Tour of Texas Senatorial Forums (Houston)

The biggest news coming out of the Tour of Texas Senatorial Forum, put on by New Revolution Now at the King Street Patriots headquarters in Houston, happened before the candidates had a chance to introduce themselves. State Sen. Dan Patrick was on the candidate panel (although, as he made perfectly clear, NOT a candidate and not allowed to participate in the straw poll) while Roger Williams was not.

In all there were six candidates in the forum, including some of the major players in the race. Here’s my quick run-down of each candidate’s performance:

1. Glenn Addison – Addison had a pretty good message “common man” and obviously has spent a lot of time thinking about the issues, but he dropped the ball when it came to communicating those issues in a forum setting. Having a well thought-out policy on a website is one thing, not being able to condense those thoughts into campaign-ready snippets another. Not sound bytes, but meaningful, non-wordy statements that drill to the heart of the matter. Still, with his obvious skills and smarts I think he’d do well to lower his focus a tad and consider a run for the State Lege.

2. Ted Cruz – Cruz’s endorsement list is getting longer and longer by the day (including Evan from this site). In this forum I thought he had a great opening (made it about the audience, and not himself) and a great closing (his story about his father’s oppression in Cuba and “where would they go if America loses it’s liberty?” was perhaps the best line of the evening. In between that he almost seemed inconsequential to the forum. Most of this was due to the questioners ignoring him for long periods of time. I think Cruz is one of the two horses in this race that come across as Senatorial, but he needs to do better in these situations.

3. Elizabeth Ames-Jones – It’s not that I don’t like Ames-Jones, I do, I just can’t bridge the gap between TX Railroad Commission and US Senate. If Ames-Jones were a Democrat, she’s be a team leader. As a Republican however she’s fourth, fifth or even sixth string. Her “Tea Party in my heart” line drew a chuckle from me every time she said it.

4. Tom Leppert – In my opinion, the second thoroughbred in the field. Leppert had a good evening. He was thoughtful, his answers had both brevity and well-thought out detail. His big negative will be his resignation as Dallas Mayor to run for this office. I’m no fan of politicians resigning before their term is complete barring scandal. Still, this has to count as a positive evening for him, in Houston of all places.

5. Dan Patrick – As I said earlier, Dan is still not saying he’s a candidate and he wasn’t allowed to be voted for in the straw poll but the fact that he was there speaks volumes *cough*he’s running*cough* and his public speaking experience sometimes serves him well here. What Dan still needs to learn is how to turn off the radio host and turn on the Senator. At times, you could feel the audience growing weary of his moral sermonizing. Dan saves his biggest attacks for David Dewhurst and Tom Leppert, which should surprise no one.

6. Lela Pittenger – A political newcomer in every sense of the word this is Pittenger’s first shot at elected office. Like Addison, I’d love to see her channel her positive campaign and energy toward the Texas Lege. I think she’s make a great Texas Senator, but she’s going to get overwhelmed in both spending and experience in this race. She does have a great “it’s my generation’s time” hook going for her with which I identify however. Just not in this race. Texas has enough Barbara Ann Radnofsky’s we don’t need a Republican version. (Of course, the difference is the Democrats have no candidates, so Radnofsky could win the nomination, Pittenger and Addison won’t)

The crowd numbered somewhere around 200 in my estimation, although I’m not much of a crowd estimator so it could have been anywhere from 100-300. The room was approximately 3/4 of the way full. Make no mistake about it, this was a forum for the hard-core Republican, so skipping it is probably not going to hurt Roger Williams all that much in a race where all of the money is still to be spent. Still, it could have an impact in your mind if you believe the Tea Party is more than just a passing political fad.

There are several more of these forums scheduled State-wide. Check the New Revolution Now website and try to attend the one near you. If you see Roger, please tell him we missed him in Houston.

Note: I live-tweeted this event. If you want to see the tweets you can find them here.

A false argument “reframed”

Courtesy of Patricia Kilday-Hart:

(It’s time to reframe the school debate. Patricia Kilday-Hart,

After the House vote to renege on the Howard amendment, State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, had an epiphany. What public education needs, he decided, is a scorecard, based on pro-school litmus test votes, to reframe the debate:

Are you for public education, or are you against it?

That’s not exactly the question at hand. After weeks of the media consistently mis-identifying an overall increase in school funding as “$4 Billion in Cuts” the real question should be this: “Are you a supporter of the status quo or would you believe education reform is necessary?”

Given that, after years of throwing money at the problem, our public schools are doing a worse job of educating the public than ever there’s a strong argument to be made for the latter. Of course, the teacher’s unions and special interest groups who benefit from rolling out a catapult would argue for the former. What they have has worked quite well for them. By proposing her “reframe” of the issue what Kilday-Hart suggests is that she, and the Hearst Austin bureau, will be working aggressively to see that the status quo is defended.

Facts be damned.

Missing the point.

One of the problems with a media whose members all self-identify with one ideology is that they frequently miss the point of legislation by the opposing party. Case in point:

(Critics raise “doubts” over sanctuary cities bill. Peggy Fikac & Susan Carroll,

Cesar Espinosa, a Houston-based immigrant advocate who led a caravan of protestors to the rally, said the bill already has sparked fear in Houston-area immigrant communities, where one in five residents is foreign-born, according to census data.

“People are just generally afraid,” he said. “And a good amount of people are actually saying they’re considering leaving the state.”

Emphasis mine.

The bolded is framed as a negative, but the sponsor of the bill would certainly classify that as an intended outcome. Also missing from this story (and, let’s be honest, all of Kilday-Hart’s writing this session) is any sense of balance. Say for instance the fact that many officer’s unions (whose members form the front line against these crimes) support the issue.

The bigger question is not one of anti-sanctuary city policy support, but whether they can be up for discussion. In most cases the answer of the state’s political media is, for issues with which they identify, no. This leads to demagogery and dubious arguments more often than not which, to be fair, is often the default behavior of many on both sides of the political aisle. It just finds its way into print more on the port side.

UPDATE: Welcome Fark readers! We aggregate the best links daily in Texas politics (click for today’s links). Check out recent posts on Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate race, Texas’ Higher Ed Reform, or 10 Best/Worst Legislators lists.

Is this even relevant?

Texas Monthly is busily hyping their customary end-of-session best/worst legislator list, which has led others, such as the Texas Tribune, to kick off the almost as old guess the best/worst list drinking game.

Unsurprisingly, the Tribune’s group of political “insiders” thought that the “best” list would consist of mostly Republicans who suggested they should violate their promise to voters and raise taxes, and Democrats who accomplished….well…….I’ll get back to you on that one. (Except in the case of Senfronia Thompson, who did win the “most argumentative” title.)

On everyone’s “worst” list was Sen. Dan Patrick who, despite my disagreement with him on several issues, was successful in getting many of his agenda items passed into law (pending Perry’s signature of course).

This raises two important questions:

1. What constitutes a “best” legislator?

2. If it’s just a list of people who forward bills on issues with which the State’s political media happen to agree, does the list even matter?

To me a good legislator is one who is successful passing his or her agenda, even if I don’t agree. A poor legislator is one who forwards a plethora of bad (or poorly thought out) legislation that doesn’t stand a chance of passing given the current political environment.

Supporters of Rep. Thompson will be quick to point out her puppy mill bill as evidence of her “success.” However, if you remember, that bill was hotly contested to the surprise of many. As a matter of fact, in its original form it was probably un-signable by Perry. Changes in the Senate have probably made it palatable, if only just.

I would suggest that a list detailing the most effective legislators might be useful, but a list outlining Lege members who share policy priorities with the state’s political media just doesn’t add anything to the incomplete discussion we’ve already had.

Did I miss anything today?

Today I took a day trip with my wife without internet. It was peaceful, although while I was gone the Texas political gossip scene was out in full force.

On Wednesday night, I wrote Kevin and Cory an email, before the news today broke that Gingrich’s staff had resigned (one of my points that needed clarification before Perry 2012 could be taken as a serious idea). Here’s the  email:

I’m actually thinking about writing a post speculating on how Perry could run for president. He’s not putting the kibosh on it anymore. I’m not convinced that he’ll go for it, but for the first time he appears to be considering it. And why the heck shouldn’t he? He is leading the anti-Obama charge, he could definitely get the nomination and make the general election a referendum on jobs and spending. He won’t promise to bring the country together with bipartisanship ala W in 2000 or Obama 08, but that probably doesn’t matter in what will be a very polarized electorate. He can very credibly make the case that he is Obama’s polar opposite on spending and jobs.

I’m going to try to write about this tomorrow.

Dan Patrick and his not-very-persuasive Texas Senate poll

You’ve probably seen the news that Dan Patrick released a poll purporting to show him being the frontrunner in the Senate race. Pretty much everyone I talk to scoffed at the numbers regardless of who they work for or whether they like Patrick. I sorta agree, although I probably take them a bit more at face value. That doesn’t mean I think they have any predictive power whatsoever. Quite the contrary.

Here’s Patrick’s numbers, which they basically released without any supporting information:

Dan Patrick 19%
Tom Leppert 11
Roger Williams 6
Elizabeth Ames Jones 4
Ted Cruz 2
Not sure/Refused 58

1. It’s a name ID poll against carefully selected opponents with less name ID. I would expect that Dan Patrick’s name ID is right about there, followed by Leppert’s. After years of a radio show and years as a big suburban state senate district, Patrick has good name ID in Houston, Leppert in Dallas.

2. A name ID ballot test is close to worthless when you exclude Lt Gov David Dewhurst…who has significantly more name ID over the better part of a decade and a few downballot primaries. If Patrick takes his poll and he shows up higher than Dewhurst, that might be news. We can be pretty sure that Dewhurst beat him however, or they would have released that.

3. Also, what’s Patrick’s fav/unfav? What’s his name ID? For example, if Patrick has ~30% name ID compared to < 10% for every other candidate in that poll (possible), then that means only 2 out of 3 pick him even if they probably haven't heard of the other candidates. Not great for him. Dan Patrick accompanied the release with, "This poll confirms that I would be the conservative front runner if I announce for the United States Senate." Well...not really. He's proved that he may have more name ID (highly concentrated in Houston) than others, but most of the folks who might have supported him have already lined up behind other candidates. So if Patrick enters the race, he's probably decreasing the chances of someone winning (whether him or another candidate) that he considers conservative. So I'd be surprised if the release of this poll has the effect that his camp hopes. He's floating the trial balloon and seeing how people respond. But my guess is that more people will tell him that they don't think he should run. And that includes, I believe, all the members of Texas Iconoclast. (As you probably already know, I support Ted Cruz.)

Rick Perry for President 2012?

Every few months we get subjected to another Rick Perry 2012 boomlet.

Let me make a suggestion: do not take any article seriously that suggests Governor Perry is running for president unless it mentions at least a few facts (which I outlined a few weeks ago in Spanish, mas o menos)

1. An important slice of Perry’s political team has signed on with Newt Gingrich.
2. Gov Perry decided to be the head of the Republican Governor’s Association
3. Is the nation really going to sandwich four years of Obama with Texas governors?

Points one and two reveal the same thing: Perry has shown zero interest in running for president. He decided to forgo a 2012 presidential run when he became the head of the RGA. That’s not an unbreakable commitment, of course, but it’s not nothing. If you think there’s any chance that you’ll be running for president, you don’t became RGA Chair. And you definitely keep your political team from signing up with others . . . which happened in the last few months. So he still wasn’t considering a 2012 run recently and unless Newt drops out (looks significantly more likely after his gaffe on Meet the PRess), you have to wonder if he wants to start a presidential run with completely different staff.

Finally, the third point. Texans know it is far from the truth, but the rest of the nation would view Perry as “the next George W. Bush.” That’s a tough place to start a campaign in this cycle. Getting over Texas fatigue is a pretty large X factor.

Ricardo Boilerplate Sanchez?

Ricardo Sanchez announced that he was running for Senate this afternoon with a two paragraph boilerplate statement on Facebook (kinda played out by now, isn’t it?). Back when the trial balloon was originally floated, I expressed some skepticism that General Sanchez would prove to be a good candidate:

Sanchez will have to explain his candidacy. Why now? What’s his motive for running? He can’t run against the Bush administration — which has been the point of most of his media appearances since retiring from office. He can’t run on the Iraq war. He will have to talk about the Obama administration’s wars — which will probably put him either at odds with the president or with the liberal base. What does he know about economics, solving America’s debt crisis or creating jobs?

So what did he come up with in his announcement to explain why he is running? Boilerplate. Trite phrases used by liberal Democrats across the nation. Probably written by a consultant who apparently wasn’t even feeling creative that day. Here’s the McAllen Monitor with Sanchez’s announcement:

“Here in Texas, too many families are struggling to get ahead,” Sanchez wrote. “Jobs are hard to find, our schools simply aren’t good enough and increasing food and gas prices are breaking household budgets.”

All of those phrases return thousands of hits in google searches. They’re all just standard things that Democratic consultants write. These phrases have all appeared word-for-word in many a Democratic politician’s speech. “Families struggling to get ahead” is particularly popular in New England. New York Senator Chuck Schumer. Maryland Governor Tommy Carcetti Martin O’Malley’s State of the State. How ’bout faux populist John Edwards? The list goes on.

Am I being unfair? “Jobs are hard to find” has appeared in speeches from Democratic Senators like Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, Montana’s Max Baucus, Vermont’s Socialist Bernie Sanders, and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson, etc. Likewise, “schools simply aren’t good enough” is a recent line from Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Repeating standard Democratic talking points word-for-word in Texas is not a winning strategy. Sanchez completely missed an opportunity to explain his candidacy — he just defined himself as a standard-issue Democratic candidate running on the same things consultants write all over the nation.

And yikes, apparently his consultants — or perhaps General Sanchez himself, but I’m being charitable — decided that he should announce but reject all media interviews because he needs to prepare to face the media:

Sanchez was not available for media interviews Wednesday as he preps for a formal announcement at a later date. He released a two-paragraph statement on his Facebook page where he said the state needs “leadership that focuses on results rather than politics.”

Meanwhile, someone already started a Veterans Opposed to Ricardo Sanchez page on Facebook.

If I were a Democrat, I’d find the lackluster start quite disheartening.

Fooled by randomness in the gambling bill?

It’s hard to see how the legislature can balance the budget without revenue from expanded gambling, meaning that gambling is quite likely to pass the Texas Legislature this year. Yesterday, Paul Burka posted the spin from one prominent gambling lobbyist. But not all gambling interests are the same, and frequently they end up fighting each other the hardest. Here’s the (slightly edited) perspective of another prominent gambling lobbyist who represents a different interest:

Paul Burka was told that by the lobbyist that Chairman Hamilton was going to move a bill today that included all different gambling interests (they referred to it as the whole enchilada bill). However, the vote counts came back devestatingly low for the proposal to add slot machines at bingo halls and casinos all over the state. But the numbers were much much better for slots at tracks and Indian reservations. Hamilton wanted to move a bill, so he just decided – on his own – to do this. Everyone was caught very much by surprise, as we thought the bill was dead [Friday]. The speaker’s office is as surprised as anyone.

We were scrambling to figure out what he passed out, as we thought the bill was toast, because the original bill had all this other stuff in it that we knew he couldn’t get the votes for. Despite that, we tried to help him pass it but the vote count wasn’t even close a majority.

The lobbyist I talked to claims that Hamilton’s current bill is only a few votes short of the 100 necessary to pass a gambling bill. That might be why the jilted side is trying to implicate Straus – to try and make it tougher for the bill to pass.

Paul Burka’s closing line was snappy, “Things seldom happen in the Capitol by chance. Even gambling.” According to the other side, he was fooled by randomness.

TPPF’s ads

They’re pushing people towards, a project of a consortium of center-right groups.

Finally, I went to CPPP’s site to look for where Scott McCown gave a frenzied, over-the-top response to these ads, but my anti-virus programs went crazy with warnings. Until they get unhacked, I wouldn’t recommend visiting.