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.

Posted in Houston, politics, so mad I could spit, Texas | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

#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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New Leaders Council Houston Chapter Launches

Nlc_logo_png_flower and letters

You aren’t doing your job if you’re not thinking about engaging, mentoring, and supporting the people who will do it when you are gone. That’s why I’m on the Houston executive board for New Leaders Council. The mission:

New Leaders Council (NLC) is a 501(c)(3) that works to recruit, train and promote the progressive political entrepreneurs of tomorrow — trendsetters, elected officials and civically-engaged leaders in business and industry who will shape the future landscape.

I’d like to tell you a bit more about it, and ask for your help building it.

NLC chapters—ours is the first in Texas, but there are 39 other chapters around the country—select a fellowship class each year to take part in our leadership and political entrepreneurship institute. Fellows spend one weekend each month for the first half of the year engaged in a curriculum that gives them a deeper understanding of progressive policy and history which enables them to participate more effectively in civic and political life.

It isn’t a candidate training school, or exclusively for people who want to work in politics or policy. Instead, NLC fellows are recruited from all sectors and industries, because progressive policies need advocates in boardrooms, power plants, and union halls just as much as we need them in classrooms, hospitals, and state houses.

Our executive board recruits a class of people from all backgrounds who stand out for their expertise and accomplishments, accelerating and encouraging their development. It isn’t just a group of individuals who happen to be in the same room at the same time, however, because we also select a fellowship class with an eye toward how they will work together and teach each other.

What’s a political entrepreneur? Here’s a longer discussion, but think of what frustrates you about politics today, like partisanship over progress or poll-driven incrementalism, and then consider an alternative driven by principles of disruptive innovation backed by a commitment to progressive ideals. It is hard to bottom-line it, but that’s a start.

I encourage you to read more on the New Leaders Council website. The Houston page won’t go live until our first fellowship class is announced in December, but the site gives you the big picture.

Here’s how you can help now. Nominate potential fellows and encourage them to apply. Who are we looking for? A few parameters I suggest:

  1. People in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are on track to become leaders in their profession or area of passion.
  2. Progressives who value diversity and approach social issues with an intersectional lens.
  3. Dynamic participants in civic life who vote, follow the news, move through the world with compassion, and aren’t too cynical to wonder what they can do for their country.

Does that sound like you? Or who you are becoming and who you’d like to spend time with? You should apply!

Now, of course, there’s a cost. Good news, though. There’s a $30 application fee, but fellows, rather than pay tuition, work with the executive to raise the funds that support the program. In a city where some leadership programs cost around $4,000 …

If you’re tired of politics as usual, and want a more progressive and prosperous future for our state, I encourage you to take ownership of the challenge to engaging younger generations to help make that happen. It won’t all happen through New Leaders Council, but we’re a key part of it, so let’s get to work.



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Top 5 Things To Do in A Campaign’s Last Month and One Thing You Should Never Do

Twenty-eight days from today, counting today, will be election day. Early voting in Texas starts in 13 days. This is it. Don’t wait any longer to get involved.

At this point, it is all about votes and voters. This will be a close race, so your vote counts.

Here are five things you can do to make an impact in the final month of a campaign, and one thing you shouldn’t do.

1) Block walking
You can read about it in greater detail here, but block walking is incredibly valuable, as one-on-one, personal contact is the best way to increase voter turnout.Visit Wendy Davis Texas and search under the event tab to find a block-walk near you.

2) GOTV calls
Even though block-walking is better, making phone calls to remind people to vote and help them formulate a voting plan is valuable as well.Visit Wendy Davis Texas and search under the event tab to find a block-walk near you.

3) Hand out push cards during early vote / work a precinct on election day
People are more likely to vote if you ask them for their vote, but candidates can’t be everywhere at once. Be polite, be helpful, smile, and ask people to vote for your candidate.Contact your local Democratic Party office or the campaign you support to volunteer. In some places, you might even be able to get paid work at a polling site.

4) Make a contribution
If you don’t have time to give, give money. Actually, give even if you do have time. Texas is a huge state, and campaigns are expensive. Your donation helps pay for other people’s time walking blocks, making calls, working polls, and keeping the campaign running at full strength. Don’t worry if you can’t give much, because it all adds up. Here are some campaigns that would love to have your support:

5) Power Ten! 
You will always have the biggest influence on people who know you and trust you. The fabulous Isabel Longoria calls this the Power of Ten. I was a coxswain, however, and a power ten is what you call when you really need to kick things into overdrive. A power ten means push everything you’ve got as hard as you’ve got, so I’m calling a power ten right now.

5A) Make a list of 10 people you know whose politics align with yours but who aren’t as involved in politics as you are. Keep their email & mobile info close at hand.

5B) Invite them to be part of your power ten, which means they will commit to voting and encouraging others to vote.

5C) Ask each person to create a voting plan and share it with you. Studies have shown that talking about when you’ll vote, what day, what location, before or after work, etc., makes it far more likely that someone will follow through.

All you need to get from each team member is something like this: I’ll vote on the 2nd Tuesday of early voting after I drop the kids off at school – I’ll go to the early voting location at Moody Park.

You then write that down and remind them the day before, then check in at the end of the day they planned to vote to make sure they did.

You could pick a few times to go with people, like meeting for lunch, then voting, or voting, then going for drinks. And, if they like to vote on election day, make sure they know where to go, and check the weather the day before so you can warn them if it is going to be rainy, which slows things down and makes people less likely to vote.

5D) Share recommendations or a sample ballot. Often, people report that they don’t vote because they don’t know enough about everyone on the ballot. The people in your power ten trust and know you, so they should be comfortable with your recommendations. Make sure you tell them that:

a) You can vote a straight Democratic ticket with the push of one button.

b) If you vote straight ticket, you can go to an individual race & vote for a candidate from the opposite party.

c) It is OK to skip voting in races you don’t know about OR that don’t have great options, but the straight ticket vote is much more likely to help a qualified candidate get more votes than an unqualified candidate sneak in. Plus, the other side votes a straight ticket, so by skipping races, you’re really helping them.

d) Prop 1 at the end of the ballot is worthy of a yes vote, but you have to vote for it, because the straight ticket won’t pick it up.

I actually fill out a sample ballot for Harris County that I share with friends. Leave your email for me in a comment, or email me if you know that address, if you’d like me to send one to you. I base it on personal knowledge and research, and factor in endorsements from organizations I trust, like Planned Parenthood Texas Votes and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

5E) Ask them to engage others. Your power ten people could each commit to taking one person with them to an early voting lunch date, or talking to five people about why Sam Houston and Mike Collier are just as worthy of your vote as Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte. It’s like Heather Locklear said:

The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do
Don’t assume everyone knows there’s an election coming, or knows about the candidates. Really. They don’t.

Even a quick conversation with the person at the grocery store, or your barber, or your aunt, or a casual acquaintance at a bar some night can have an impact.

  • Tell someone that Senator Leticia Van de Putte, a mother of six who owned her own business as a pharmacist, is incredibly well-liked and well-respected in the Texas legislature for being a practical businesswoman who will work with Republicans and Democrats to get the business of our state done. “Lt. Governor is such a critical position. It needs to be someone who all members of the legislature respect, who knows how to keep gridlock from happening. I’m voting for Leticia Van de Putte because everyone knows she will get to work to keep things running smoothly, just like everyone knows her opponent’s favorite word is NO, no matter what the issue is.”
  • Tell someone you are voting for Mike Collier for Texas Comptroller because he’s an accountant with significant public and private sector experience, while his opponent is a young farm boy whose only job other than politics was the family business. “I’m voting for Mike Collier because just like I’d want an experienced heart surgeon for my bypass, I want an experienced CPA and businessman to manage our state’s finances.”
  • Tell someone that Sam Houston, Attorney General candidate, really is named that AND he’s an experienced, well-respected lawyer who practiced at one of Houston’s top firms before starting his own firm. Say you’re voting for him. “Isn’t it great that we get to vote for someone named Sam Houston and he’s such a well-qualified, well-respected lawyer?! And his opponent committed securities fraud, breaking a law that he helped pass. We can’t have someone like that as our chief law enforcement officer.”
  • Tell someone that Steve Brown is running for the Railroad Commission. “With the energy boom we’ve got going, you better believe I’m voting for Steve Brown for the Railroad Commission. That’s the agency that regulates energy issues in Texas!”

What would you add?

Let’s do this. This is how we win.

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These Sneakers Were Made for Filibustering. And Block Walking.

There is only one way that Wendy Davis will beat Greg Abbott. Just one.

She has to get more votes than he does.

That’s the only way Leticia Van de Putte will beat Dan Patrick, too.

More votes. And you only have one. Yesterday was the deadline for registering to vote in Texas, so we know how many possible votes are out there.

What are you going to do?

Sneakers aren’t just for filibustering, my friends. You need to set aside time each week to knock on doors in your neighborhood asking people to vote for Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte.

One-to-one, face-to-face contact with voters is unquestionably the very best way to increase voter turnout, and in a close election like this one, turnout is everything.

Many people don’t vote simply because no one asked them to vote. No one took the time to come to their door and encourage them. You have the power to change that. How often in life is it so easy to understand how to make a difference?

Here’s what you need to do to get involved, especially if you are in a major city:

  1. Go to WendyDavisTexas.com and click on the EVENTS tab.
  2. Search within a 10-mile radius of your zip code, going into a bigger radius if you don’t find anything close in.
  3. RSVP that you’ll volunteer for a canvass, the sooner, the better.

If the campaign doesn’t have critical mass in your neighborhood, check the Battleground Texas website, or follow up with your county Democratic party.

When you arrive for your shift, you will be trained in what to say, and you’ll get a map, script, and walk list.

Block walking much more strategic than knocking on every door on every street. The list of names you get will be pulled from voting records, so the people you’re visiting are likely Democratic voters. You might only visit one or two houses on a block.

Many people won’t be home, so you will leave a flyer at their house, but NOT in their mailbox, as it is a federal offense for anyone except the US Postal Service to leave things in the mailbox.

Sometimes, although very rarely, you’ll get someone who is decidedly not supporting your candidates. Just say thank you, make a note on the list, and move on. It doesn’t feel as awkward as you might suspect, so trust me, you can take it. The funniest encounters I’ve had have been when I’m using a list that is pulled from past Democratic voters. The husband answers, and assures me the woman of the house does not ever vote for Democrats. Don’t worry, ma’am, your secret is safe with me!

Some tips:

  • Sunscreen and a hat. Hydrate the night before and during the day.
  • Shorts with pockets, or even a small backpack, can be handy.
  • If you have a candidate or issue t-shirt, wear it.
  • The campaign should have stickers or buttons you can wear to ID you.
  • When you knock on a door, step back a bit so that people don’t feel like you are about to rush in if they open it.
  • Be respectful and thank people for their time.
  • Smile like an elementary school kid on picture day.

You might get someone who wants to ask questions about the candidates. You don’t have to have every answer, so don’t skip block walking because you think you don’t know enough. You can simply say that you are supporting Wendy Davis for X reason (you appreciate that she filibustered in 2011 to restore billions in public education funding, for example), give them the flyer from the campaign, and encourage them to check out her website.

You can walk alone or with a partner. I know many people who bring children with them—a family outing for democracy!

The most important thing is to be authentic and ask for the vote.

Tell people it will be a close race and that their vote counts.

That’s how we win.

Don’t forget that we’re building for the long haul. Off the Kuff discusses possible November results that will signal we’ve found the formula to flip this state.

Twenty-nine days until election day, and just two weeks until early voting starts. Be part of this. Get involved. Don’t wait any longer, and don’t wake up on November 5th wishing you had been more involved.

Wendy Davis and Kathleen Turner at 606

Posted in Houston, politics, Texas, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Breast Cancer, Bras, Republicans, Science, and Lies

A Houston Chronicle article reporting on yesterday’s Komen Race for the Cure™ starts with a quote containing a breast cancer myth:

Joann Goodie and her friends huddled in the early morning by Sam Houston Park in downtown Saturday, waiting for this year’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure walk to begin.

“My motivation is to increase awareness,” said Goodie, 66, who lost two aunts to breast cancer and has herself survived cervical and kidney cancer. “If you do things right, if you eat, exercise, wear the right type of bra, you decrease your risk [for breast cancer.]”

There is no “right type of bra” that can reduce your risk for breast cancer, and there is not a wrong type that will increase your risk. You can wear a bra or not wear a bra, and that decision will not affect your breast cancer risk. Period. Scientific fact. Ask the American Cancer Society, or even Komen itself.

The first item on my to do list for the morning: write Houston Chronicle to ask that this scare-mongering myth be removed from this article. There’s a check mark next to it.

The next item on my list is to remind you, yet again, to vote for Wendy Davis for Governor of Texas so that we don’t get saddled with Greg Abbott. If you’re reading this post, you probably agree, so consider this ammo for helping to convince your friends to join you in supporting Senator Davis.

Breast cancer myths came up yesterday:

The State of Texas requires that all people obtaining an abortion in Texas must be given a document that says this:

While there are studies that have found an increased risk of developing breast cancer after an induced abortion, some studies have found no overall risk. There is agreement that this issue needs further study.

The truth? The scientific community does not believe this issue needs further study—that’s the point upon which there is agreement.

The only people who believe it does are those who disregard science and facts in order to impose their beliefs on others.

Those studies that have found an increased risk? They’ve been debunked, and multiple medical authorities have disclaimed any connection:

American Cancer Society: Linking these 2 topics creates a great deal of emotion and debate. But scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer.

National Cancer Institute: Considering the body of literature that has been published since 2003, when NCI held this extensive workshop on early reproductive events and cancer, the evidence overall still does not support early termination of pregnancy as a cause of breast cancer.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: The relationship between induced abortion and the subsequent development of breast cancer has been the subject of a substantial amount of epidemiologic study. Early studies of the relationship between prior induced abortion and breast cancer risk were methodologically flawed. More rigorous recent studies demonstrate no causal relationship between induced abortion and a subsequent increase in breast cancer risk.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott has sued tanning salons for misleading people about the cancer risk related to soaking up man-made rays. So he understands that it is dangerous to spread false information about cancer risks.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for him to take a stand against the lie printed in the Texas-mandated materials that spreads false information about cancer risks. I guess one can forgive a newspaper reporter and his editor for getting the facts wrong when the Republican Party, GOP state legislators, and GOP gubernatorial candidates are comfortable getting the facts wrong on purpose for purely political gain.

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