards’ campaign accused Flores of “shying away from the media,” a curious charge given that Edwards did not hold a single town hall meeting during the August recess, something for which Flores has repeatedly criticized him:

“Edwards is asking you to vote for him in November, but for the past year, he has refused to let you meet with him,” Flores said in a statement. “This is a dereliction of duty and shows his contempt for the people he claims to represent.”

He said Edwards was avoiding meeting with voters because he didn’t want to answer for “his steadfast support for the job-killing agenda of [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [President Barack] Obama.”

Edwards’ campaign has become increasingly frantic as he struggles to distance himself from the Democratic leadership (by running ads like this one) and convince voters in his conservative district that he is looking out for their interests. It doesn’t appear to be working though, as CQ Politics just designated the Texas 17th as “Lean Republican.”

Tags: Texas

Edwards ‘Stands’ Against Obama/Pelosi In New Ad


Last week I examined the plight of embattled Blue Dog Chet Edwards (D., TX-17). In this recent campaign ad, Edwards, despite harsh warnings from DNC chairman Tim Kaine, directly attacks the Democratic party establishment in an effort to appeal to angry voters in his district: “When President Obama and Nancy Pelosi pressured Chet Edwards, Chet stood up to them and voted no to their trillion dollar Health Care Bill,” the ad states. As I pointed out in my piece, even though Edwards voted no on Obamacare, a lot of his constituents would likely object to the notion that he “stood up” to Nancy Pelosi (he voted with her more than 90 percent of the time, and twice voted to elect her Speaker of the House). Check it out:

Tags: Texas

Chet Edwards: A ‘Conservative’ Democrat’s Last Stand


Rep. Chet Edwards (TX-17), a Democrat, has represented one of the most conservative districts in the country for nearly 20 years. This year, Republicans are gunning for him.

Tags: Texas

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