Mon October 20, 2014 9:59 am By Paul Burka

UPDATE: In my original post, I mistakenly referred to previous endorsements by some of the state’s major newspapers, and I have corrected the errors.

This election has all the earmarks of being one of the strangest ever. First, as I have opined before, this is the weakest ticket the Republican party has put forward in decades. There is just no appeal to it, from top (Abbott) to bottom (Paxton). Second, the Democrats have better down-ballot candidates than the Republicans. Mike Collier, the Democratic candidate for comptroller, is a CPA. His opponent, Glenn Hegar, knows next to nothing about state government finance, and what he does know he learned from the current comptroller, which is hardly a recommendation. The R’s candidate for attorney general, Ken Paxton, has pled guilty to violating state securities laws. His Democratic opponent is Sam Houston, a real lawyer and litigator. The Republicans’ candidate for agriculture commissioner is Sid Miller, one of the churliest lawmakers ever to set foot in the Capitol. Jim Hogan, by contrast, the Democratic candidate for ag commissioner, is a salt-of-the-earth fellow.

Read More
Fri October 17, 2014 2:56 pm By Paul Burka

To the surprise of no one, the Morning News has endorsed Greg Abbott for governor. It is a choice that I won’t criticize. But I will raise this red flag: that Wendy Davis has uncovered serious issues about Abbott’s character and lack of empathy for Texans who have suffered some of life’s misfortunes.

Read More
Wed October 15, 2014 11:38 am By Erica Grieder

Since yesterday there’s been a flurry of news developments, none of which I’m going to be able to write about today, but all of which are interesting, so I’d encourage you to take them up in the comments:

1) Just days after a district judge ruled against Texas’s Voter ID law, the Fifth Circuit gave Texas permission to enforce the law in the meantime. Within hours opponents had asked the Supreme Court to delay the law’s implementation while the appeals process is ongoing. Considering that the Supreme Court blocked the implementation of Wisconsin’s voter ID law last week, it’s plausible that they’ll take the same view of Texas’s situation; early voting begins on Monday. 

2) Meanwhile, also yesterday evening, the Supreme Court blocked the Fifth Circuit’s provisional support of a couple of restrictions in the new abortion law–meaning that more than a dozen clinics which had closed, because of the provisional ruling, can now re-open. The Supreme Court’s move doesn’t settle the issue; the case is still at the Fifth Circuit. But it does suggest that six of the justices are skeptical, should it come to that. 

3) Attorneys for the city of Houston are trying to subpoena a bunch of sermons from area pastors, on the grounds that they may be relevant to the legal fight over the city’s new equal rights ordinance. As you can imagine, Christian conservatives were not amused. 

4) And this morning the state announced that a second health care worker from Presby has tested positive for Ebola.  

Sun October 12, 2014 8:57 pm By Erica Grieder

On Friday Wendy Davis released an ad attacking her opponent, Greg Abbott, which elicited an immediate and nearly universal backlash. Sarah Rumpf, over at Breitbart Texas, has a roundup of criticism from across the political spectrum. The entire political spectrum, including left-leaning national outlets such as Mother Jones and MSNBC.

Among the critics quoted is me. My initial reaction was that the ad was “mean-spirited and misleading”. I think most people agree with the first point, at least. The ad is, at best, weird, crass, and glib about the 1984 accident that left Abbott partially paralyzed at age 27; even Davis’s defenders were put off by the tone and framing. Some of her supporters have, however, defended the point that the Davis campaign was presumably trying to make: that after successfully suing for damages himself, Abbott has “spent his career working against other victims.” I still think it’s misleading, for reasons explained after the jump. 

Read More
Fri October 10, 2014 12:18 pm By Paul Burka

I was gratified today to open up my computer and see the news that a federal judge in Corpus Christi has struck down Texas’s voter ID law. In past years, the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of Voter ID laws, most notably in the Indiana case of 2008’s Crawford vs. Marion County, and in 2013 it struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, meaning that a number of states, including Texas, would no longer be subject to federal preclearance before changing voting rules. As the Brennan Center notes, the state announced that the voter ID law would be implemented on the day Shelby County was decided.  

There has never been any doubt in my mind, though, that Voter ID is all about voter suppression, notwithstanding Greg Abbott’s claims to the contrary. Anyone who sat through the heated Senate debate on the subject in 2011 could not have failed to get it, and people following this issue since then may have been influenced by the widely noticed recanting by distinguished jurist Richard Posner–who wrote the majority opinion in the circuit court’s decision on the Indiana case in 2007, but wrote last year that such laws are now “widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” The opinion from the Corpus Christi judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, makes a strong case against Voter ID as well (PDF), calling it “an unconstitutional poll tax.” 

None of this can be good news for the attorney general, who reacted to yesterday’s ruling by promising to appeal it to the Fifth Circuit. He may find the Fifth Circuit more receptive than Judge Gonzales Ramos–who is, as Republicans were quick to note, an Obama appointee–but he is facing likely defeats in future cases concerning same-sex marriage and redistricting. His best shot at a win is the school finance case before the Texas Supreme Court. He’ll probably win that one. The Court is in the tank for the state, but then what do you expect from a body that consists primarily of judges appointed by Rick Perry.