What Comes Next: Advice from Simon Rosenberg

I’ve heard Simon Rosenberg speak twice now, and check in on his blog from time to time. Always weighty and thought-provoking.

Trust me that I’m not giving anything away by excerpting the end of his post, which you should read in its entirety, about how Democrats should move forward:

Reinvigorate the Democratic Party – President Obama and his team should leave his fellow Democrats a reinvigorated DNC with a new mission.  He should establish a “2024 Project,” one focused on doing what is required for Democrats to roll back recent GOP gains and come out of the next redistricting as the dominant political party in America with majority control in the Senate, House and state houses and legislatures across the country.   At the core of this project must be strategies to expand the new majority coalition built in recent years into terrain critical for winning more control in Congress and in the states.

Among the more operational things the DNC should take primary lead on now is recruiting and training a new generation of candidates and operatives needed to beat a new generation of Republicans, expanding and turning out the new majority coalition, and advancing efforts to make it easier for people to vote in every state and locality in the country.   A $50 to $100m fund should be put aside for a national paid media effort in off-year elections too.

Too many of these important responsibilities have been left to others parts of the center-left ecosystem.   It is time for the most important piece of this ecosystem – the Democratic Party itself – to be challenged to fulfill its rightful and vital role as the enterprise charting the future of all Democrats over the next decade.

We will be issuing a separate memo on the Hispanic vote soon.

I share for several reasons, including his reinforcement of what we all know to be true when we’re being honest with ourselves, and what we ignore when we devolve into too much blame and not enough critical analysis of recent events:

  • He’s talking 2024 because this kind of work takes time.
  • It also takes massive and strategic investment in what—and especially who—is coming next.
  • He refers to an ecosystem, and while he calls the party the most important piece, he’s also clearly saying that all of the pieces depend upon each other and need care and feeding.

We’re lacking some of those critical elements in the ecosystem in Texas. I hope that the progressive leadership & political entrepreneurship program we’re launching will be a healthy and beneficial addition. None of us can do it alone, though.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for his next memo on “the” Hispanic vote.

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My Thoughts on Battleground Texas

As expected, everybody’s going after Battleground Texas. Republicans, for sure, trying to make us give up. The media, too, who walk the line between wanting to be impartial and objective, but also wanting to sound like experts with the inside track who are the first to say I told you so.

The calls, however, are also coming from inside the house. I’m talking about Democrats jumping on the anti-Battleground bandwagon.

That’s who I’m talking to right now. Some of you have been on it from the start, and some of you waited until  the returns started coming in, but I knew that sooner or later, you’d get in on it.

Here’s the deal—I volunteered on a Battleground team. I took part in a weekly phone bank. I helped out with some block-walks. I registered new voters, sometimes even driving to their homes or offices to sign them up or help them update their registration. I did a ton of data entry to support many others who called, block walked, and registered voters.

I also helped organize several fundraisers for the candidates at the top of our ticket, most with low ticket prices so they would be accessible to a wide range of people, and I served on host committees and attended events organized by other people for other candidates. I also organized a couple of coffees where people could learn more about specific issues, like education and women’s health, at my own home. I also took part in some public gatherings that featured speakers on issues ranging from immigration to transportation alternatives. There was no charge for those unless you wanted to buy a drink.

I voted early, which gave me time to drive other people to the polls. And then, on election day, I supported two teams of poll monitors who were the first line of recourse for people who were, for whatever reason, unable to vote.

I didn’t limit my engagement to only Battleground. I worked with other groups as well.

I did all of that, and I noticed something.

I never saw you at the phone bank. And when I called your house, you didn’t answer.

I didn’t see your name on the list at the door at my events, and when I knocked on your door at home, if it wasn’t inaccessible behind a locked gate, you sat silent until I left. When I was asking for help getting people to drive others to the polls, you weren’t available.

A few of you showed up to something every once in a while, but you stood at the back of the room talking to people you already knew, criticizing what others were doing. You didn’t introduce yourself to the new people or offer to help them learn what to do, or how to do it better.

I try very hard not to be the person who stands at the back of the room with my arms crossed and a smirk on my face, rolling my eyes because new people, different people, other people, are doing it wrong, or differently, or for a different audience. I try hard not to be that person because I don’t think it is constructive. Plus, I know there are some of you who’ve already mastered it, and I wouldn’t want to try to elbow in on your corner of the action.

I’m used to hard work that takes a long time and doesn’t necessarily yield wild success from the get-go. I know that kind of work goes better the more people you have doing it.

So the next time I call, pick up the damn phone.

Let’s talk about what we can do to move forward toward 2015 and 2016 and 2028.

Give me your tips for how to build a better phone bank, or voter registration drive, or GOTV program. Let’s pick a few precincts and work them hard in 2015 to see how we can drive turnout higher in 2016 and 2018.

Let’s test out our theories and reinvigorate our base. Let’s analyze the data, but let’s also work to be sure there is enough data to analyze.

Make the drive with me up to Austin some day to register support for a good bill or opposition to a bad one. I’ll pay for the gas and the kolaches at the halfway point.

Or do something else and don’t get me involved until you come to me after the fact to show me the measurable progress you made doing it your way. I want to know how to be successful, and if my way doesn’t work as well as your way, then I want to make your way mine, too.

But if you want to stand there and talk to me about how you knew it wouldn’t work, step off. If you knew it was a train wreck in slow motion, then good for you. Want a cookie? If you want to tear people and programs down instead of working to build them up, please move along. You can go to hell, and I’ll keep working for Texas.


Posted in Houston, politics, Texas, time for action | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Who’s Worried About Turning Texas Into California?

Here is what Greg Abbott means when he talks about beefing up his border security plan:

Candidate Greg Abbott with Chuck Norris and Norris's wife

So … ummmmm … plan accordingly.

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Top Ten Reasons to Vote Early – #3 Will Really Blow Your Mind

Here are my top ten reasons you should vote early instead of on election day. In Harris County, you can find hours, locations, and dates for voting between October 20th and the 31st here. Anywhere else in Texas, check your county office, by phone or on the web.

If you need to know who to vote for, I made a handy guide.

10. If you decide to run away and join the circus, or meet some exciting new person who whisks you off to Paris for a month-long vacation, your vote will still get counted if you’ve voted early.

circus party 22 by pyramis

9. You might get quarantined for exposure to some dangerous virus, and then you’d be out of luck unless you had already voted early. A month ago, you would have thought this was as unlikely as possibility as #1, but now, you’re thinking about it.

8. You can vote at any early voting location in your county, not a specific precinct. You think you know where your election day polling location is, but a large percentage of these sites have not yet been confirmed, and they could be changed or consolidated at any time, even the night before the election. Seriously. Two weeks before the election, I know, but seriously. If you look at the list when you click on polling locations list, you’ll see the number of locations marked with an asterisk that means they have not yet been confirmed. Don’t count on Stan Stanart being on top of things. He is strategically inept when it comes to making it easier to vote.

7. You have time to get help if something isn’t right and they try to make you vote a provisional ballot instead of a regular ballot. Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for election assistance. Don’t let someone bully you into voting a provisional ballot. Your vote should be counted.

6. Once you’ve voted, you can help other people vote. Drive people to the polls who would otherwise miss the chance to exercise their constitutional right to vote. In Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas, sign up with Texas Organizing Project. Otherwise, call your county party.

5. You know how you sit around anxiously after the polls close waiting for early voting numbers? Well, even if you don’t, I do. It would be awesome if half of the vote came in early so we didn’t have to stay up so late to know who was ahead by 8 p.m. or so. Well, even if you like to stay up late, I don’t, so help a sister out.

4. What if it rains on election day and all of the intersections flood, or we get a hurricane and you have to evacuate? What if you go away for the Halloween weekend and get trapped in the Chicago airport? It could happen. Stay dry, don’t stress—vote early!

3. Once everyone in your household has voted, the phone calls from candidates stop. Really. Every day, the county updates the records for who has voted, and if you’ve voted, you get off the call list. Stop the insanity! Vote early!

2. Lines long on election day because we are going to have record turnout? You’ve voted already, doesn’t matter. Precinct judges screw up the voting machine installation, so there’s a delay in your precinct opening? You’ve already voted, doesn’t matter. The kids at the elementary school where you vote have all came down with swine flu and your hazmat suit is on loan to a friend in Dallas? Doesn’t matter, you’ve already voted. Seriously, I got swine flu one year when all the kids at the elementary school down the block did, and I don’t even have kids, but I had to go into that school building, and I got it.

1. Smugness. Self-righteousness. Enjoy it. Own it. Revel in it. You’ve already exercised your civic duty. BAM. Print yourself an I Voted sticker and wear it every damn day between now and election day. Early voting means you can do that.
i voted sticker

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2014 Voting Recommendations

I’m going in order of the ballot, so the DA race will come in the middle of the judges. I’m adding hyperlinks as I have time to do so. See update for some judicial recommendations at the end, posted 10/25/14 and 10/27/14.

Statewide Races

Major newspaper endorsements for each of these collected in one place by the San Antonio Express News.

If you are a Republican, you would do very well to vote for these Democrats. The Republicans in these races are not the best your party has to offer, and don’t represent your values. Most refused to even talk to the newspaper editorial boards. Singularly dangerous would be a vote for Dan Patrick for Lt. Gov., as he confuses governance with the kind of no-no-no tantrums you’d expect from a four-year-old, not a grown person in elected office.

State Senate & House of Representative Races
Some I’d like to give particular attention to include:

  • State Senate District 17: Rita Lucido – Rita has made this district competitive, campaigning every single day to offer voters in this district an alternative to an out-of-touch, barely visible incumbent.
  • State Senate District 15: John Whitmire - my senator, and the Dean of the Senate.
  • State Representative District 134: Sarah Davis, the incumbent, is a Republican. Last session, she sponsored legislation to have the blatant lie that abortion causes breast cancer removed from the state’s anti-abortion propaganda. She will likely win this race, so if there’s any R you might consider, this would be the one. Her opponent didn’t even bother to campaign, as far as I can tell. What a disappointment.
  • State Representative District 148: Jessica Farrar – my representative, and an absolute rock for our district. She’s phenomenal.

Judicial Races – see update at the end, too

  • District Judge, 113th: Steven Kirkland – talented, smart, and the target of all kinds of nasty campaigning.
  • Family District Judge, 311th District: Sherri Cothrun – the incumbent in this race, who was appointed after the last judge in this court was allowed to resign before facing likely prosecution, has faced very serious charges of ethical violations that started the day she took the oath. Everyone has endorsed Sherri Cothrun – the Houston Bar Association, the Association of Women Attorneys, everyone. She deserves your vote, because this court deserves a judge with integrity and talent.
  • District Attorney: Kim Ogg – VOTE FOR KIM because we desperately need a new regime and she’s a thoughtful, experienced, qualified candidate who will bring important, strategic change to this vital office.
  • Judge, County Criminal Court No. 13: Jason Luong – Jason has been a friend since law school. Conscientious, intelligent, and very serious about applying the law fairly.

County Races

  • County Clerk: Ann Harris Bennett – vote for Ann, whatever you do. Her opponent, the incumbent, has plagued us with his strategic incompetence. I mean, #FireStanStanard trends every single time an election happens. If you value the integrity of the ballot, vote for Ann, and tell your friends and family to do the same.
  • County Treasurer: David Rosen
  • County School Trustee, Position 5 At-Large: Debra “Debby” Kerner
  • County School Trustee, Position 7 At-Large: Melissa Noriega – a great public servant who wants to make an impact to improve schools, help children, and drive positive change that will have an impact for years to come.

State Constitutional Amendment

  • Prop 1: Vote FOR this amendment that will direct desperately needed funds to our transportation infrastructure. We can’t have a 21st century economy, as Leticia Van de Putte says, on the 19th century roads that the Republican administration seems to be fine giving us, like the places in south Texas where paved roads are being converted back to gravel roads because funding isn’t there and Republicans won’t allocate it. You know, south Texas, where our biggest oil boom is going on?

I’ll be frank. Especially in the judicial races, but in all races, reasonable people certainly can differ, so I won’t argue with anyone who disagrees on most of these. Some, however, I will argue with you about, because a few of the people running for office this time around are so heinous that I will think a little (or a lot) less of you if you vote for them. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

Again, to save time, you can vote the straight party option, Democrat, then skip ahead to Prop 1 (constitutional amendments don’t fall under the straight party option) and vote for it, and be done. You can also change a vote in a single race once you’ve voted straight ticket.

Whatever happens, please do vote. Government affects us every day. If I find out you didn’t vote (who you voted for is secret, but whether or not you voted is a matter of public record), I will not listen to a single complaint you have about government.

If you want to take a closer look at judicial races, you can consider endorsements from the Association of Women Attorneys or the Houston Bar Association poll. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus PAC has a very thorough screening process.

Update 10/25/14
I finally talked to all of my lawyer friends (criminal, civil, & a few family and probate lawyers) who practice in the local courts and compiled their recommendations. It takes time to wrangle that crew. Several recommended a straight ticket vote, or explicitly said there’s nothing wrong with it, especially if paralysis over not knowing about all the candidates keeps someone from voting.

Here are the Republicans that others recommended, several of whom are the only candidates in their races. Unlike in prior years, I did not get any WHATEVER HAPPENS DO NOT VOTE FOR notes about any of the Democratic candidates who are challenging Republicans, so if you prefer to vote straight ticket and be done, go for it.

I did get universal consensus that Sherri Cothrun, the Democrat in the 311th, is a strong must-vote because of the ethics issues swirling around  her opponent and because she is well-respected as a great attorney. Likewise, no one likes the way Steven Kirkland, the Democrat running for the 113th District Court, has been treated over the course of his various campaigns, and all recommended him strongly as a strong candidate.

If you’d like to mix it up a bit, hit your straight ticket D and then check into these races, which I’ve listed in the order they appear on the ballot:

  • Supreme Court Pl. 6: Jeff Brown
  • Supreme Court Pl. 8: Phil Johnson
  • Court of Criminal Appeals Pl. 4: Kevin Patrick Yeary
  • Court of Criminal Appeals Pl 9: David Newell
  • 1st Court of Appeals Pl 5: Laura Carter Higley
  • 14th Court of Appeals Pl. 4: Ken Wise
  • 157th District Court: Randy Wilson
  • 182nd District Court: Jeannine Barr
  • 183rd  District Court: Vanessa Velasquez
  • 189th District Court: Bill Burke
  • 190th District Court: Patricia Kerrigan
  • 209th District Court: Michael McSpadden
  • 228th District Court: Marc Carter
  • 232nd District Court MaryLou Keel
  • 245th District Court: Roy Moore
  • 257th District Court: Judy Warne
  • 270th District Court: Brent Gamble
  • 295th District Court: Caroline Baker
  • Family 310th District: Lisa Millard
  • Family 312th District Court: David Farr
  •  Family 315th District Court: Michael Schneider
  •  Harris County Judge: Ed Emmett
  •  County Criminal #1: Paula Goodheart
  •  County Criminal #4: John Clinton
  •  County Criminal #5: Margaret Stewart Harris
  •  County Criminal 11: Diane Bull
  •  County Criminal 12: Robin Brown
Posted in advice you didn't ask for, Houston, politics, Texas | 2 Comments

Your Vote Just Got More Important

The Supreme Court ruled just after 5 a.m. this morning that Texas can enforce the Voter ID law that District Court Judge  Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled was unconstitutional:

“The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose…The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.”

You can read the entire district court opinion here; this is a link to an analysis of the Supreme Court decision on SCOTUS Blog, which covers the Supreme Court, and this, a link to the actual SCOTUS decision. That decision is only one paragraph. The dissent makes up most of the ruling.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the dissent; Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined.

As many as 600,000 Texans who are citizens with the right to vote will be denied that right because they do not have the proper ID. Many are elderly voters, well-known in their communities, whose drivers’ licenses have lapsed, or whose birth certificates were lost long ago (or, for many African-Americans born in Jim Crow Texas, were never issued in the first place). Most are poor, with extremely limited financial resources.

We should be better than this. Texans should not be afraid to let all citizens vote.

Your vote, if you are allowed it, now carries more weight. You are voting while a fellow Texan cannot, being denied that constitutional right by the highest court in the land.

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#GiveToWendy Today & Let’s Win Texas

Here’s the deal. We know who all of the possible voters are. What we don’t know is which ones of them are going to show up and vote.

Please make a contribution to Wendy Davis’s campaign for governor today. You can click on this button and go straight to a fundraising page. Your gift will help with the final push to turn out voters who might otherwise sit this one out.

Click here to donate to Wendy Davis

We’re on the edge of possibility in Texas. The challenges are many: crumbling roads, under-funded schools, almost 25% of our fellow Texans struggling without health insurance and access to preventive medical care, and a dangerous level of income inequality. Companies can store dangerous chemicals wherever they want, and they don’t have to tell you, while people making the most personal decisions about their bodies, lives, and families are subjected to the intrusion of the state every step of the way. But the opportunities are there as well. Our economy is solid, and our population is young and willing to work hard. We could move forward with hope and optimism, or fall back with fear and mistrust.

Greg Abbott embodies the fear and mistrust of the old guard. In every aspect of his life, personal and political, he has opted to pull the ladder up behind him instead of finding a way to bring the rest of us along with him. He’s about closing down possibilities.

That’s not the Texas I want, and it isn’t the Texas I love.

Wendy Davis and her colleagues, especially the remarkable Leticia Van de Putte, want to get back to the basics of good government.

A good government, by the way, that doesn’t worry about being bigger or smaller, but focuses instead on being the right size for a state of our size.

I’ve been phone banking, raising money, hosting events, and working to elect Wendy Davis for the past year. There’s not much time left to help, but this moment is critical, and my friends, more money will make a big difference.

So chip in today. Give a little, and give a little more. Ask your friends to chip in as well. If you can’t give, that’s OK, but if you can, please do.

Help us amplify this campaign. Tweet using #GiveToWendy, and link people to this fundraising page. Ask your Texas friends living in other towns, states, and countries (US citizens living in foreign countries, that is, as non-citizens can’t donate). Add a Twibbon to your profile picture to let people know what’s going on.

Then, vote. Vote for Wendy. Vote for optimism and the future you want for Texas. Thank you.

Link to donate to Wendy Davis

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