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Robert Alonzo

After-deadline filing review: RRC, SBOE, Senate

Moving on to state offices that are not the State House (that’s next). See here and here for previous entries.

RRC: The only statewide non-federal office on the ballot, as is usually the case in Presidential years. There are four candidates, three of whom we’re acquainted with. I’ve previously mentioned two of the candidates, Chrysta Castañeda, whom I met at the recent CEC meeting, and Kelly Stone, whom I’ve not met but have spoken to over the phone. There’s former State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, who was defeated in the primary last year by State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez. The fourth candidate is Mark Watson, whom I cannot conclusively identify. Thankfully, Grady Yarbrough did not file.

SBOE: Late in the day, Rebecca Bell-Metereau filed for SBOE5; she has run for this office a couple of times before, including in 2016, when she lost by four points as Hillary Clinton carried the district. This would be the year to run. I still can’t find anything related to Letti Bresnahan’s campaign, not even confirmation that the person I believe to be the candidate for this office is indeed that candidate. There are two candidates for SBOE10, the third district that Beto carried but the longest reach of the three. One is Stephen Wyman, who has run a couple of times for HD20 in Williamson County, and the other is Marsha Burnett-Webster, who appears to be the wife of Cecil Webster, former Fayette County Democratic Party Chair who has run for HD13 a couple of times. Finally, the Democratic candidate in SBOE8, Sharon Berry, has dropped out.

Senate: I’m going to go through the individual races that I didn’t discuss in the Houston-area post.

Audrey Spanko is running in SD01 – here’s a news story about her. She sounds like a terrific candidate, running in a tough district.

There are two candidates running in SD12, which is the closest thing to a swing-ish district we have – it’s a bit more Republican than SD19 is Democratic, and a teensy bit bluer than SD11. If we’re seriously talking about it being competitive next year, Democrats are having an amazing cycle. Anyway, Shadi Zitoon and Randy Daniels are vying to be the nominee.

SD19 is the noisy epicenter of the otherwise quiet Senate campaign space. In the context of a Presidential year, it should be a ten-to-twelve-point Dem district, and it’s a must have. There are four candidates running, and we’re familiar with two of them, State Rep. Roland Gutierrez, and Xochil Peña Rodriguez,, daughter of former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez. The others are Freddy Ramirez, a Bexar County prosecutor, and Belinda Shvetz.

SD22 and SD24 are not competitive districts. Robert Vick and Clayton Tucker have the arduous tasks of running in them.

Sen. Eddie Lucio is finally getting the serious primary challenge he deserves in SD27. Ruben Cortez and Sara Stapleton Barrera hope to usher him out.

SD29 is open following the retirement of Sen. Jose Rordiguez. State Rep. Cesar Blanco has the field to himself.

Next up, the Lege. As always, let me know what you think.

The “Has Not Yet Filed” list

Today is the actual, official filing deadline. Anyone who has not filed for a spot in the primary by 6 PM today is not a candidate for a Democratic nomination in 2020. A whole lot of people have already filed, and a whole lot more will file today – I’m going to have a lot to talk about with this tomorrow and for the rest of the week – but there are still a few notable absences (with the caveat that the SOS list may not be complete). So with that in mind, here are the “why aren’t they there yet?” list to ponder as the hours tick down.

US Senate: MJ Hegar is not yet listed. John Love, the Midland City Council member who announced his candidacy in October, has ended his campaign, on the grounds that he lacked the time and finances. Good for him for recognizing his situation, and I hope he looks at 2022 for another possible statewide campaign. Eleven candidates have filed so far, Hegar will make it 12 when she makes it official.

US Congress: Reps. Joaquin Castro (CD20) and Colin Allred (CD32) are not on the list as of Sunday evening. Some of the more recent entrants in CDs 03 and 31 – Tanner Do, Chris Suprun, Dan Jangigian – are not yet on the list. Much-ballyhooed CD28 challenger Jessica Cisneros is not yet on the list. Wendy Davis has CD21 to herself right now, as Jennie Leeder has not yet appeared. CDs 19, 27, and 36 do not yet have Democratic candidates. And while this has nothing to do with our side, the Republican field in CD22 is mind-bogglingly large. Good luck with that.

Railroad Commissioner: Kelly Stone had not filed as of Sunday, but she has an event on her candidate Facebook page announcing her filing at 2:30 today. Former State Rep. Robert Alonzo has joined the field.

SBOE: All positions are accounted for. Letti Bresnahan remains the only candidate in District 5, the most flippable one on the board. I still can’t find any information online about her candidacy.

State Senate: No candidates yet in SDs 12, 18, 22, or 28. Not surprising, as none are competitive, but a full slate is still nice. Sens. Borris Miles and Eddie Lucio now each have two opponents, the field in SD19 is four deep, and Rep. Cesar Blanco still has SD29 all to himself.

State House: Far as I can tell, the only incumbent who hasn’t filed yet is Rep. Rene Oliveira in HD37. Of the top targets for 2020 based on Beto’s performance, HDs 23, 43, and 84 do not yet have Democratic candidates. Those are if not the bottom three on the competitiveness scale, with the first two trending away from us, they’re close to it. If they go unfilled it will still be a waste, but about the smallest possible waste. Rep. Ron Reynolds does not have a challenger. Sean Villasana, running for the HD119 seat being vacated by Rep. Roland Gutierrez as he runs for SD19, has the field to himself so far. In all of the big counties, the only one missing a Dem right now is HD99 in Tarrant, which is not particularly competitive.

District Courts: Limiting myself to Harris County, Judges Jaclanel McFarland (133rd Civil), Ursula Hall (165th Civil), Elaine Palmer (215th Civil), and George Powell (351st Criminal) have not filed. Other candidates have filed in the 165th and 351st, as have candidates in the 337th Criminal (Herb Ritchie) and 339th Criminal (Maria Jackson) where the incumbents are known to not be running again. Alex Smoots-Thomas now has an opponent for the 164th, and I am told another may be on the way.

Harris County offices: All of the candidates I’ve tracked for District Attorney, County Attorney, Sheriff, and Tax Assessor have now filed; I’m told another candidate may be filing for Tax Assessor, but I don’t know any more than that. David Brown has not yet filed for HCDE Position 7 At Large, but he was at the CEC meeting yesterday and I expect to see him on the ballot. Luis Guajardo has not yet filed for Commissioners Court in Precinct 3. There’s still no JP candidates in Precincts 4 and 8, and no Constable in Precinct 8. And Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen is still missing. Could that mean something? We’ll find out today. I’ll have a report tomorrow.

2018 primary results: Legislative

Rep. Sarah Davis

Statewide Dem totals
Statewide GOP totals

Harris County Dem totals
Harris County GOP totals

(Please note that all results were coming in very slowly. I expect there will still be some precincts not yet reported by the time this publishes. So, I’m going to be less specific than usual, and may have to make a correction or two by Thursday.)

I’m gonna lead with the Republicans this time. Sarah Davis and Lyle Larson, both viciously targeted by Greg Abbott, won their races easily. Sarah, here’s that picture I mentioned before. Also, too, the anti-vaxxers can suck it (in this race; they unfortunately appear to have claimed a scalp elsewhere). Abbott did manage to unseat the mediocre Wayne Faircloth, who was the most conservative of his three targets. Party on, Greg!

Back to the good side: Rita Lucido was leading Fran Watson in SD17, but was short of a majority. Beverly Powell won in SD10, Wendy Davis’ old district. Mark Phariss was leading in SD08, but it was too close to call. On the Republican side, Rep. Pat Fallon destroyed Sen. Craig Estes in SD30, but Sen. Kel Seliger beat back the wingnuts again in SD31. Sen. John Whitmire won easily. Joan Huffman easily held off Kristin Tassin on her side of SD17. And Angela Paxton won in SD08 over the lesser Huffines brother. Apparently, two Paxtons are better than one, and also better than two Huffineses.

Other incumbents in both parties had more trouble. On the D side, longtime Rep. Robert Alonzo lost to Jessica Gonzalez in HD104; her election increases the number of LGBT members of the Lege by one. First term Rep. Diana Arevalo lost to former Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer in HD116, and first-term Rep. Tomas Uresti, no doubt damaged by his brother’s legal problems, lost to Leo Pacheco. And Dawnna Dukes’ odyssey came to an end as challengers Sheryl Cole and Chito Vela both ran way ahead of her. Other Dems, including (sigh) Ron Reynolds hung on, though Rep. Rene Oliveira was headed to a runoff with Alex Dominguez in HD37. For the Rs, Rep. Jason Villalba was going down in HD114 – he was an anti-vaxxer target, though there were other factors in that race, so it sure would be nice for Dems to pick that one off in November. Rep. Scott Cosper was headed to a runoff in HD54. Other incumbents, including those targeted by the extreme wingnut coalition, made it through.

For Harris County, the following challengers won: Natali Hurtado (HD126; she celebrated by going into labor, so double congratulations to her), Gina Calanni (HD132), Adam Milasincic (HD138). Sandra Moore was briefly above 50% in HD133, but ultimately fell back below it to wind up in a runoff with Marty Schexnayder. Allison Lami Sawyer had a slightly easier time of it, collecting over 90% of the vote against the idiot Lloyd Oliver. Maybe, just maybe, this will be enough to convince Oliver that his run-for-office marketing strategy has come to the end of its usefulness. Sam Harless was on the knife’s edge of a majority in HD126 on the R side; if he falls short, Kevin Fulton was in second place.

There will be a few runoffs in other races around the state. I’ll get back to that another day.

The women challenging Democratic men

One more point of interest from The Cut:

And Democratic women aren’t leaving the men of their own party undisturbed. In Minnesota, former FBI analyst Leah Phifer is challenging incumbent Democratic representative Rick Nolan; Sameena Mustafa, a tenant advocate and founder of the comedy troupe Simmer Brown, is primarying Democrat Mike Quigley in Illinois’s Fifth District. And Chelsea Manning, former Army intelligence analyst and whistle-blower, announced recently that she’s going after Ben Cardin, the 74-year-old who has held one of Maryland’s Senate seats for 11 years and served in the House for 20 years before that.

While the vision of women storming the ramparts of government is radical from one vantage point, from others it’s as American as the idea of representative democracy laid out by our forefathers (like Great-great-great-great-grandpa Frelinghuysen!). “Representative citizens coming from all parts of the nation, cobblers and farmers — that was what was intended by the founders,” says Marie Newman, a former small-business owner and anti-bullying advocate who is challenging Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski in a primary. “You come to the House for a while and bring your ideas and then you probably go back to your life.” Not only has her opponent been in office for 13 years, Newman notes, but his father held the same seat for 20 years before that. “It’s a family that has reigned supreme, like a monarchy, for over 30 years,” she says.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton, Newman and the rest of this girl gang are eyeing the aging cast of men (and a few women) who’ve hogged the political stage forever and trying to replace them. Replacement. It’s an alluring concept, striking fear in the hearts of the guys who’ve been running the place — recall that the white supremacists in Charlottesville this summer chanted “You will not replace us” — and stirring hope in the rest of us that a redistribution of power might be possible.

So naturally that made me wonder about what the situation was in Texas. For Congress, there are eleven Democrats from Texas, nine men and two women. Two men are not running for re-election, and in each case the most likely successor is a woman. Of the seven men running for re-election, only one (Marc Veasey) has a primary opponent, another man. Both female members of Congress have primary opponents – Sheila Jackson Lee has a male challenger, Eddie Bernice Johnson has a man and a woman running against her. That woman is Barbara Mallory Caroway, who is on something like her third campaign against EBJ. Basically, nothing much of interest here.

Where it is interesting is at the legislative level. Here are all the Democratic incumbents who face primary challengers, sorted into appropriate groups.

Women challenging men:

HD31 (Rep. Ryan Guillen) – Ana Lisa Garza
HD100 (Rep. Eric Johnson) – Sandra Crenshaw
HD104 (Rep. Robert Alonzo) – Jessica Gonzalez
HD117 (Rep. Phillip Cortez) – Terisha DeDeaux

Guillen’s opponent Garza is a district court judge. He was one of the Dems who voted for the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment back in 2005. I’d like to know both of their positions on LGBT equality. Speaking of which, Jessica Gonzalez is among the many LGBT candidates on the ballot this year. Note that Alonzo was on the right side of that vote in 2005, FWIW. Crenshaw appears to be a former member of Dallas City Council who ran for HD110 in 2014. There’s an interesting story to go along with that, which I’ll let you discover on your own. Cortez was first elected in 2012, winning the nomination over a candidate who had been backed by Annie’s List, and he drew some ire from female activists for some of his activity during that campaign. I have no idea how things stand with him today, but I figured I’d mention that bit of backstory.

And elsewhere…

Women challenging women:

HD75 (Rep. Mary Gonzalez) – MarySue Fernath

Men challenging men:

HD27 (Rep. Ron Reynolds) – Wilvin Carter
HD37 (Rep. Rene Oliveira) – Alex Dominguez and Arturo Alonzo
HD41 (Rep. Bobby Guerra) – Michael L. Pinkard, Jr
HD118 (Rep. Tomas Uresti) – Leo Pacheco
HD139 (Rep. Jarvis Johnson) – Randy Bates
HD142 (Rep. Harold Dutton) – Richard Bonton
HD147 (Rep. Garnet Coleman) – Daniel Espinoza

Men challenging women:

HD116 (Rep. Diana Arevalo) – Trey Martinez Fischer
HD124 (Rep. Ina Minjarez) – Robert Escobedo
HD146 (Rep. Shawn Thierry) – Roy Owens

Special case:

HD46 (Rep. Dawnna Dukes) – Five opponents

We know about Reps. Reynolds and Dukes. Bates and Owens represent rematches – Bates was in the 2016 primary, while Owens competed unsuccessfully in the precinct chair process for HD146, then ran as a write-in that November, getting a bit less than 3% of the vote. Alonzo and Bonton look like interesting candidates, but by far the hottest race here is in HD116, where TMF is seeking a return engagement to the Lege, and a lot of his former colleagues are there for him. I imagine things could be a bit awkward if Rep. Arevalo hangs on. Anyway, I don’t know that there are any lessons to be learned from this, I just wanted to document it.

Court throws out State House map

Once more, with feeling.

Parts of the Texas House map must be redrawn ahead of the 2018 elections because lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities in crafting several legislative districts, federal judges ruled on Thursday.

A three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled that Texas must address violations that could affect the configuration of House districts in four counties, where lawmakers diluted the strength of voters of color. In some cases, the court found mapdrawers intentionally undercut minority voting power “to ensure Anglo control” of legislative districts.

These are the nine districts the court flagged:

  • Dallas County’s HD 103, represented by Democrat Rafael Anchia, HD 104, represented by Democrat Roberto Alonzo and HD 105, represented by Republican Rodney Anderson
  • Nueces County’s HD 32, represented by Republican Todd Hunter, and HD 34, represented by Democrat Abel Herrero
  • Bell County’s HD 54, represented by Republican Scott Cosper, and HD 55, represented by Republican Hugh Shine
  • Tarrant County’s HD 90, represented by Democrat Ramon Romero, and HD 93 represented by Matt Krause.

Adjusting those boundaries could have a ripple effect on other races.

[…]

In both the congressional and state House rulings, the court ordered Attorney General Ken Paxton to signal whether the Legislature would take up redistricting to fix violations in the maps.

But so far, state leaders have signaled they have no appetite to call lawmakers back to Austin over mapmaking. Instead, Texas is looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep its political boundaries intact.

“The judges held that maps they themselves adopted violate the law,” Paxton said in a Thursday statement. “Needless to say, we will appeal.”

Meanwhile, the state and the parties that sued over the congressional districts are scheduled to return to court on Sept. 5 to begin redrawing the congressional map. In its Thursday ruling, the court indicated they should be prepared to also meet on Sept. 6 to consider changes to the state House map.

“Today’s ruling once again found that Texas racially gerrymandered its voting districts and used Latino voters as pawns in doing so,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who is representing plaintiffs in the case. “With the 2018 election cycle fast approaching, it’s time for Texas to stop discriminating against Latino voters and agree to a remedy that will provide equal opportunity to all.”

It was just over a week ago that the same court invalidated the Congressional map, also calling it intentionally discriminatory. Add in the voter ID ruling and you’ve got three such judgments in a span of eight days; you can also toss in the ruling on interpreters for a four-game losing streak for the state. Don’t forget the Pasadena case, too – it’s not the state, but it is another intentional-discrimination opinion. Maybe this will all add up to enough to convince Chief Justice Roberts to change his mind about the state of voting rights and the need to protect communities of color.

Or not. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Be that as it may, this ruling could have an effect on the effort by wingnuts to oust House Speaker Joe Straus. RG Ratcliffe explains.

The court found that in Nueces County, the district maps discriminated in the placement of minority voters in a way that favored the re-election of Representative Todd Hunter, a key Straus Republican ally and chairman of the House committee that sets bills for debate on the daily calendar. To make his district safe, the court said Hispanic voters were packed into the district of Representative Abel Herrero, a Democrat. Redrawing the districts won’t automatically guarantee Hunter’s defeat, but it will make it more difficult for him to win re-election.

The court also ruled that the Legislature intentionally split a minority community in Killeen to guarantee the election of two white Republicans in Districts 54 and 55, Scott Cosper of Killeen and Hugh Shine of Temple. Both have backed Straus in the past. Putting the minority community in Killeen back together probably endangers Cosper’s re-election, and may put a Democrat in that rural district. Either way, this likely is a wash in the politics of electing the next speaker.

In Dallas and Tarrant counties, the court ruling likely would help Straus win re-election. In declaring that five districts in those two counties discriminated against minorities, the most likely losers in any redrawing of the district maps will be Republican Representatives Rodney Anderson of Irving and Matt Krause of Fort Worth. Anderson was among nineteen House members who voted against Straus in one election for speaker, and Krause is a member of the Freedom Caucus, which has been trying to force a speaker vote in the caucus instead of on the House floor, where Democrats also have a say.

Anderson barely squeaked by in 2016, in a district that was ever so slightly bluer than HD107, which flipped to the Dems. He was going to be a target no matter what. The ripple effect in Dallas could be very interesting. And of course, anything that puts jerks like Krause in jeopardy is a good thing. We’ll know if and when SCOTUS intervenes if a second special session will be forthcoming. A statement from MALC is here, and Michael Li, the Chron, the DMN, Rick Hasen, the HuffPost, and the Lone Star Project have more.

Why a special session on redistricting won’t resolve anything

From Texas Redistricting:

Intentional Fragmentation 

In the other parts of the map, redistricting plaintiffs contend that the Texas Legislature intentionally diluted African-American and Hispanic voting strength by fragmenting cohesive communities.

This fragmentation, they argue, is especially pronounced in the DFW Metroplex, where the court-drawn interim map (Plan H309) adopted the Texas Legislature’s map (Plan H283) without any changes.

For example, prior to the 2011 round of redistricting, HD 101 was a compact district in eastern Dallas County, taking in all but small parts of Mesquite plus the adjacent town of Sunnyvale and heavily African-American and Hispanic Balch Springs.

image

However, under the plan adopted by the Legislature and incorporated by the court into its second interim map, the city of Mesquite was split into three districts, with part of the city’s non-Anglo population drawn into HD 107 and other parts drawn into HD 110 and HD 113. The city of Balch Springs, where non-Anglos now make up nearly 75% of the population, was similarly split.

image

On the other side of Dallas County, the oddly shaped taproot in the redrawn HD 105 is another example cited by the plaintiffs of fragmentation.

image

The portions of the city of Grand Prairie to the west of the taproot include African-American neighborhoods separated out from African-American neighborhoods within the taproot.

The result is that HD 104, a Hispanic opportunity district represented by State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, becomes 19.2% African-American CVAP, while HD 105, a seat represented by an Anglo Republican Linda Harper-Brown, becomes several points less African-American than under the court’s initial interim map.

The plaintiffs’ pleadings point to other examples of fragmentation in Harris, Fort Bend, Bell, and McLennan counties.

The plaintiffs say this “purposeful fragmentation of minority voters … violated the equal protection principles laid down” by federal courts.

If the court agrees, it would have broad power to fix the fragmentation, much as it fixed similar fragmentation in the congressional map by creating CD-33 in the Metroplex.

This was part four of a series looking at the remaining disputes with the maps – see here, here, and here for the first three, here for Part Five, and click over for more on the legislative maps. The San Antonio court will hold a hearing today to begin to decide what to do with the legislative and Congressional maps, once they have direction from SCOTUS. The idea of making the interim maps the legislatively-passed maps is that it would strengthen the state’s hand in defending them, since these maps were drawn by the court in the first place. But the San Antonio court, which originally drew maps that were much friendlier to the Democrats, were constrained by a SCOTUS ruling that said they had to give deference to the original Lege-drawn maps. With the DC court’s ruling that there was intentional discrimination in these maps, I don’t think the hastily-drawn interim solutions will hold up. But I’m not a lawyer, so what do I know. Point is, we’re nowhere near the end of this fight.

Drivers licenses for all – maybe

Not quite drivers licenses, exactly, but close enough.

TDL_Sample

A Dallas Democrat has teamed up with two powerful Republicans to craft a compromise version of a bill that would give immigrants here illegally the ability to drive legally in Texas and obtain insurance – but only after they submit to a criminal background check, fingerprinting and prove state residency.

The proposal is being sold by supporters as anything but a tool to expand the rights of people residing in Texas illegally. And they caution that a new form of driving permit will be granted, not an actual driver’s license.

Rather, they are pitching it as a law enforcement measure to fix an unintended consequence of a law passed last session that requires people to prove their citizenship to renew a driver’s license.

That 2011 measure has left immigrants who drove legally in Texas for decades unable to renew their licenses or buy insurance, a problem that has caused major headaches for law enforcement officials across the state.

“It’s good for law enforcement. It’s good for security,” said Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, who authored the measure, House Bill 3206. “We have already gone past the immigration debate, and now we’re into the law enforcement debate.”

Major business groups across the state, including the Texas Association of Business and the Greater Houston Partnership, are backing the bill, as are local law enforcement, including Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

“This bill is a good idea. It would make the streets of Harris County safer for everyone,” Garcia said. “We would learn a lot more than we know now about drivers who are already traveling our roadways every day, but have been unable or afraid to obtain a driver’s permit and insurance. Having more legal, insured drivers helps all drivers.”

This is one of those situations where the right thing to do is simple and obvious and most rational people recognize it as such, but the politics of it are dicey because the opposition is so fierce. HB3206 has every single one of Rep. Alonzo’s Democratic colleagues as coauthors, and it passed out of the State Affairs committee on an 8-1 vote last week, so it does have some bipartisan appeal; Sen. Tommy Williams and Rep. Byron Cook, the Chair of State Affairs, are the Republicans noted in the story as Alonzo’s allies. It’s starting to get late in the session, though, so if it doesn’t have enough support soon it’s likely to become a casualty of the calendar.

It’s Williams on Williams time again

I would not call it a good thing to come out of the updated interim maps since there’s a good chance one of these jokers will get elected, but for those of you with a morbid fascination with sideshows, the two Williams non-brothers who have spent the past year or so seeking out an office to run for have once again landed in the same race.

Executive-style hair...

Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams will join the Republican primary for a congressional seat that stretches 200 miles from the southern edge of Tarrant County to Hays County, south of Austin.

“We’re excited and ready to get going,” Williams told the Tribune Thursday morning, as he was preparing to file with the state GOP.

...versus the Bow Tie of Doom

Williams initially set out to run for U.S. Senate, but switched to a race for Congress after the Legislature drew new maps. But those maps died in court, and the Weatherford Republican ended up in a district, CD-12, with an incumbent — Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth — that he didn’t want to challenge.

Now he’s jumping into CD-25, where the incumbent — Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — has decided to move into a neighboring district where a Democrat has a better chance. Williams, a car dealer and former Texas Secretary of State, would join a pack of other candidates that includes former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams (no relation), businessman Dave Garrison, former GOP consultant Chad Wilbanks and several others.

Roger Williams was going to run for CD33 originally, but it was re-drawn as a Democratic seat. No worries, he’s got the money to afford a house and a campaign wherever he wants. R-Dub managed to drop nearly two million bucks on his futile Senate candidacy, with another $425K of his own money for his brief run at CD33. I can’t wait to see how big a check he writes himself for this one. PoliTex has more.

Meanwhile, the Democratic primary in CD23 is on again as former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez made his move to that race, where he will take on State Rep. Pete Gallego for the right to challenge freshman Rep. Quico Canseco. This was the original matchup based on the Lege-drawn maps, then Ciro moved to CD35 when the original interim maps came out and State Rep. Joaquin Castro became Rep. Charlie Gonzalez’s heir apparent. Gallego threw a pre-emptive strike at Ciro a few days ago, but apparently it didn’t work. So this is back on, as if we didn’t have enough contentious primaries to watch.

And the most contentious of them all may be in CD33, not too surprising considering it’s a new strong-Democratic seat in an area that has had precious few opportunities for Democratic Congressional hopefuls. State Rep. Marc Veasey, Fort Worth City Council member Kathleen Hicks, former State Rep. Domingo Garcia, former Dallas City Council member Steve Salazar, who’s being backed by State Rep. Robert Alonzo, who’s a longtime rival of Garcia’s…this one will be manna for junkies, and will undoubtedly leave blood all over the place. And there’s still one more day of filing to go.

Plans from an alternate universe: The Alonzo plan

Here’s my third entry in the the Redistricting Plans From An Alternate Universe series. So far, we’ve seen the Veasey-West proposal and the Gallegos plan and Uresti amendment. Today I have what I consider to be the most interesting map I’ve seen. It was submitted by State Rep. Robert Alonzo during the House Redistricting committee meeting, and it’s Plan C142 on your scorecard. Let’s look at some pictures, starting with Alonzo’s home turf, the Metroplex:

Alonzo Plan C142 DFW

Alonzo, like his neighbor to the west Marc Veasey, goes for two new Democratic districts in the Metroplex, one Latino and one African-American. Unlike Veasey, he does this by drawing a Republican out of a seat, in this case Rep. Kay Granger, whose CD12 would not be recognizable to her. His districts also appear to be more compact than Veasey’s. Now let’s look at Central Texas:

Alonzo Plan C142 Central Texas

District 10 moves west, and may or may not contain Mike McCaul’s home precinct; off the top of my head, I just don’t know. It has about the same electoral profile as the current CD10. Once again, Lloyd Doggett gets restored to a Travis-centric district. CD34, about which you’ll see more in the next picture, wends its way south and takes up a chunk of Bexar County. CD27 comprises a fair amount of the old CD10, as well as some of the current CD14 – it goes down to the coast and also picks up most of northern Brazoria County. CD22 shifts northwest to swipe Austin and Waller Counties from the old CD10. Now let’s look south from here, starting with the Bexar County area:

Alonzo Plan C142 Bexar County

CD28, which once had a small piece of Bexar and included counties like Guadalupe and Wilson, shifts south and west, while CD23 goes south. Continuing south, here’s what we see:

Alonzo Plan C142 South Texas

I guess it’s fajita strips forever, but they do get a new district, CD33, in the bargain. Finally, let’s look at the Harris County area:

Alonzo Plan C142 Harris County

It’s so different I almost don’t know where to begin. Pete Olson would have to move, as Clear Lake is no longer in CD22. So would Ron Paul, as Matagorda County is now in CD27. John Culberson gets banished to the northwest corner of the county, which would make him safe for the decade and would remove his influence over the Universities light rail line. CD36 is new, and may be the single most interesting district I’ve seen proposed by someone with skin in the game. To see why, let’s look at the electoral numbers:

Safe R Dist Obama Houston ======================= 01 30.65 36.37 02 29.72 35.54 03 37.68 37.02 04 33.10 35.39 05 28.83 38.38 06 35.42 36.76 07 30.96 31.84 08 25.90 30.11 11 22.40 28.07 13 22.87 28.50 17 34.69 39.78 19 27.87 31.94 21 32.53 31.71 22 36.25 36.00 24 37.05 36.92 26 31.42 32.66 27 34.08 38.66 Likely R Dist Obama Houston ======================= 10 44.82 42.96 14 42.06 49.08 31 42.57 42.57 32 42.11 42.09 Lean D Dist Obama Houston ======================= 36 51.92 52.53 Safe D Dist Obama Houston ======================= 09 71.37 70.78 12 68.37 68.81 15 56.61 60.86 16 64.15 66.29 18 73.44 72.95 20 58.63 58.60 23 59.00 60.86 25 71.96 69.07 28 58.48 62.64 29 60.80 66.47 30 71.51 72.23 33 58.42 62.35 34 59.18 61.31 35 64.07 65.29

Yes, that’s a genuine swing district. Every Democrat won it in 2008, every Democrat other than Bill White lost it in 2010; the high D score on the statewide ticket was Bill Moody’s 45.58%, with David Porter’s 51.66% being the low R score. I’m sure a couple of countywide Ds did better, but I don’t have those numbers, and I doubt they would have won it anyway. In a more normal non-Presidential year, it would likely be a slightly lean-D district, but it’s not out of the question that you could see it flip back and forth every other year. What’s even more curious to me is that it’s not drawn as a Hispanic opportunity district; the SSVR there is 23.4%. I’d love to know what motivated Alonzo to draw this particular seat. With all four of the new districts going to the Ds, plus the two takeaways (Granger and Canseco; Farenthold might have to move to get into the new CD27), Alonzo’s plan would make the split 21-15 in favor of the Rs. Well, it would have, if it hadn’t gotten voted down along predictably partisan lines, along with Veasey’s plan and a bunch of other Democratic-drawn maps. Still, you can see a full spreadsheet from 2008 here and from 2010 here. What do you think of Alonzo’s plan?

House approves SBOE map

One down, three to go.

A new map for the 15-member Texas State Board of Education became the first redistricting proposal to make its way through the Texas House Thursday afternoon, winning approval on a vote of 99-45.

State Rep. Burt Solomons, the Carrollton Republican who sponsored the legislation and who chairs the House Redistricting Committee, told House members that the map created districts that were as compact and cohesive as possible, maintained communities of interest and met the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

Solomons easily fended off challenges to his map in the form of amendments from Hispanic lawmakers who contended that he had largely ignored the state’s dramatic Hispanic population growth.

Alternate plans were offered by Reps. Roberto Alonzo and Trey Martinez-Fischer. You can see all three of them here – Alonzo’s plans are E114 and E115, Martinez-Fischer’s is E113. Where Solomons’ plan had three Latino VAP majority districts and two Latino VAP plurality districts, the three alternatives had four of the former and one of the latter. Interestingly, SBOE6, home of Terri “Don’t call me Terry!” Leo, is now the least Anglo of the other ten districts, with Anglos having only a 47.2% VAP plurality. That’s all the result of natural change, as the SBOE6 district didn’t change at all, as far as I can tell. The main difference in Harris County is that David Bradley’s SBOE7 is completely removed, replaced in the far north and east by Barbara Cargill’s SBOE8, and Lawrence Allen’s SBOE4 is now completely within Harris; the bit of Fort Bend County that had been in SBOE4 is now in Bradley’s SBOE7, as is the rest of Fort Bend.

While I expect this map to easily pass the Senate as well (assuming Democrats don’t block it via the 2/3 rule), it’s clear that between this map and the State House map that as little as possible is being done to accommodate Latino growth in Texas. I fully expect that to be the basis of legislation regardless of what happens with the Senate and Congressional maps. There’s more of this story to come.

What to do with the SBOE?

The Lege has many ideas about what to do with the state’s most embarrassing branch of government, some of which are better than others.

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas), wants the SBOE abolished under his House Bill 881 and all the board’s responsibilities directed to the Texas Education Agency and the commissioner of education. The 26-page piece of legislation transfers each of the board’s entrusted functions to the TEA and commissioner. Similarly, state Rep. José Menéndez (R-San Antonio) has proposed a constitutional amendment to dissolve the SBOE and create the Texas Education Commission in its stead. According to House Joint Resolution 91, the governor would appoint the new 15-member TEC from populous and rural areas. Members would also be required to have at least a decade of education or business experience.

I can’t say that I support either of these bills. The SBOE is awful, but I don’t see how converting them all to Governor’s appointees helps. The Governor has enough power, and I’d feel the same way with a different Governor as well.

State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), a vocal critic of the SBOE’s social conservative bloc’s politicking and author of SBOE-related legislation, also opposes eradicating the board altogether. Rather, Howard supports milder legislation proposed by state Rep. Diane Patrick (R-Arlington) that would place the SBOE under Sunset Advisory review. Patrick’s HB 862 makes clear the board would not be at risk of being abolished.

Patrick specifically points out that the audit process is not intended for the sole purpose of reducing costs or abolishment, but instead aims to identify inefficient processes and streamline functions. She does not attribute her proposed legislation to the myriad of political and ideological accusations leveled at the board; instead she sees the bill as a means to eliminate redundancy across governmental entities

“In seeking reductions in state spending, it is prudent to examine functions and establish efficiencies within the State Board for Educator Certification and the State Board of Education at the same time the Texas Education Agency is under review in 2013,” Patrick said in an e-mail.

Here’s HB 862. This is an approach I could support, though I’d like to know more about what the sunset process would actually mean for the SBOE. In theory at least, I like this idea.

Former education committee member Howard has filed two SBOE bills; one that would strip the board of its authority to manage the multibillion Permanent School Fund and another that would require SBOE elections to be nonpartisan, just as local school board elections are.

“It’s important to look at the overall situation, not just have some kind of kneejerk response,” Howard said. “In regards to the PSF fund bill, it’s not about punishing the SBOE. It’s not about politics or ideology. It’s about making rational, reasonable decisions about how we should oversee public education in Texas in order to prepare our students for a 21st century economy.”

Legislation for the former proposal are HJR 85 and HB 1140, and HB 553 for the latter. As with judicial elections, I do not understand the allure of erasing the partisan identity of the candidates. It’s not like the interest groups that support the candidates would go away or be unaware of what colors an individual candidate is flying. All it will do is make the average voter less able to tell anything about them. I just don’t see how this makes a positive difference. I’m inclined to support the removal of PSF management from the SBOE – it seems like a misfit for a board that’s supposed to design curricula – but again, I’d like to know more about it first, and I’m leery of anything that would rely on gubernatorial appointments.

Conversely, some lawmakers hope to grant the SBOE even more power over education this legislative session. As previously reported by the Texas Independent, state Rep. Fred Brown (R-Bryan) proposes eliminating the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and transferring the board’s functions to TEA, which deals with K-12 public education. Under Brown’s HB 104, the SBOE would oversee the newly formed entity, instilling the 15-member board with a greater scope of authority. The lawmaker characterizes the bill as a way to streamline the state’s education process while also conserving the budget.

“They are smart people,” said Brown, who has no reservations about handing the controversial SBOE more influence than ever before. “They have to have a passion for what they do, or else they wouldn’t run for office in first place.”

Fred Brown is the same guy who’s pushing school district consolidation, in case that affects your opinion of it. I for one see no reason to expand the SBOE’s scope or powers in any way.

No clue what the odds of any of these bills are, but they’re out there so we should keep an eye on them. What do you think about these proposals?

An early look at redistricting

The House Redistricting Committee is holding some hearings around the state in advance of the 2011 Census reports, and if there’s one thing we know already, it’s that West Texas will be losing influence next year.

The state population increased from 20.8 million in 2000 to an estimated 24.8 million in 2009, or 18.8 percent, but the Hispanic population grew at a faster rate, Jordan said. If the trend continues, as early as the next decade Hispanics will be the largest ethnic group in the state.

Though in more than a half-dozen counties in the Panhandle/South Plains region Latinos are now the majority, their population growth won’t compensate for the fact that the region stands to lose at least a Texas House seat and a congressional district when the Texas Legislature redraws the districts next year, some lawmakers said after the two-hour hearing ended.

“The Dallas area is going to gain some districts, but we are going to lose some,” state Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, chairman of the Redistricting Committee, told reporters after the hearing. “Right now this is guesswork, or maybe I should say an estimate, because we won’t know for sure until December when we get the official figures.

“However, it doesn’t look good for us in West Texas,” Jones added. “We are going to lose representation.”

Other lawmakers reached the same conclusion.

“One way or another the Panhandle is going to be in trouble,” said Rep. Chente Quintanilla, D-Tornillo, in El Paso County.

[…]

At a hearing in February, members of the Redistricting Committee were told that the new congressional districts would represent 811,221 people compared to about 750,000 now, and Texas House districts would represent about 167,652 compared to about 140,000 now. This means the Panhandle/South Plains region would have to have at least one million people to keep all of its six House districts. Current estimates put the region’s population at about 800,000.

Three senior members of the Lege from West Texas won’t be back next year – Jones, who was defeated in the Republican primary; Carl Isett, and David Swinford, each of whom retired. It’s going to be a rough year for that part of the state next year. In addition to that, you have to wonder what will become of Rep. Michael Conaway’s district, which was created in 2003 at the insistence of then-Speaker Craddick, who wanted a Congressional seat for Midland. Objectively speaking, there was no real reason for that, and the Census data will make it even harder to justify. Without someone of influence pushing to protect it, who knows what will happen.

As the story notes, West Texas’ loss will likely be the Metroplex’s gain.

Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, said lawmakers next session will have a chance to create winnable districts for Hispanics in North Texas — not just in the Texas House, but state Senate and U.S. House.

“I would hope that everybody sees the light, that Texas has diversified,” Alonzo said.

He recalled it took a voting rights lawsuit for him to have a chance to win 17 years ago in House District 104, redrawn by the courts to enhance Mexican-American voters’ chances of electing one of their own.

“In Texas, we’ve had to go through litigation to make it happen,” Alonzo said. “I would hope we don’t have to go to that point.”

I wouldn’t count on that, but you never know. The more I think about it, the more I believe that the new Congressional district slated for the D/FW area will have to be a Democratic seat. The Congressional map up there is anything but representative right now. Of the 25 legislative members who represent Dallas and Tarrant counties, 13 are Democrats, yet only one member of Congress (Eddie Bernice Johnson) out of the nine whose districts include either Dallas or Tarrant is a Democrat. Among other things, the electoral trends are not sustainable for the Republican incumbents – Kenny Marchant and Pete Sessions need some help, with Sam Johnson and Michael Burgess not far behind them. Drawing a new seat to soak up some Democratic voters would benefit them.

Anyway. I believe a compromise at the Congressional level, one that aims to mostly protect incumbents, is still a viable possibility. The main reason for that not to happen is for someone with an interest in the outcome to push for a more partisan plan. As yet, I have not seen an indication of that, but it’s still early days. Legislative redistricting worries me more, especially if Rick Perry gets re-elected. We’ll see how it goes.

Texas Voices update

Grits gives a report.

I was pleased to get to spend a little time with Mary Sue Molnar and the folks at Texas Voices (a group made up of families of registered sex offenders) at their statewide conference here in Austin. By the time I showed up in the late morning there were perhaps 60-70 folks there; I walked in just in time to hear most of their legislative update.

They were, of course, all devastated at Governor Perry’s veto of legislation to allow defendants to petition judges in Romeo and Juliet cases to be taken off the registry. But this was the first legislative session they’d even been involved as a newly formed group and that same bill could probably pass again whenever it’s somebody else’s turn to be Governor. In the meantime, about 100 new people per month are being placed on Texas’ sex offender registry, Molnar reported to the group.

The bill Grits refers to is HB3148; another bill that was favorable to Texas Voices never made it out of committee. blogged about this group before and am glad to hear they are continuing to organize. We spend an awful lot of time, energy, and money punishing people who really aren’t a threat to anyone, and in doing so we cause a lot of harm – to the offenders, to their loved ones, and to the state of Texas, which suffers a large economic loss from all this wasted effort. We’ll be much better off the day we recognize this and do something about it.