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Why Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee

I haven’t been shy lately in saying in public forums that Hillary Clinton will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee for President. That said, the standard-issue “barring extraordinary circumstances” disclaimer applies, in an election year seemingly cram-packed with extraordinary circumstances so far.

Still, I should explain.

At some point in a Presidential primary election process, it’s no longer fundamentally about the spin, momentum, rally attendance, or enthusiasm. As time goes on, it’s more and more about the math. And the math can be cruel.

To date, Democrats in 15 states have weighed in. In raw votes cast, Clinton is ahead of Sanders by almost 1.4 million votes. Ignoring superdelegates, she has an estimated 596 delegates, to Sanders’ 407. It takes 2,382 to win the nomination. While this win number does include superdelegates, it is a safe assumption that superdelegates will do this year what they’ve done in previous years – ultimately vote for the candidate who has the lions share of electorally-earned delegates, regardless of who they endorsed earlier in the process.

Yes, most of the superdelegates are currently for Clinton, but if Sanders suddenly took a commanding delegate lead, they would feel free to switch, and they would. So, for the purposes of the current delegate score, I didn’t count them. But do keep in mind that their votes do count toward that 2,382 win number.

The delegate count is key, and so is the delegate selection process Democrats use. While some states after March 15 will be “winner take all” in the Republican process, the Democrats remain proportional to the end. That means that the underdog in a state continues to earn delegates, and it means that it takes a frontrunner much longer to reach their win number. But it also means that once a candidate falls behind, it is much more difficult to catch up, even with some big wins elsewhere. Eventually, an underdog will fall so far behind that the nomination is a virtual impossibility.

Meanwhile, to the extent polling has been off anywhere lately, it has usually been in underestimating the strength of the leader, not usually that of the challenger. With that in mind, let’s look at the upcoming primary calendar.

sanders_clintonThe next 2 weeks, delegates at stake, and most recent polling

This weekend, Democrats go to the polls in Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Maine. Next Tuesday comes Michigan and Mississippi. The Northern Mariana Islands (which, apparently, is a place) are in there somewhere, followed on March 15 by powerhouses Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio.

In the Kansas caucus, with 33 delegates at stake, Clinton leads by 10%.

In Louisiana, with 59 delegates at stake, Clinton leads by 39%.

In Michigan, with 147 delegates at stake, Clinton leads by 18%.

In Mississippi, with 36 delegates at stake, Clinton leads by 44%.

In Florida, with 246 delegates at stake, Clinton leads by 24%.

In Illinois, with 156 delegates at stake, Clinton leads by 19%.

In North Carolina, with 121 delegates at stake, Clinton leads by 19%.

in Ohio, with 143 delegates at stake, Clinton leads by 15%.

I can find no polling for Nebraska, Maine, Missouri, or the Northern Mariana Islands, and in all these places combined, 155 delegates are at stake.

In all the Democratic primaries and caucuses between now and March 15, with more than a thousand delegates up for grabs, I can find no reputable recent polling showing Senator Sanders leading Secretary Clinton anywhere. It would surprise me, however, if Sanders didn’t prevail in the Maine caucuses. But with only 30 delegates at stake there, that’s no game-changer.

In a proportional delegate selection process that makes it critical that Sanders catch up with Clinton, there are precious few places he can. While he will almost certainly pick up delegates at every step of the way, Clinton will pick up significantly more at each step. And with each of those steps, the delegate count stacking up for Clinton will make it harder and harder to see how Sanders makes up his shortfall.

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GOP Debate #2 wrap-up: Fiorina shines, Cruz disappears, and awkward Bush moments

Not that Greater Texas needs yet another hot take on last night’s GOP Presidential debate hosted by CNN, but what the hell – here’s mine anyway.

As expected and is natural in such situations, CNN’s Jake Tapper did his very best to pit as many of the candidates against frontrunner Donald Trump as possible, calling on Trump to respond to charges other candidates had made against him on the campaign trail, and calling on others to respond to Trump’s insults.

This made Carly Fiorina shine, made for an awkward night for Jeb Bush, and made Ted Cruz a non-entity.

Last night Fiorina became the first challenger to go head-to-head with Trump, twice, and win resoundingly both times. In each case her comments furthered her own message, while leaving Trump red-faced with embarrassment. Going into last night’s event, she had been one of the bigger question marks on stage, having participated only in the kiddie table debate in the FOX News round last month, and shined there. But it’s one thing to attack Trump when Trump’s not even there; quite another to go toe-to-toe with him. But she fought her way to the main event, and she absolutely delivered. Expect a polling bump out of her corner in the coming week or so.

Meanwhile, since debate moderator Tapper was focused on attacks made by and toward Trump, Senator Cruz was…shall we say…under-utilized at the event, since Cruz never attacks Trump, what with their little tactical bromance and all. There was little Trump-related to ask Cruz, so Cruz wasn’t asked much, and stood silently as other candidates fought for time. I suspect Cruz, rightly or wrongly, called an audible to himself that he’d get more mileage complaining later on FOX that the CNN moderator was shutting him out, than anything he could have gained by elbowing into the fray last night. He might not be wrong about that. Since he’s polling comfortably in the middle of the pack, he can afford to bide his time while waiting for Trump to implode.

Jeb Bush had no such luxury last night, having under-performed expectations considerably. He had something to prove at the debate, and he failed to prove it. He had several good moments, but they seemed over-shadowed by the overwhelming feeling that he’s just too awkward in his own skin. He also squandered the best opportunity of the evening, when he insisted that Trump apologize to Bush’s wife for having insulted her earlier on the campaign trail, and Trump refused. At that point, Bush could have demonstrated some good old-fashioned chivalrous passion and anger in defending his family, but instead he passively let the moment pass in a way that reminded me of Mike Dukakis’ debate mistakes. If I were a Jeb Bush bundler right now, I’d be pushing the panic button. The man just simply isn’t acting like he believes he’ll ever be the nominee.

From the other end of the Florida spectrum, however, Marco Rubio elbowed his way into most of the policy arguments, and comported himself very passionately, articulately, and his debate performance may advance him a few clicks. And New Jersey’s Chris Christie, whose campaign is on the ropes and who desperately needed a lift, may well have done himself similar favors last night.

On the other hand, Ohio’s Governor John Kasich, who out shined most on the debate stage last month, got terminally lost in the crowd last night, and will quickly be forgotten if he doesn’t create a game change for himself. Similarly, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker seemed to relish playing to his own weaknesses, and it spectacularly didn’t work at all. Walker or Kasich may be the next exits from the race, following Texas Governor Rick Perry’s flame-out last Friday.

The remainder of the candidates on the main stage did nothing to help themselves, but may not have hurt themselves much either. Ben Carson still doesn’t seem quite ready for prime time, but I doubt it matters yet to GOP primary voters; they’ll continue to give him the benefit of the doubt for a while. Huckabee was Huckabee (which is bad), and Rand Paul was very busy being Rand Paul (which isn’t bad – but he better make a move soon, or he’ll die in media obscurity).

Not that many watch or any care, but speaking of Perry, the kiddie table debate was even more meaningless than last month, without Perry’s presence earlier last evening. My guess is that, with Perry’s exit, we’ve seen the last of the junior varsity debates for this cycle. But if it’s possible to shine in such an event, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham did so, much to everybody’s amazement. During the first undercard debate last month, Graham barely showed up, then said nothing memorable. By last night, however, the quaaludes must have worn off, because Graham was memorable, funny, relevant, and had interesting issues-related things to say, all without managing to act like an ass. Quite a trick for this GOP crowd. If Walker, Huckabee, Kasich, or Christie bow out of the Presidential race early enough, Graham may well earn a spot on a future main stage. Yesterday he proved that he’s earned it.

That’s my take, what’s yours?

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Texas redistricting analysis: does Alabama SCOTUS ruling seal fate of Texas state House, Congressional maps?

Editor’s note: from time to time, we here at LettersFromTexas Worldwide Headquarters revisit the court action on redistricting on Texas’ legislative and Congressional maps, calling upon redistricting expert Russ Tidwell’s analysis. Here’s his latest, following recent U.S. Supreme Court action.

 By Russ Tidwell

The three judge federal panel in San Antonio is nearing a final decision on redistricting litigation for the Texas House and congressional delegation.

As previously discussed here, multiple weeks of trial have provided a mountain of evidence of intentional discrimination and dilution of the opportunity for minority citizens to elect the candidates of their choice. The post-trial briefs were filed in December.

However, it appears the panel in San Antonio was waiting for further guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court in the form of a ruling in an Alabama redistricting case. That ruling came down on March 25, and it was a victory for the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference.  The San Antonio panel immediately ordered the Texas litigants to file additional briefs in light of this ruling.  The last of those was filed Monday.

The Alabama case involved claims of improper racial gerrymandering and provided significant clarification to this distinct line of case law stretching back to the Shaw case in North Carolina.  While minority plaintiffs in Texas felt they had adequately proven their claims of vote dilution and intentional discrimination, this ruling provided an additional clear roadmap for successful resolution of their claims.

The Supreme Court found:

We have consistently described a claim of racial gerrymandering as a claim that race was improperly used in the drawing of the boundaries of one or more specific electoral districts.

And this:

We have said that plaintiff’s burden in a racial gerrymandering case is ‘to show, either through circumstantial evidence of a district’s shape and demographics or more direct evidence going to legislative purpose, that race was the predominate factor motivating the legislature’s decision to place a significant number of voters within or without a particular district.

In response to the San Antonio panel’s order, attorneys representing the Perez Plaintiffs, LULAC, and the NAACP filed a brief outlining how the evidence already before the court supports racial gerrymandering findings under the Alabama opinion.  The brief documents the plaintiffs’ claims in eleven state house districts in Dallas, Tarrant, Harris, McLennan, Bell and Fort Bend Counties.  Reversing the fragmentation of these districts would re-enfranchise over 1.2 million people of color in these six counties.

While MALC’s brief was consistent with and supportive of the Perez/NAACP/LULAC filing, it made additional claims in Nueces, Midland/Ector and Lubbock Counties.  They rightfully argue that the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the Fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution should override the state’s constitutional “county line rule”.  This would provide for the creation of three additional majority Hispanic districts.

Various plaintiffs filed briefs regarding congressional claims under the Alabama decision, which I will not go into here.  However, in a previous post I discussed LULAC proposed plan C262.

Now that the Texas Legislative Council has loaded the 2014 election returns into their system and more data can be calculated, it is worth noting that the most recent and prominent Hispanic candidate of choice, Leticia Van de Putte for Lt. Governor, carried each of the nine Hispanic majority districts in that plan.  This further solidifies the Section 2 (VRA) claim for creation of such a plan with eight districts in the South Texas and border region that are majority Hispanic Citizen Voting Age Population (HCVAP).  These eight districts are at least as compact as the state’s plan. Additionally, C262 restores CD 25 in Travis County as a crossover district.

Now, it is all in the hands of Texas Federal Judges.  Watch this space.


Read other redistricting pieces by Russ Tidwell here

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US Military exercises in Bastrop trigger state Guard movement

(Austin) In response to plans by the US Army conduct training exercises in Bastrop Texas, and citizen concern that it is a sure sign of government over-reach, Texas Governor Greg Abbott prudently called out the Texas Guard to keep an eye on Army movements while they’re in the Bastrop area.

Following news of Governor Abbott’s action, however, citizens in Oklahoma expressed concern of overreach by the Texans, and Oklahoma’s governor has called up Guardsmen there to keep an eye on the Texas troops, as the Texans watch the federal soldiers.


Artists rendering of what a Guard soldier might look like

Authorities say that troops under control of the State of Louisiana will be tasked with keeping a sharp eye on the Oklahomans, and that the New Mexico Guard will swoop in to watch the Louisiana troops.

No word yet on which state will move in to watch the New Mexicans, but Arizona authorities were highly suspicious of the move. Colorado authorities, meanwhile, are rumored not to give a damn one way or another.

Keep an eye on this space; we will update the story as events unfold.

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“Log Cabin Republicans didn’t choose to be gay. But they did choose to be Republicans”

I know, I know – it’s been a while since I posted. I started to get complaints. I haven’t updated Letters From Texas in way too long, and for that I am deeply sorry. By “deeply sorry” I mean “I’m not very sorry at all – things came up.”

But your cries have been heard. No, not your cries about Dan Patrick winning the GOP run-off for Lt. Governor – your other cries about no new stuff on LFT.

So let’s get this ball rolling again, shall we?

Here’s a good place to start – how’s that big Republican outreach plan they announced after they got whupped in the 2012 election? Glad you asked – apparently it’s not going so well.

Yet another case in point – the Texas GOP just snubbed the Log Cabin Republicans from having a booth at their convention in Fort Worth in a few days. Here’s what I said about it last night on Time Warner Cable News-Austin’s “Capital Tonight” show:

And speaking of the Capital Tonight show, you can catch us weeknights at 7 on TWCNews in Austin and San Antonio. We have as much fun as the law allows, give us a shot! You can also watch the entirety of last night’s episode here.

Meanwhile, what do you think? Share your comments below. Or I’ll stop posting again. Don’t think I won’t.

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Obituary of the week so far

Don’t you wish you’d known this guy?


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Wendy Davis’ loot

As it always to be expected when the news is good, the fundraising previews for both Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott were out last night, which is a day early. The news on both sides was, indeed, good.

Abbott’s no slouch in the fundraising department. No doubt he has a lot of cash – significantly more in the bank than Davis does, in fact.

But the real news is on Wendy Davis’ side: Not only did she slightly out-fundraise Abbott during the reporting period ($12.2 million for Davis vs. $11.5 for Abbott), but she raised it from almost 72,000 individual donors. That donor number is at a level I cannot even comprehend, and is very good news for the Davis effort. She’ll be able to return time after time to those small dollar donors and they’ll keep giving – which is something one cannot often say about the mega-donors.

But the proverbial ink hadn’t dried on the announcement tweets about all this, before the Republicans began howling about Davis’ “fuzzy math.” Their claim is that since $3.5 million of Davis’ fundraising went into something called the “Texas Victory Committee, Inc.,” that she shouldn’t have counted it toward her fundraising.

The Texas Victory Committee is an account set up by the Davis Campaign to raise money into, the expenditures of which will eventually be shared between the Davis campaign itself, and a coordinated effort for Democrats, presumably led by Battleground Texas. (Battleground Texas, incidentally, reported raising an additional $1.8 million in contributions on their own, which the Davis Campaign did not count toward their own fundraising totals)

Here’s why the Republican claims of “fuzzy math” are dead wrong:

Wendy Davis’ campaign raised the entirety of the money going into the Victory Committee. That’s a financial structure they chose from the start, in part to track the funding of coordinated efforts. She was the draw at the events raising the money – people put money in the till to see Davis. To get an idea of how this works, and to demonstrate the extent to which Davis’ efforts are absolutely central to Victory Committee fundraising, take a look at a typical invitation — from Wendy Davis — to a Victory Fund event:

11.19 Beaumont Invite

The typical way campaigns have historically funded coordinated efforts is to raise the money into their own campaign, then write a check out of their campaign down the road to the coordinated campaign.  The Davis campaign is instead raising money for these and other purposes into a separate entity from the start.

Republicans would have you believe that it’s disingenuous for Wendy Davis to count money from a coordinated campaign as her own fundraising. But they’re the ones being disingenuous, because Victory Fund money isn’t going from a coordinated campaign to Wendy Davis – rather it’s money from Wendy Davis to a coordinated campaign.

So to review the Republicans’ claim: it’s dishonest for Wendy Davis to claim money Wendy Davis raised, and which will ultimately go toward electing Wendy Davis, as part of Wendy Davis’ fundraising totals. Tell me again who’s using the fuzzy math? It makes me dizzy.

If Greg Abbott’s team doesn’t want Wendy Davis to claim as part of her fundraising totals that money which she is contributing to a coordinated effort, then Greg Abbott should subtract from his totals whatever amount he anticipates he will eventually contribute to the Republican coordinated effort. If, in the alternative, he is raising money directly into his coordinated effort, as Davis has done, he should have counted it as part of his total – assuming he hasn’t co-mingled that money with that of other Republican candidates who are also contributing to the Republican effort.

The punchline to all this is that the Republicans didn’t need to obscure reality on this – the fact remains that Abbott still has a hefty financial advantage on Davis – the man has more than $20 million in the bank. They should have been crowing about that, instead of confusing people, based solely on the financial structure the Davis’ campaign chose to raise money into.

And no matter what the Republicans complain about, Davis’ fundraising totals erase the one remaining doubt that the race for Governor will, indeed, be a real one.

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Texas news briefs

Republican primary for Lt. Governor heating up

The four Republican candidates for Lt. Governor have recently been raising the stakes, each in his own bid to attract an increasingly-conservative base of Republican primary voters.

After State Senator Dan Patrick last week accused his three opponents of being soft on not wanting to throw Latinos out of Texas fast enough to suit him, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, tastefully dressed entirely in Confederate flags, responded by explaining that the U.S. should expel several other states from the union for having the nerve to not tend to vote for candidates like Jerry Patterson.

Unwilling to be left behind, yesterday at a Fort Worth-area Tea Party meeting, incumbent Lt. Governor David Dewhurst called for the impeachment of President Obama, explaining that Obama had disregarded Federal law, apparently referring to a little-known provision making it illegal to be elected President if you’re not a white guy.

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples quickly countered, however, when he accused his opponents of being soft on family values and traditional marriage, after pulling a mayonnaise jar out of his brief case containing what he claimed was an actual severed penis of a gay guy.

To the delight of the crowd, all four candidates then went into the parking lot to kill people who vaguely reminded them of terrorists and/or can spell the word “terrorist.”

The next meeting of the four candidates is scheduled for this Thursday at a Houston Tea Party meeting, where attendance is expected to be high because of the raffle drawing for used Ted Cruz sniffable boxer shorts, followed by a highly-anticipated scientist torturing contest.

Austin’s premiere music festival drowns

After a foot of rain fell on Central Texas Saturday night forced the cancelation of the last day of the Austin City Limits music fest, local curmudgeons were left scrambling Sunday for something to complain about.

“This has created scheduling difficulties,” one Zilker Park neighborhood resident said. “I had set aside time on my schedule Sunday morning to complain on Facebook about complete strangers parking in front of my house, and I’d planned to devote my entire evening to repeatedly calling 9-11 to complain about the noise. As it turned out, I was reduced to watching reruns of ‘Law & Order: SVU’ with my wife, who I detest” he added.

Local cranks are, however, finding a silver lining in the news. Weather forecasts calling for more rain this week have many optimistic that they’ll be able to complain about the rain, which they previously complained Austin wasn’t getting enough of.

Central Texans signing up for affordable health care, while opposing Obamacare

Demand is high in Central Texas to sign up for affordable health care, after new exchanges went live this month.

“Man, this Affordable Health Care Act is bad-ass,” said one man shopping for health insurance. “It’s a damn sight better than that horrible Obamacare I keep hearing about!”

One woman explained that she has previously been unable to get health insurance at any cost, due to a pre-existing condition. “Now that the health care law is in effect, I can stay healthy without going broke, which is important because if I’m not healthy, I can’t continue to actively support Ted Cruz’ efforts to defund Obamacare,” she explained.

Recent polling indicates that Republicans in particular support the Affordable Health Care Act in much higher percentages than they do Obamacare.

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Wendy Davis needs your cash

In my almost-25 years in politics and government, I’ve never seen anything in Texas like the excitement for Wendy Davis.

If this were shaping up to be a typical election, and Wendy Davis was shaping up to be typical Democratic nominee for Governor, I’d be ready to throw in the towel – Democrats would suffer the same typical result.

But this isn’t the typical election. And Wendy Davis damn sure isn’t the typical candidate; she’s extraordinary. I worked with the Ann Richards campaign back in the day. Governor Richards finished with a ton of enthusiasm, but she didn’t have it from the starting gate like Wendy does. Indeed, she started out her race for Governor 27 percentage points down in the polls.

Let me throw cold water on things: Wendy can’t do this. If you stand still and wait for her to win this election, you’ll be disappointed.

The good news: we – together – can do this. Not just Wendy alone, but all of us.

Texas Democrats have had candidates for Governor who were solid on policy. We’ve had candidates who were flush with campaign money. And we’ve had candidates who were charismatic.

Wendy Davis is the first candidate since Ann Richards who has all three. That’s why she can win.

But we all have to help her with that pesky middle thing – raising the funds necessary for her to tell voters what she stands for. Texas has more expensive media markets than any other state, so it’s impossible to compete without a ton of money.

Today, the leading progressive blogs in Texas have teamed up to help raise money for Wendy. I have no idea how I got on the “leading” list, but I’m happy to play along. There have been Democratic statewide candidates who couldn’t raise money if you gave ’em a gun, a ski mask, and a list of convenience stores, but Wendy Davis will put in the hard work. Meanwhile, we – you and I – have to put in some cash.

I’ll do my share. Thousands of Texans already have. Will you do yours? Please click on the below gizmo to pitch in right now.

Goal Thermometer


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Geographically-impaired Tea Party member’s brain explodes

If the birthers’ old, tired narrative had been accurate – that Obama was born in Kenya to a mother from Kansas – that would have put Obama’s eligibility to be President exactly where it currently stands with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada to a mother from the U.S.

Because of the birther narrative, Tea Party members howled during the Presidential election that Obama wasn’t eligible to be President, but there’s no evidence that the Cruz situation is so much as raising their eyebrows.

But never fear: a Tea Party member has an explanation for why they’re not upset about the Cruz situation:

Canada is not really foreign soil.”

You just can’t make this stuff up.

The Tea Party member was unavailable for further comment, as she quickly mounted her dinosaur and rushed off to a meeting of the “Global Warming Is A Lie” lecture, which she was just briefing stopping by, to avoid being late to that night’s book burning.

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BREAKING: Random dude in Hilderbran campaign video won’t be voting for Hilderbran

As if Texans needed further evidence that these are strange political times, State Representative Harvey Hilderbran, who is running in the Republican primary for state Comptroller, has released his first campaign video, and it features…of all people…me.

Yes, me.

Hilderbran’s message in his intro video is that if Texans elect him as Comptroller, he’ll stop the IRS from picking on Texans.

Setting aside the fact that it’s utterly laughable that a state Comptroller of any state could alter whatever the IRS’ course happens to be, it’s even more laughable to use video of a Democrat out of context to show Republican primary voters that he’s the best Republican, especially when the video of me they used had nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Hilderbran. Mr. Hilderbran’s name never came up in the interview. Honestly, Mr. Hilderbran never comes up in my mind at all.

Sorry Harvey, I’m just not that into you. And, just to be clear, in the event you become the Republican nominee for Comptroller, the guy in your own campaign video – me – won’t be voting for you.

Here’s the video his campaign used, which includes a small snippet of what I said in an extended interview.

Here’s the full extended video interview his campaign took it from.

You be the judge: did the Hilderbran campaign take my words out of context, or did the campaign fairly convey what I said?

Leave your comment…ready, set, GO!

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Wendy Davis for Lieutenant Governor? No.

I really wish Wendy Davis would decide on her political plans, so that everybody can stop being an expert on the decision that I trust she’s more-than-smart enough to make for herself. And frankly, when she gets done mulling over her future, I hope she ultimately decides to run for Governor. I’ll certainly support whatever decision she ultimately makes; almost all Democrats, and more than her fair share of independent voters ultimately will.

But what I wish more than anything is for progressive activists to stop believing that her running for Lieutenant Governor is somehow a neato keeno option. It’s not.

For one thing, the first Democrat to win a statewide race since before today’s college freshmen were born is probably going to do so by completely changing the dynamic of the election. That’s more difficult to do down-ballot, for several reasons. But while I feel strongly about that factor, it’s arguable, as evidenced by all the people who constantly argue about it.

Here’s a structural factor which really isn’t arguable: the real powers of the Lt. Governor are not vested in the state Constitution; they’re given to the office by the members of the Texas Senate themselves when they pass the Senate rules. So, all those times that journalists have written that the Lt. Governor is arguably the most powerful office in State Government? That’s just the Senators handing over that power. Absent the rules that a simple majority of the Senators pass at the beginning of a legislative session, Lt. Governors would essentially be reduced to breaking tie votes in the Senate (which seldom happens) and waiting for Governors to die, be indicted, or be elected President, so the Lite Guv can move into the mansion. Other than that, they’d be coloring, cutting, and pasting in a really nice office.

We have all watched for several years as the Republicans in charge in the Senate have consistently changed the rules to win. When they couldn’t pass a 2003 mid-decade Congressional redistricting bill when Tom DeLay ordered them to do it, they just changed the rules which would have required a two-thirds vote to debate legislation, and they bypassed the Senate Democrats who opposed it. After the associated Democratic quorum break petered out, they passed the redistricting bill. They said at the time they’d never do this for anything else other than redistricting bills. But several years later when they couldn’t pass voter photo I.D. legislation over the objections of the Senate Democrats, they made a special rule just for that bill, and passed it too. Most recently, this summer when they couldn’t pass their anti-abortion legislation, they did away with the two-thirds rule to pass that as well. Then when Wendy Davis began her filibuster, the Republicans immediately made it clear that they’d ignore generations of Senate precedent regarding filibuster traditions and germaneness rules to silence her.

Is there any doubt in your mind that this bunch would change the rules again if Davis was elected Lt. Governor, to ensure that her leadership was minimized? Of course they would. The Senate would simply move to a majority leader system, in which the Republican Caucus chair would run the business of the Senate, leaving a Lt. Governor Davis in a largely-symbolic job, with little power and few staff. She would not determine which bills are called up for debate. She would not appoint committee chairs. They certainly wouldn’t let her control parliamentary rulings, like the ones which silenced her during her filibuster. They’d probably do away with the two-thirds rule altogether, although frankly I think they might as well do that anyway, since the Republicans have made it clear that their definition of the two-thirds rule amounts to “you can have your two-thirds rule, as long as I have my two-thirds.”

Incidentally, I also believe the Senate may well change the rules in the event Dan Patrick wins his race for Lt. Governor. One can count on one hand the number of Senators who trust Patrick. So this isn’t entirely partisan – you can’t blame the Senate majority for an unwillingness to hand over their power to somebody they don’t trust.

None of the above breaks new ground. I’ve been talking to any reporter who would listen about this, and so have others, including Matt Angle, who is one of Senator Davis’ close confidants. But the chatter continues.

I get it – there’s a certain “the shoe’s on the other foot now” symmetry to the notion of Davis’ election to the very office most responsible for silencing her during her filibuster. It’s the office most responsible for the fact that the Texas Senate, once a proud and honorable institution, is nothing special anymore. But the idea just doesn’t work.

Wendy Davis could be the first candidate for statewide office Democrats have seen in a very long time who ultimately proves to be viable, or she could opt to run for re-election to her state Senate seat. But no matter where she lands, the structure of the office almost certainly means that it won’t be as a candidate for Lt. Governor.

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On Medicaid expansion, Republican leadership blames what they screwed up

On last night’s edition of YNN Austin’s Capital Tonight, I was asked about the dueling press conferences earlier this week on Medicaid expansion. Here’s what I said:

Here’s Senator Cornyn’s original opinion piece to which I was reacting.

You can watch the entire show online here, and you can watch Capital Tonight live, 5 nights a week on YNN in Austin, at 7 pm.

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Texas’ cancer agency – what did YOU think you were supporting? [with video]

Governor Rick Perry has been talking a lot about CPRIT – the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas – this week. Already under criminal investigation, the agency is under fire for alleged improprieties regarding its process for granting money to entities for cancer research.

Except now, most of Governor Perry’s emphasis on this agency seems to surround commercialization of cancer treatments. Not funding research to cure or prevent cancer, mind you, but instead how to create wealth from this disease.

I have not recently been shy about what I think about this agency’s performance so far, and the Governor’s focus on making money off cancer research only makes a bad situation worse.

Here’s what I said about it last night on YNN’s Capital Tonight:

If the emphasis of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is suddenly going to be commercialization, and not curing and preventing this disease, then I would gently suggest that they need to change the name of the agency.

I would further suggest that you – the voters of Texas – were sold a bill of goods, because here’s the language on your ballot you were asked to vote on:

The constitutional amendment requiring the creation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and authorizing the issuance of up to $3 billion in bonds payable from the general revenues of the state for research in Texas to find the causes of and cures for cancer. [emphasis added]

Nowhere in the ballot language, or in the legislative debate prior to legislators voting to put this before voters, was there mention of “…so that private companies can get their stuff funded with taxpayer money, and get richer than God off the scourge of cancer.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 11.05.04 AMIf CPRIT is to be continued, it should do everything it can to facilitate prevention and cures. If instead the emphasis will be on how best to get rich using taxpayer-funded sweetheart deals, the State of Texas should get out of the cancer business. I would also suggest that the emphasis doesn’t even need to be on commercialization, because if any of CPRIT’s grants actually does result in research which finds a cure for cancer, trust me: everybody involved will make a ton of money.

You can watch the entire episode of Capital Tonight here, which includes an interview with Rick Perry, and comments by others on the CPRIT funding issue.

Update: here’s Eileen Smith’s take and here’s Juanita Jean’s take

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Shameless plug: YNN’s Capital Tonight 2.0

I’ve always been proud of my participation in YNN’s Capital Tonight show, and happy that I’ve been a part of it since the very first episode two years ago. The weekly show has been Austin TV’s biggest commitment to political and public policy coverage since its inception.

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 8.53.48 AMNow I’m even more proud that I’m part of it, because starting this week with the beginning of the legislative session, Capital Tonight airs 5 nights a week – YNN’s already-big commitment is now even bigger. I’m guessing my schedule will be flexible, but I expect to be on two or three episodes per week.

Capital Tonight has aways been available to Time-Warner Cable subscribers in Austin and across Texas, but here’s the deal: for now, the pay wall for the show on YNN’s website has been lifted, and you can watch to your heart’s content.

Click on the YNN icon in the menu bar at the top of this page to watch segments from last night’s show. Try us out! If you, like me, have lamented the reduction in political and policy news coverage among Texas media, please reward YNN for their commitment by giving us a try.

If you’re already on Time-Warner cable, please check us out on TV.  I’ll be on tonight’s episode, and the show airs live from 7-7:30 on YNN in Austin, and airs at 10 pm every weeknight on the Texas Channel elsewhere in the state.

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