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Steve Stockman

FEC approves Bitcoin for campaign contributions

It’s the right call.

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday voted to allow political committees to accept Bitcoin donations and outlined the ways that the virtual currency can be used by federally regulated campaigns.

Responding to a request from a political action committee, the commissioners unanimously approved an advisory opinion that defined Bitcoins, which allows for online transactions without going through a bank or other third party, as “money or anything of value” — in essence, cash or an in-kind contribution.

They also imposed some restrictions, ruling that Bitcoin donations will be capped at a cash equivalent of $100 per person per cycle, with the value determined at the time of the donation, and that a complete accounting of name, address and employer must accompany the donation.

Committees can liquidate a Bitcoin contribution immediately, or they can choose to keep it as an investment, in the same way they do with stocks and bonds. Since the value of the virtual currency can fluctuate suddenly, the opportunity for a windfall is real, but is growing rarer as it stabilizes.

The opinion also allows committees to buy Bitcoins on the open market, but prohibits them from using the coins to pay for goods or services. They must be liquidated into United States currency before being spent.

See here for the background, and here for the FEC opinion. I don’t see this as being a big deal – I still think Bitcoin is a lot of sound and fury – but I see no reason not to treat Bitcoin as something of value that can be given to and used by a PAC. Better to allow it and regulate it than to ignore it and hope it goes away.

FEC ponders Bitcoin donations

For those of you that might want to make political contributions via Bitcoin.

The Federal Election Commission appears poised to rule on whether and how campaigns and PACs can accept bitcoins as political contributions. The news comes as Attorney General Greg Abbott’s campaign for governor announced Wednesday that he will accept contributions made in bitcoin.

Two draft advisory opinions have been posted to the FEC website for public comment ahead of the commission’s April 23 meeting.

The first draft, posted Tuesday, would broadly authorize the use of bitcoins not as cash donations, but as in-kind donations, much as stocks and bonds and similar instruments are accepted today. They also could be used to pay campaign bills, provided vendors would accept the novel currency. They could also be deposited into the PAC’s bitcoin digital wallet and kept their to be spent or sold later. The PAC could also use cash to buy additional bitcoins itself, but those coins could only be treated as investments and not as means to pay bills or otherwise transferred. It would also require that the identity of the donor would have to be known and recorded before the donation could be accepted.

But a second draft posted Wednesday contains language that would greatly restrict the use of bitcoins. The bitcoins could be accepted but would have to be converted to cash before they could be exchanged for anything of value, and the cash would have to be deposited in the PACs contribution account. The second draft would also impose a $100 maximum value on how much the bitcoins any one donor gives to a campaign during any one election cycle.

The advisory opinion was requested by Make Your Laws PAC. For the full record of the case, see here.

You can see the two draft opinions here. As we know, Congressman and performance artist Steve Stockman had asked the FEC for an opinion about Bitcoin donations; I wonder how much, if anything, he wound up collecting in Bitcoin. As I’ve said before, I don’t have any problem with this. I doubt it will amount to much, but as long as disclosure requirements are met I don’t see any good reason to treat Bitcoin as anything unusual.

Stockman being investigated for ethics issues

Raise your hand if you’re the least bit surprised by this.

Steve Stockman doing his best Joe Cocker impersonation

The House ethics committee is inquiring into the campaign finances of Rep. Steve Stockman, the Clear Lake Republican who has been questioned repeatedly over the last year about misreported campaign contributions and deficient disclosures.

A spokesman for Stockman acknowledged the inquiry Friday, and the committee itself is expected to announce it Monday.

The Houston Chronicle reported last year that two of Stockman’s staffers were fired in October for making prohibited contributions to the campaign. Stockman spokesman Donny Ferguson told the newspaper then that Jason Posey and Thomas Dodd had been fired from Stockman’s House office.

The scope of the ethics review is not public information, and the statement Ferguson released on Friday did not clearly describe it.

[…]

Brett Kappel, a Washington, D.C. attorney who specializes in campaign-finance law, said the allegations against Stockman, which include reporting contributions under incorrect names, appear “pretty egregious. He’ll be in office until January, and they could proceed with it.”

But Kappel said the committee also could defer to the Federal Election Commission or to the Department of Justice.

I just want to point out that while Stockman will be leaving office in January, he could come back again someday. His, um, unique qualifications for office would make him a contender in any race in a deep-red district.

“Congressman Stockman continues to kind of amaze me … He doesn’t admit any responsibility for what happened in his campaign. Instead I see obfuscation,” said Kathleen Clark, a Washington, D.C.-based professor of law with Washington University who specializes in government ethics.

In addition to the prohibited contributions, the Chronicle has reported on other questions about Stockman’s campaign finances and his personal financial disclosures.

The Chronicle reported:

  • The Clear Lake Republican’s House campaign has been notified by the FEC of dozens of potential problems with its filings in 2012 and 2013, including the misreported donations.
  • Stockman’s personal financial disclosure to the House Ethics Committee was filed nearly a year late and failed to disclose some assets and business affiliations as required by federal law. The disclosure also failed to fully identify the source of $350,000 in income that Stockman claimed in 2011 and 2012.
  • The FEC filed two complaints against Stockman campaigns in the 1990s, one of which resulted in a $40,000 civil penalty, and one in the last two years, which was dismissed.

I’ll say this much for the man: You know exactly what you’re getting with Steve Stockman. The 12-year gap between his tenures in Congress clearly did not cause any erosion in his skills.

Precinct analysis: Republican primary election

I’ve done the Democrats, so now let’s take a look at the Republicans. In this case, I did have a few specific questions in mind, so my approach here will be a little different. First, we all know that Steve Stockman’s performance art piece campaign against Sen. John Cornyn didn’t amount to anything, but did he at least make some noise in his own Congressional district?

Candidate CD36 Else CD36% Else% ============================================ Cornyn 8,231 65,363 48.69% 55.57% Stockman 5,359 27,093 31.70% 23.03% Others 3,314 25,161 19.60% 21.39% Total 16,904 117,617

So sort of, yeah. Cornyn was held under 50% in the bit of CD36 that’s in Harris County, and it’s clear that Stockman picked up that he lost, but it didn’t make a difference overall. As it happens, the other counties in CD36 are all entirely within CD36, so we can look at the whole district as well now that we have the Harris data:

County Cornyn Cornyn% Stockman Stockman% ================================================ Chambers 1,609 41.02% 1,322 33.70% Hardin 2,937 40.52% 2,986 41.20% Harris 8,231 48.69% 5,359 31.70% Jasper 1,274 54.28% 780 33.23% Liberty 2,496 38.02% 2,007 30.57% Newton 226 46.40% 194 39.83% Orange 3,546 44.51% 2,925 36.72% Polk 2,626 46.46% 1,820 32.20% Tyler 1,121 46.01% 961 39.44%

So again, Stockman held Cornyn under 50% in CD36, but he still trailed in every county except Hardin. His performance in Harris was particularly weak. It’s possible that someone could have beaten Big John, or at least forced him into a runoff, but Steve Stockman was not that someone.

Along similar lines, I wondered how Dan Patrick did on his home turf of SD07 versus the rest of the county:

Candidate SD07 Else SD07% Else% ============================================ Patrick 30,398 48,373 64.84% 53.78% Not Patrick 16,481 41,578 35.16% 46.22% Total 46,879 89,951

Unlike Stockman, Patrick really killed it on his home turf, but he still won a majority elsewhere as well. That cannot be a comforting thought to David Dewhurst.

Given the inflammatory rhetoric about immigration and the pushback by Latino Republicans against Dan Patrick, I also checked to see if Patrick did any worse in the five State Rep districts held by Latinos (HDs 140, 143, 144, 145, and 148) than he did elsewhere:

Candidate Latino Else Latino% Else% ============================================ Patrick 5,515 73,256 56.58% 57.64% Not Patrick 4,233 53,826 43.42% 42.36% Total 9,748 127,082

Short answer: No. Of course, we don’t know how many of the Republican primary voters in these districts were Latino – the Anglo voting age population in these districts range from 12K (HD140) to 37K (HD148), so there are plenty of non-Latinos to go around. Regardless, at least in Harris County, Patrick’s rhetoric wasn’t a problem for these voters.

Finally, how did the Latino Republican candidates do in the Latino districts?

Candidate Latino Else Latino% Else% ============================================ Abbott 8,929 119,258 92.28% 94.52% Martinez 381 2,713 3.94% 2.15% Others 366 4,207 3.78% 3.33% Total 9,676 126,178 Candidate Latino Else Latino% Else% ============================================ Medina 1,558 15,993 16.91% 13.56% Torres 420 3,144 4.56% 2.67% Hegar 4,442 62,214 48.22% 52.74% Hilderbran 2,792 36,620 30.31% 31.04% Total 9,212 117,971

A little bit of a benefit, mostly for Debra Medina, but overall less than a drop in the bucket. Even if the differences had been dramatic, the paucity of voters in these districts would have minimized the effect. But the difference was trivial, so it didn’t matter anyway.

We may still have Steve Stockman to kick around

I’m not sure if the right expression for this is “Praise the Lord!” or “Lord help us”.

Steve Stockman doing his best Joe Cocker impersonation

Rep. Steve Stockman is down for now, but not out forever, he says.

In his first interview since Tuesday night’s primary defeat to Sen. John Cornyn, the Clear Lake Republican said he’s not sure what’s next– but it could very well include another shot at office.

“We had fun, and we’ll probably do statewide again,” Stockman said off the House floor.

Stockman pinned the loss on negative ads, and lack of support from tea party groups which distanced themselves from him. He didn’t address questions that dogged his campaign over his background, allegations of campaign finance irregularities, and his absences from the campaign trail and House votes.

He said he wouldn’t have run the way he did if he didn’t think he was going to win.

“It was unfortunate — a lot of outside groups didn’t think it could be won, but clearly, looking at it now, it could have,” he said.

[…]

Asked if he would have done anything differently, Stockman said he would have quit his job as a congressman.

“I probably would have stepped down and run full time. I was doing full time congressman, full time campaign manager, and full time candidate. You just get spread so thin,” he said.

Oh, I think he shouldn’t change a thing. Why waste all that talent by acting normally? Texpatriate has more.

The UT/TT primary polls were completely useless

Wrong!!!

I expressed my contempt with the UT/Texas Trib’s Democratic primary poll result for the US Senate race last night, which they richly deserved. Sure, pollster Jim Henson admitted that “the first person to raise some money and run some ads could really move this”, and that’s largely what happened, but that got lost in all the national attention that was paid to Kesha Rogers being proclaimed the frontrunner in a poll where basically nobody had an initial preference. They had a “result” that was guaranteed to get them a ton of attention, and that’s what they got even though their track record in past Democratic primaries was shaky at best.

Well, now it’s time to pay them a bit of negative attention, because their Republican primary polls, which I originally noted had a decent track record based on previous results sucked eggs, too. Let’s take them one at a time and assess the damage. I’ll even be generous and start with the one poll they basically nailed, just to give them credit where it’s due. Here’s the poll story from which I’ll be quoting:

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, facing a field of seven other Republican primary candidates in his bid for re-election, won the support of 62 percent of the likely Republican primary voters, followed by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, who got 16 percent. Support for the rest was in single digits: Linda Vega, 7 percent; Dwayne Stovall and Ken Cope, 4 percent each; Reid Reasor and Chris Mapp, 3 percent each; and Curt Cleaver, 1 percent.

Actual result: Cornyn won with 59.44%, Stockman came in second with 19.13%. Dwayne Stovall was actually in third with 10.71%, but I won’t crime them for that. From here, it’s all downhill.

In the heated Republican primary for lieutenant governor, incumbent David Dewhurst leads the pack with 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters at his side, followed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at 31 percent; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples at 17 percent; and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson at 15 percent.

Actual result: Dan Patrick led the pack with 41.45%, followed by incumbent David Dewhurst with 28.31%. Staples had 17.76% and Patterson 12.47%, not that it mattered. That’s a pretty big miss, but it’s not their biggest.

The Republican primary for attorney general is a statistical dead heat between state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, at 42 percent, and state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney, at 38 percent — a difference smaller than the poll’s margin of error. Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman got 20 percent. When they were initially asked about the race, 47 percent expressed no preference between the candidates.

Actual result: Paxton 44.44%, Branch 33.49%, Smitherman 22.06%. They did get Smitherman’s level of support correct, but they had the wrong frontrunner and the race wasn’t as close as they said. Oh, well.

In the race for comptroller, that group of initially undecided voters accounted for 54 percent, perhaps an indication of continuing flux in the race. Debra Medina, the only candidate who has been on a statewide ballot (she ran for governor in 2010), got 39 percent after voters were asked whom they would support in an election now, followed by state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, at 26 percent; state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, at 24 percent; and former state Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, at 11 percent.

Actual result: Hegar came thisclose to winning outright, with 49.99%. He was 151 votes short of a majority with four precincts still uncounted. Hilderbran was second with 26.01%, Medina third with 19.30%, and Torres last with 4.68%. I’m sorry, but that’s just embarrassingly inaccurate.

So in all three downballot Republican races as well as the Democratic Senate race, they incorrectly identified the frontrunner, with the extra indignity of having the almost clear winner of the Comptroller’s race not in the cut for a runoff. Well done, fellas. Well done.

Now you may say “c’mon, polling primaries is especially tricky”, and if you did I would agree. I’d also say that maybe their self-selected-sample-plus-secret-sauce methodology is especially poorly designed for polling in these specialized races, and I’d point to these very results as proof of that. You may also say that no one else was providing poll information on these races so at least they were telling us something, and I’d say we would have been better off with no information than we were with their badly wrong information. I’d also say they owe us an explanation for why they were so wrong, and a public examination and reconsideration of their methods given how badly wrong they were. If they can screw these races up so badly, why should anyone believe their general election polling? The ball’s in your court, guys.

I should note that I’m saying all this as someone who likes the Tribune and who thinks they generally do a good job. On this, however, they did a terrible job, and I’m not the only one who noticed. They should be embarrassed by this, and they should want to figure out where they went so far off track. I would advise them to be quick about it. Steve Singiser has more.

Who will be the next Steve Stockman?

No one can truly replace Steve Stockman, one of the most gifted performance artists that the Congress has ever seen, but many are trying to win his now-vacated seat.

No clown shortage here

In some ways no one can replace Steve Stockman, who chose not to seek re-election to Texas’ 36th Congressional District and instead mounted what many see as a quixotic primary challenge to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

None of the 12 Republicans running in the primary to replace Stockman is likely to match the shenanigans that, analysts say, made Stockman an embarrassment to some in the party.

“In many ways Stockman did the party a big favor,” said Rice University political science professor Mark Jones. “They couldn’t get rid of him. Whoever replaces him will be much less of a distraction and have much less of a negative impact on the image of the Texas Republican Party and the Republican Party more generally.”

No single candidate has emerged with a clear advantage in the 36th District Republican primary, which likely will decide the race. The district is so strongly Republican that the other candidates – one Democrat, one Independent, one from the Green Party and two Libertarians – have only a ghost of a chance, said Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston political science professor.

The 36th District gave President Barack Obama 26 percent of its 2012 vote.

Because there are so many candidates, a runoff May 27 is likely, Jones said. He said a candidate could win a runoff spot with as little as 15 percent of the vote.

For once I agree with Mark Jones. With Stockman gone – assuming he doesn’t manage to knock of Sen. John Cornyn in that primary, which no one expects – Texas will be down to two nationally known embarrassments in Congress. While there is plenty of B-level talent among the delegation, none of them likely has what it takes to join Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz on the main stage. Ben Streusand, whose nasally voice from millions of TV ads for CD10 in 2004 is still wedged in my brain, may have an edge in the race and is sure to say some stupid things if elected, or even just if he makes the runoff, but it takes a lot more than that to be Stockman quality. Stockman has that certain je ne sais quoi about him that while I can’t say it will be missed, it will be notably absent.

Stockman and Bitcoin

Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, a Friendswood Republican with a history of flouting campaign finance laws, entered a new legal gray area this week when he announced his campaign can now accept donations in Bitcoin, a private virtual currency.

Stockman, who is challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas in this year’s Republican primary, was attending an event promoting the NYC Bitcoin Center in New York’s financial district earlier this week when he told a reporter with Business Insider that his campaign could now accept Bitcoin donations. Stockman appeared to confirm the report by posting it on Facebook and Twitter.

Stockman isn’t the first politician to embrace Bitcoin, though he may be the first elected official to do so. Among the legal concerns about Bitcoin campaign donations is that the virtual currency makes it easier to make donations anonymously; federal campaign finance laws require candidates to reveal the names of their contributions. Few businesses currently accept Bitcoin though acceptance has been growing over the last year.

A spokesman with the Federal Elections Commission could not say whether Bitcoin donations are legal. In November, the FEC considered whether to explicitly allow federal candidates and political action committees to accept Bitcoin donations as in-kind donations. The committee deadlocked, 3-3. The commission has not taken up the issue since the November vote, a spokesman said.

Whether Stockman has actually received any Bitcoin donations is unclear. As of Friday morning, his campaign website’s donation page made no mention of Bitcoin. However, in a photo that has circulated online since Tuesday, Stockman is seen at the NYC Bitcoin Center event holding a poster with a scannable QR code on it. The code is a link to a Bitcoin account, but it is not clear if the account is Stockman’s campaign fund. Since Tuesday, the account has received Bitcoin payments worth more than $200.

When asked about the QR code in the photo in an email, NYC Bitcoin Center spokesman Hamdan Azhar wrote back, “Congressman Stockman’s office would probably be best suited to address your question.” A Stockman spokesman has not responded to inquiries about the QR code or whether the campaign has received any Bitcoin donations.

Fine by me if he wants to do that. He can collect Bitcoins, gold bullion, or live chickens as far as I’m concerned, as long as he meets the disclosure requirements. Given that this is Steve Stockman we’re talking about, I don’t have a whole lot of faith in that. But as a matter of philosophy I have no problems with this. As with contributing via text messages, I welcome these innovations as long as proper disclosure is made and all other relevant campaign finance laws are followed. I doubt Bitcoin donations will make any difference to Stockman’s campaign, but hey, a guy can dream if he wants to.

The 12-candidate pileup in CD36

Steve Stockman’s last-minute switch to the Senate race left a void in CD36 on the Republican side that is being filled by a dozen Stockman wannabes.

The Republican primary ballot for the race to succeed U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman was set Monday evening — a week later than expected — with five additional candidates signing up on the final day of filing for the Houston-area congressional seat.

Stockman, R-Friendswood, abruptly withdrew his re-election bid Dec. 9 to launch a primary challenge against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The timing of Stockman’s switch — which occurred minutes before the filing deadline — prompted the Republican Party of Texas to extend the deadline for the Congressional District 36 race, though under conditions that left some interested candidates unable to enter the race.

Ben Streusand and John Manlove, both of Houston, Robin Riley and Jim Engstrand, both of Seabrook, and Pat Kasprzak of Crosby filed for the seat on Monday. Riley is a former Seabrook mayor. One other Republican, Brian Babin, a dentist and former mayor of Woodville, also took advantage of the deadline extension, filing on Friday. They joined six Republicans who had filed for the seat before the original deadline: Nassau Bay City Councilman John Amdur; Doug Centilli, a longtime chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands; former Liberty County Judge Phil Fitzgerald; Lumberton lawyer Charles “Chuck” Meyer; former Seabrook City Councilman Kim Morrell; and insurance agent Dave Norman.

Democrat Michael “MKC” Cole and Libertarians Robb Rourke and Rodney Veach are also running for the seat.

There are a couple of semi-familiar names in that list, with rich guy Streusand leading the pack. I’ll refer you to PDiddie for the gumshoe work. Expect several metric tons of Teh Crazy in this race, to be followed by a concentrated dose of it for the runoff. And that’s even without taking into consideration the race that actually features Steve Stockman, which in less than two weeks already features attack websites and disgusting photos – seriously, you need to click that last link, just not while you’re eating. I’m trying to picture what an analogous Democratic campaign to the CD36 clown car would look like, but my imagination is failing. We have our version of crazy and obnoxious, but it’s minor league next to these guys. Burka and BOR have more.

More primary thoughts

I wonder if Big John Cornyn will come to rue this interview.

Big John Cornyn

Big John Cornyn

BDS: At the kickoff for your reelection campaign in November, Governor Perry said that you are “the epitome of what I look for in a U.S. senator.” He has certainly been embraced by members of the tea party. But in your speech you said that Republicans should be the party of the “big tent,” which sounded an awful lot like it was pointed in their direction.

JC: To be clear, I was talking about being a welcoming party, not an exclusive party. I don’t know how we got off on this track, where some people are welcome in our party and some people are not. Hence my reference to Ronald Reagan’s line, “What do you call someone who agrees with you eight times out of ten? An ally, not a twenty-percent traitor.” Well, we’re at a point where you can agree with someone 98 percent of the time, but they think of you as a 2 percent traitor, which is just an impossible standard. I like to point out that my wife and I have been married for 34 years, we don’t agree with each other 100 percent of the time. We need to be a little more realistic about the goals, and we need to look not just at the short term but at the long term. If the goal is to change the direction of the country—and I would say to save the country from the big government track we’re on now—then we have to win elections by adding voters, not subtracting them.

That sound you hear is Steve Stockman rubbing his hands and cackling with glee. Remember, Steve Stockman is nuts. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but seriously. That boy ain’t right.

Josh Marshall ponders what the implications are of Stockman’s entrance.

Everyone seemed to think Cornyn had successfully evaded a challenge and that he was home free. And Stockman got in just under the wire. I’m curious whether he waited so long precisely to assure a serious Democrat didn’t get into the race. As long as there’s no serious Democrat running, that will make it easier for him to argue he’s not another Akin in the making.

Of course, he is basically an Akin in the making, or an Akin before there was Akin (Stockman first came in in the ’94 Republican landslide but was too nuts and got bounced out after one term). But if there’s no credible Dem, maybe he gets through?

I seriously doubt the condition of the Democratic field for Senate had anything to do with Stockman’s move. I don’t think he operates that way, and I don’t think the Texas GOP would behave any differently towards him if he wins the nomination regardless. A better question is whether or not the DSCC and other national Dem groups get involved in the event it’s Stockman versus Maxey Scherr or David Alameel or Mike Fjetland. If it winds up as Stockman versus Kesha Rogers, we may as well just admit that this whole experiment in self-governance has been an abject failure and see if Great Britain is willing to take us back.

Speaking of Maxey Scherr, the El Paso Times covered her campaign kickoff in Austin.

[Scherr] said she is coordinating her effort with statewide Democratic organizations that are hopeful that with Texas’ changing demographics and, in Wendy Davis, an attractive candidate at the top of the ticket, 2014 will be the year Texas starts to turn blue.

[…]

“If I can raise $7 million, I can be competitive, and I think I can,” she said.

She plans to suspend her law practice and spend the coming year the same way she spent Monday — traveling the state in a motor home towing a car with a smashed-in hood and emblazoned with her campaign slogan, “Texas on Cruz Control.”

If she wins the Democratic Primary, Scherr will likely face Cornyn, but she says her real opponent is Texas’ junior senator, Ted Cruz, who won’t be on the ballot until 2018.

“This race is about Ted Cruz,” Scherr said. “This race is about Ted Cruz because John Cornyn has taken a back seat to Ted Cruz. It’s unfortunate that our senior senator of Texas has done everything that Ted Cruz, the junior senator, wants him to. He doesn’t have the guts to stand up to Ted Cruz on anything that matters to Texans and I will.”

[…]

Among the issues Scherr plans to attack Cornyn are education, health care, women’s rights and immigration. On the latter topic, Scherr said she’s tired of Republicans whipping up false fears about security on the border.

“Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have voted against a comprehensive immigration reform bill every single time it has come up. I find that offensive,” she said.

“I come from El Paso and El Paso been consistently rated as one of the safest cities for several years. What these guys want to do is militarize our border, put a military-type outfit along the border. But they are wrong about that. El Paso is a huge border city and we don’t need to militarize it. We are safe as can be. What we need to do is pass comprehensive immigration reform that doesn’t tear apart families.”

Even if Emperor Cruz stays out of the GOP Senate primary – well, at least if he doesn’t take any overt action – a Stockman win would cement the point that Scherr is making about Cruz driving the action. In a sane world, Cornyn would have nothing to worry about in March. He may yet have nothing to worry about, but I doubt he’ll run his campaign that way. Of the sane Democrats running, I see Scherr as having the highest upside. I look forward to seeing her first couple of finance reports to see if she can make any headway on that fundraising goal.

More news from El Paso:

Meanwhile, all of the El Paso County incumbents in the Texas House of Representatives have filed for re-election.

Four have challengers.

District 76 Rep. Naomi Gonzalez faces former state Rep. Norma Chavez and Cesar Blanco, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego.

District 77 Rep. Marisa Marquez faces El Paso attorney Lyda Ness-Garcia.

District 75 Rep. Mary Gonzalez is being challenged by Rey Sepulveda, president of the Fabens school board.

And District 79 Rep. Joe Pickett, the dean of the El Paso delegation, faces Chuck Peartree.

I have no brief for Reps. Marquez or Naomi Gonzalez; they can explain their support of Dee Margo over Joe Moody (who did not get a primary challenger) to the voters. Pickett has been the Transportation Committee chair and has some juice, but he also voted for HB2; if he gets beaten up about that in his primary, I’ll shed no tears. The one legislator in that group I do care about is Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who is a force for good and deserves to be supported for re-election.

I mentioned yesterday that Rep. Marc Veasey avoided a rematch in CD33 with Domingo Garcia. I thought at the time that meant he was unopposed in the primary, but apparently not.

Several local members of Congress drew opponents as well.

U.S. representative, District 6: Republican Joe Barton (i), Frank Kuchar; Democrat David Edwin Cozad.

U.S. representative, District 12: Republican Kay Granger (i); Democrat Mark Greene

U.S. representative, District 24: Republican Kenny Marchant (i); Democrat Patrick McGehearty

U.S. representative, District 25: Republican Roger Williams (i); Democrats Stuart Gourd, Marco Montoya

U.S. representative, District 26: Republicans Michael Burgess (i), Joel A. Krause, Divenchy Watrous

U.S. representative, District 33: Democrats Marc Veasey (i), Thomas Carl Sanchez

There had been much speculation about whether former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, D-Dallas, would challenge Veasey for the 33rd Congressional District, setting up a rematch of last year’s hotly contested primary race. But Garcia put out a statement late Monday that he would not enter the race.

“I am truly humbled by the encouragement and support I have received to run for congress this year but after careful consideration I have decided against a run for congress in 2014,” he said. “I look forward to helping turning Texas blue and will continue to work to register and turn out more voters. I look forward to continuing to serve the community in one capacity or another.”

Democratic officials said Monday that little is known about Veasey’s challenger, Sanchez of Colleyville, other than that he is an attorney.

I feel reasonably confident that Rep. Veasey will win, but as always it’s best to not take anything for granted.

On the Republican side, Burka has a couple of observations. Number One:

Two trends are evident in this year’s campaign. One is that this is not necessarily shaping up as a tea party year. There are a lot of Main Street Republicans running for the House of Representatives — business people and school district leaders. Some of the candidates backed by Michael Quinn Sullivan might find themselves on the losing end of races. Matt Schaefer faces a strong opponent in Tyler. The same is true for Jonathan Stickland, whose opponent in Bedford is a popular former coach and educator.

That would be fine by me, but see my earlier comment about underestimating the crazy. Numero Dos:

The most significant late filings in the Republican primary:

(1) Steve Stockman vs. John Cornyn (U.S. Senator)

(2) Robert Talton vs. Nathan Hecht (Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court)

(3) Matt Beebe vs. Joe Straus (House District 121)

(4) John Ratcliffe v. Ralph Hall (U.S. House District 4)

(5) Mike Canon vs. Kel Seliger (Texas Senate District 31)

Stockman is about as far-right as far-right can get in this state. Cornyn can swamp him with money, but the tea party will be out in force against Cornyn.

Talton is a conservative trial lawyer who is famous for once having stationed a DPS officer outside his door to prevent gays from entering his office. He is a threat to Hecht (the stationing of the DPS officer outside his door notwithstanding).

Talton’s most recent foray into elections was last year as the GOP candidate for Harris County Attorney. He won that primary but lost the general, and slightly underperformed his peers. Hecht of course is deeply unethical. The winner of that race faces Bill Moody in the general.

There’s still a lot to process from the candidate filings. I don’t have a full picture yet of everything, and I suspect there are still some unexpected stories to tell. I’m already thinking about what interviews I want to do for March; with the primary back to its normal spot on the calendar next year, there isn’t much time to plan. What caught you by surprise this filing period?

Final filings: We have a statewide Democrat

Boy, I didn’t see this coming.

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge Larry Meyers

Longtime Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers announced Monday that he is leaving the Republican Party to run as a Democrat for the Texas Supreme Court.

Meyers, of Fort Worth, filed Monday on the last day of filing to seek Place 6 on the Supreme Court, currently held by Jeff Brown.

“I am thrilled to welcome Judge Meyers to the Texas Democratic Party,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “I am even more excited to know that Judge Meyers doesn’t stand alone. Every day, I hear from real voters that our party represents the strongest path forward for our state.

“Texas is changing and voters will continue ot reject a Republican Party more focused on ideology than ideas.”

Meyers’ party switch makes him the first statewide Democratic officeholder since 1998.

What’s more, since his term on the CCA isn’t up until 2016, no matter what happens in that race he’ll be on the bench at least until then. It’s a little strange having a criminal court judge running for a civil court, but that’s far from the strangest thing that’s happened this cycle. Meyers announced a challenge to Sharon Keller in the GOP primary in 2012 despite having previously been an ally of hers, but as far as I can tell he didn’t actually go through with it; the SOS page for the 2012 GOP primary shows her as unopposed. In any event, welcome to the party, Judge Meyers. Best of luck in your election.

That was the first surprise of the day but it wasn’t the last and may not have been the biggest, for next came this.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, has filed to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the March GOP primary, joining at least eight other hopefuls vying for the senior senator’s seat, according to a spokesman with the Republican Party of Texas.

Stockman, who had filed for re-election in Congressional District 36, had to withdraw from that race to seek Cornyn’s seat.

In an interview with the website WND, Stockman said he was running because he was “extremely disappointed in the way [Cornyn] treated his fellow congressmen and broke the 11th commandment and undermined Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare.”

There’s crazy, there’s bat$#!+ crazy, and then there’s Steve Stockman, who does a triple lutz barrel roll with a half-gainer but still sticks the landing. Take that, Louie Gohmert!

GOP political consultant Matt Mackowiak said Stockman faces an uphill battle, from recent investigations into his political and fundraising operation to Cornyn’s “huge bankroll.”

“Now we will find out if Sen. Cornyn is truly vulnerable, which I have doubted,” Mackowiak said, adding, “I predict that not one member of the congressional delegation will support Stockman. Ultimately, he will need outside groups to spend, and that is the most important unknown right now.”

All I can say is that so far, no one has gone broke underestimating the insanity of Republican primary voters. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. In the meantime, I join with PDiddie, Texpatriate, Juanita, and BOR in marveling at the spectacle.

Stockman’s change in office means that he won’t be running for CD36, which means there’s at least a chance Congress could be a tiny bit less wacko in 2015. There are three other Republicans running, and one Democrat.

Meanwhile, Michael Cole has had his eye on the heavily-Republican district since 2012, when he ran as a libertarian. He got about 6,000 votes in that election.

Now Cole, a 38 year old teacher from Orange, Texas, is running again as a Democrat. He says he has a campaign team in place, has been crisscrossing the district, and is about to file his first report on fundraising to the Federal Elections Commission. He said he’d focus on getting things done and charged outgoing Stockman with wasting time on politics.

“I can listen to what my constituents want instead of just showboating against Barack Obama,” he said, noting that his major focus would be on middle class job growth.

The change in candidates doesn’t change the fact that this is a 70% GOP district. But still, a Republican and a Libertarian both turning Democrat to run next year? Not a bad day if you ask me.

Anyway. Here’s the TDP list, which will not include people that filed at their county offices, and the Harris County GOP list; I’ve put the HCDP list beneath the fold, since the updated version of it isn’t online just yet. Stace notes the contested primaries of interest in Harris County, but here are a few other highlights:

– In addition to Larry Meyers, the Dems have two other Supreme Court candidates (Bill Moody and Gina Benavides, who is a Justice on the 13th Court of Appeals) and one CCA candidate (John Granberg for Place 3). Not a full slate, but not too bad. According to a TDP press release, Granberg is an attorney from El Paso (as is Moody, who is a District Court judge) and Benavides is from McAllen.

– Kinky Friedman has a second opponent for Ag Commissioner, Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III. Either the Dems got used to the idea of Friedman on the ballot or they failed utterly to find an opponent for him that isn’t some dude. I never thought I’d say this, but as things stand today I’d vote for Kinky.

– Another press release from the TDP makes a nice-sounding claim:

Today, the Texas Democratic Party announced its slate of candidates for 2014. Texas Democrats are fielding more candidates for statewide office in this election cycle than any time since 2002.

In addition to the statewide slate, the party devoted significant time to recruiting for down ballot races, and announced challengers in State Senate districts 10 and 17, and a full slate of candidates to the State Board of Education.

The party spent significant time recruiting Justices of the Peace, County Constables, County Judges, County Commissioners and others in places like Lubbock, Wichita Falls, San Angelo and across Texas.

I like the look of that. I wish they had more information in that release, but it’s an encouraging sign regardless.

– There will not be a rematch in CD33 between Rep. Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia. As a fan of Rep. Veasey, I’m glad to hear that.

– Rep. Harold Dutton did file for re-election in HD142. Some people just can’t be rushed, I guess. Rep. Carol Alvarado joined Rep. Alma Allen in drawing a primary challenger, as Susan Delgado filed at the last minute in HD145. I’ll be voting for Rep. Alvarado, thanks. Oh, and the GOP did find a challenger for HD144 – Gilbert Pena, who lost in the primary for that district in 2012.

– Dems did not get candidates foe each local judicial race, but there are a few contested judicial primaries. Yes, that’s a little frustrating, but people will run where they want to run.

– No one is running against Commissioner Jack Morman, and no one else is running for County Judge. Alas. Ann Harris Bennett has an opponent for County Clerk, Gayle Mitchell, who filed a finance report in July but has been quiet since.

– Possibly the biggest surprise locally is that outgoing CM Melissa Noriega filed for HCDE At Large Position 7, making that a three way race with Traci Jensen and Lily Leal. I will have more on that later.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about many of these races soon. Here’s the Chron story for now, which doesn’t add anything I didn’t already have here. What are your thoughts about the lineups?

(more…)

Grownups

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn preached the gospel of a big-tent GOP at a Friday rally for his re-election, saying Republicans must prove to voters they can govern like “responsible adults.”

Cornyn has been bedeviled by some tea party activists who say he suffers in comparison to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who played a key role in the government shutdown as he urged an end to funding for the federal health care law known as Obamacare. The tactics championed by Cruz have divided Republicans, with some GOP leaders fearing a voter backlash.

Cornyn, joined by Gov. Rick Perry at a rally at Scholz Garten before filing his re-election paperwork, said the GOP must be the party of the late former president Ronald Reagan, who considered people allies if they agreed with him 80 percent of the time.

“When we’re divided, we capitulate. We basically hand the victory to our political opponents,” Cornyn told reporters after the rally, adding “that leads us in disastrous directions like we’re seeing now.”

“We need to demonstrate that if the American people are willing to give us the opportunity in this next election to win that election, then we will be the responsible adults in the room. We will actually govern,” he said.

Asked about Cruz, Cornyn said, “I think he’s been a great new addition to the United States Senate.

Dude. Forget about Ted Cruz, who was not elected to govern, for a minute. You’re the party of Louie Gohmert and Steve Stockman. There’s a long list of B level talent in the Texas GOP Congressional delegation, but these are the headline grabbers and the public face of the party. All snark aside – and Lord knows, there’s plenty of it – you want to be seen as grownups, you need to do something about these guys. Just some free advice from someone who admittedly wants to see you lose, but who also wants to have a functioning federal government again.

Of course, Cornyn is a big part of the problem, too, but at least in terms of optics he’s Estes Kefauver next to those guys. Needless to say, we can do better. I’ve already mentioned Maxey Scherr, and I look forward to hearing more from her camapaign. Scherr now has some company in the primary, as former Republican and two-time challenger to Tom DeLay in CD22 Michael Fjetland has jumped in. Either one would serve as an excellent role model for actual adult behavior for Cornyn and his buddies.

Steve Stockman does something I support

I know, I’m as shocked as you are.

Zonker

Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, has recently backed a bill to require federal officials to comply with state marijuana laws, which was introduced in April and has since garnered support from Congressmen on both sides of the aisle.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, introduced by California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, would bar federal drug enforcement agents from penalizing any person abiding by the marijuana laws in their own state.

The law “shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws” — that is, people who are in compliance with their state laws regarding possession, manufacture or use of marijuana will not be subjected to federal penalties.

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C. have already legalized medical marijuana, and both Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use.

Stockman became the 19th sponsor of the bill, according to this website that you might not want to click if you’re at work. Let’s be perfectly clear about this: Steve Stockman is a whackjob, a terrible Congressman, and a reprehensible human being. Nothing about this changes any of that, but it does show that even a reprehensible whackjob can occasionally land on the right side of a public policy matter, even if as PDiddie notes it will have zero effect in his home state. And while I approve of the basic idea in this bill, I am fully aware of the bad history behind the “leave it to the states” argument. I’d much rather see a bill that simply scaled back federal enforcement of marijuana laws, as a prelude to a larger scaling back of the out of control “war on drugs”. But I don’t think we can get to that today, even with polling data showing much greater acceptance of decriminalization. I see that as a multi-step process, with the RSML Act of 2013 being the first step. More states need to take action, and the debate needs a wider airing at the federal level, possibly – hopefully – in the 2016 Presidential election. In the meantime, I support this effort, even if I don’t care for some of the people pushing it. Politics is like that, and you have to start somewhere. Grits and Texpatriate have more.

The federal option for gambling expansion in Texas

There is a way to expand gambling in Texas without going through the Legislature.

For decades the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe fought hard to make the federal government acknowledge that it illegally developed more than 5 million acres of the tribe’s aboriginal land.

The East Texas tribe eventually won when a court said Congress owed the tribe $270 million in compensation.

But now in an extraordinary move, the tribe’s leaders say they will forgo the gigantic sum of money and forget the past if allowed to open a casino to secure their future.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, and Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, introduced legislation this month to amend the tribe’s federal recognition to include the gaming rights allowed hundreds of other Native American governments, but under one important condition: Alabama-Coushatta drops claim to the $270 million in damages a federal court recommended U.S. Congress pay in 2002 and another land-based lawsuit filed last year.

“Nobody pounded us and said, ‘This is what you’re going to do,’ ” said Andy Taylor, an attorney for the tribe. “The tribe is saying, ‘We’re this serious.’ We are willing to forget 200 years of mistreatment. All we want is economic independence.”

At times pausing to fight back tears, members of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council said securing an economic mechanism to move the tribe away from dependency on quick-to-change and slow-to-grow federal appropriations cinched the difficult decision to draft what they see as a generous compromise, catch-all bill.

“With the sequestration and the situation of the federal government, we understand they don’t have $270.6 million to give to an individual tribe,” said Kyle Williams, tribal council chairman. “If we have to go after each individual issue, it would never happen and we would still be pursuing these issues 20 years from now.”

The tribe opened a casino in 2001, but a court order shut it down the next year. This bill could remove the obstacle that led to the closing of that casino. The tribe would still be limited as to what kind of games they could offer, pending action from the Legislature, but they would be able to have a casino, which would undoubtedly help them make a lot of money. The one thing that I’m curious about that wasn’t addressed in the story was what the other gambling interests in Texas think about this. I suppose if the bill in question begins to gain traction, we’ll find out.

Precinct analysis: Congressional overs and unders

To wrap up my look at 2012 versus 2008 results for all the new districts, here’s how the 36 Congressional districts compared.

Dist McCain Pct Obama08 Pct Romney Pct Obama12 Pct RIdx DIdx ============================================================================== 01 178,520 68.85% 78,918 30.44% 181,833 71.49% 69,857 27.47% 1.04 0.90 02 150,665 61.78% 91,087 37.35% 157,094 62.93% 88,751 35.55% 1.02 0.95 03 165,158 61.46% 100,440 37.37% 175,383 64.16% 93,290 34.13% 1.04 0.91 04 180,772 69.71% 75,910 29.27% 189,455 73.95% 63,521 24.79% 1.06 0.85 05 137,698 61.79% 83,216 37.34% 137,239 64.49% 73,085 34.35% 1.04 0.92 06 148,503 57.03% 109,854 42.19% 146,985 57.87% 103,444 40.72% 1.01 0.97 07 140,692 58.73% 96,866 40.44% 143,631 59.89% 92,499 38.57% 1.02 0.95 08 171,408 73.02% 61,357 26.14% 195,735 76.97% 55,271 21.74% 1.05 0.83 09 44,520 23.42% 144,707 76.12% 39,392 21.15% 145,332 78.01% 0.90 1.02 10 148,867 56.17% 112,866 42.59% 159,714 59.06% 104,839 38.77% 1.05 0.91 11 184,238 75.90% 56,145 23.13% 182,403 79.10% 45,081 19.55% 1.04 0.85 12 161,030 63.61% 89,718 35.44% 166,992 66.77% 79,147 31.65% 1.05 0.89 13 189,600 76.88% 54,855 22.24% 184,090 80.16% 42,518 18.51% 1.04 0.83 14 139,304 57.03% 102,902 42.12% 147,151 59.32% 97,824 39.44% 1.04 0.94 15 61,282 41.84% 83,924 57.3% 62,883 41.48% 86,940 57.35% 0.99 1.00 16 58,764 34.59% 109,387 64.39% 54,315 34.44% 100,993 64.03% 1.00 0.99 17 135,738 57.95% 95,884 40.94% 134,521 60.29% 84,243 37.76% 1.04 0.92 18 45,069 22.89% 150,733 76.57% 44,991 22.81% 150,129 76.11% 1.00 0.99 19 168,553 71.22% 66,122 27.94% 160,060 73.55% 54,451 25.02% 1.03 0.90 20 80,667 40.64% 115,579 58.23% 74,540 39.59% 110,663 58.77% 0.97 1.01 21 178,531 56.42% 133,581 42.21% 188,240 59.76% 119,220 37.85% 1.06 0.90 22 142,073 60.45% 91,137 38.78% 158,452 62.11% 93,582 36.68% 1.03 0.95 23 95,679 49.27% 96,871 49.88% 99,654 50.67% 94,386 47.99% 1.03 0.96 24 152,453 58.41% 105,822 40.54% 150,547 60.42% 94,634 37.98% 1.03 0.94 25 153,998 56.05% 117,402 42.73% 162,278 59.89% 102,433 37.80% 1.07 0.88 26 166,877 64.18% 90,791 34.92% 177,941 67.59% 80,828 30.70% 1.05 0.88 27 133,839 58.95% 91,083 40.12% 131,800 60.46% 83,156 38.15% 1.03 0.95 28 65,066 40.97% 92,557 58.28% 65,372 38.65% 101,843 60.21% 0.94 1.03 29 41,843 37.04% 70,286 62.22% 37,909 32.99% 75,720 65.89% 0.89 1.06 30 47,144 21.07% 175,237 78.33% 43,333 19.64% 175,637 79.61% 0.93 1.02 31 135,601 55.80% 103,359 42.54% 144,634 59.36% 92,842 38.11% 1.06 0.90 32 147,226 55.05% 117,231 43.83% 146,420 56.97% 106,563 41.46% 1.03 0.95 33 40,290 30.64% 90,180 68.57% 32,641 27.09% 86,686 71.93% 0.88 1.05 34 58,707 39.06% 90,178 60.00% 57,303 38.28% 90,885 60.71% 0.98 1.01 35 62,764 35.47% 111,790 63.18% 58,007 34.59% 105,550 62.94% 0.98 1.00 36 165,899 69.45% 70,543 29.53% 175,850 73.05% 61,766 25.66% 1.05 0.87

The main thing that stands out is CD23, which went from plurality Obama in 2008 to a slight majority for Romney in 2012. That means that Rep. Pete Gallego joins State Rep. Craig Eiland and State Sen. Wendy Davis in the exclusive club of candidates who won in a district that their Presidential candidate lost. Not surprisingly, Rep. Gallego is a marked man for 2014. CD23 was one of the more strongly contested districts in the litigation as well as in the election, and it is likely to be modified further no matter what happens to the Voting Rights Act, so Rep. Gallego’s challenge next year may be different than it was this year. He’s clearly up to it, whatever it winds up being. Beyond that, the pattern witnessed elsewhere held here, as blue districts were generally bluer than before, while red districts were redder. Dems can still hope for (eventually) competitive races in CDs 06, 10, and 32, but the task is harder now than it would have been in 2008. As for CD14, you can see that the hurdle was just too high for Nick Lampson. Barring anything improbable, that district is unlikely to repeat as one featuring a race to watch.

One other thing I did in these races was compare the performances of the Congressional candidates with the Presidential candidates in their districts. Here are some of the more interesting results I found:

Dist Romney Pct Obama12 Pct R Cong Pct% D Cong Pct Winner ============================================================================== 02 157,094 62.93% 88,751 35.55% 159,664 64.81% 80,512 32.68% Poe 06 146,985 57.87% 103,444 40.72% 145,019 58.02% 98,053 39.23% Barton 07 143,631 59.89% 92,499 38.57% 142,793 60.80% 85,553 36.43% Culberson 10 159,714 59.06% 104,839 38.77% 159,783 60.51% 95,710 36.25% McCaul 14 147,151 59.32% 97,824 39.44% 131,460 53.47% 109,697 44.62% Weber 20 74,540 39.59% 110,663 58.77% 62,376 33.50% 119,032 63.93% Castro 21 188,240 59.76% 119,220 37.85% 187,015 60.54% 109,326 35.39% L Smith 22 158,452 62.11% 93,582 36.68% 160,668 64.03% 80,203 31.96% Olson 23 99,654 50.67% 94,386 47.99% 87,547 45.55% 96,676 50.30% Gallego 25 162,278 59.89% 102,433 37.80% 154,245 58.44% 98,827 37.44% R Williams 27 131,800 60.46% 83,156 38.15% 120,684 56.75% 83,395 39.21% Farenthold 28 65,372 38.65% 101,843 60.21% 49,309 29.76% 112,456 67.88% Cuellar 31 144,634 59.36% 92,842 38.11% 145,348 61.27% 82,977 34.98% Carter 32 146,420 56.97% 106,563 41.46% 146,653 58.27% 99,288 39.45% Sessions 35 58,007 34.59% 105,550 62.94% 52,894 32.02% 105,626 63.94% Doggett 36 175,850 73.05% 61,766 25.66% 165,405 70.73% 62,143 26.57% Stockman

You can mostly break this down into three groups. The first is the Overacheivers, the Congressional candidates that clearly drew at least some crossover votes. On that list are Reps. Ted Poe, Joaquin Castro, Pete Olson, Pete Gallego, and Henry Cuellar. Olson, one presumes, benefited from being opposed by LaRouchie nutcase Keisha Rogers. We’ll have to wait to see how he’ll do against a normal opponent, which one hopes will be this time around. Castro and Cuellas can point to their numbers as evidence for statewide viability someday, if and when they choose to make such a run. Gallego obviously had to be on this list, or he wouldn’t be Rep. Gallego. I guess the Republicans knew what their were doing when they tried to pull all those shenanigans to protect Quico Canseco, because he really did need the help. As for Ted Poe, I got nothing. He’s not a “moderate”, and he’s not a heavyweight on policy or in bringing home the bacon as far as I know, so I don’t have a ready explanation for his success here. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments.

The second group is what I’d call Tougher Than They Look. Notice how Republican incumbents in the least-red districts suffered no dropoff in support from Romney, while their Democratic opponents did? I’m talking about Reps. Joe Barton, John Culberson, Mike McCaul, Lamar Smith, John Carter, and Pete Sessions; you can also throw Democrat Lloyd Doggett onto the list. Whether by accident or design, these Republicans may be harder to knock off down the line if and when their districts get bluer. Culberson is the oddball in this group, because he greatly underperformed in 2006 and 2008. I suspect he benefited from redistricting, in particular from losing some inner Loop precincts, as well as the general trend away from crossover voting, but we’ll see if this was a one-time thing or not.

Finally, there’s the Underachievers, who lost crossover votes to their opponents. Ex-Rep Quico Canseco is the poster child, but Reps. Randy Weber, Blake Farenthold, and Steve Stockman keep him company. Weber may get a mulligan, since he’s unlikely to face an opponent like Lampson again. Farenthold’s presence is intriguing. He’s a ridiculous person, who won in a fluke year and who needed a lot of help in redistricting, but a look at this result suggests that he just might be vulnerable to the right opponent. If the Battlegound Texas folks want to try some things out on a smaller scale, let me suggest CD27 as a proving ground. Finally, Stockman shows that even in a deep red district, nuttiness has some limits. Too bad it’s not enough to affect a November election, but maybe there’s a chance that a slightly less mortifying Republican could win next March.

Sidelining themselves on immigration reform

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the comprehensive immigration reform proposals that are out there now. It’s long overdue, and the political stars all seem to be aligned for it, but we said the same things about health care reform back in 2009, and look how close that came to be scuppered. In any even, the one place we should not expect to see any leadership on the issue is the Texas delegation.

Texas Republican senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were not enthusiastic about the [bipartisan Senate] proposal.

Cornyn will review the Senate plan, but first and foremost, a focus must be placed on the “porous border,” said his spokeswoman Megan Mitchell.

“I appreciate the good work that senators in both parties have put into trying to fix our broken immigration system,” Cruz said in a statement. “There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration. However, I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. ”

Immigrant rights groups are watching Cornyn and Cruz, who oppose citizenship proposals, to see how their positions play politically in Texas.

“How the Texas Senate duo handles immigration in the coming debate will set the course for the future of the GOP” in the state, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant advocacy group, America’s Voice.

Well, then, all you GOP immigration realists had better pucker up, because Cornyn and Cruz are on the more restrained end of the spectrum right now. You’ve still got the likes of Lamar Smith and Steve Stockman to cope with, and we haven’t even heard from Louie Gohmert yet, God help us all. If this was supposed to be your moment to take the initiative, you blew it.

“The congressional Republicans from Texas sidelined themselves with their anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, which has no place in a fast-moving debate in which suddenly the debate has shifted to ‘how much citizenship,’” said Democratic consultant Harold Cook of Austin. “The result is a shameful outcome in which these members of Congress, representing a state with tremendous border real estate, have sidelined themselves completely. That’s not leadership, and it’s not even adequate representation. It’s just ideologues telling far-right voters what they want to hear, at the expense of mainstream Texans.”

Some Republican strategists say that the GOP must find a way to play a constructive role in the ongoing debate — or suffer the consequences at the polls for years to come.

“Comprehensive immigration reform is going to happen this year and Republicans should embrace it and work to improve it,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. “At stake is re-branding the Republican Party with Hispanics, an absolutely critical and urgent task, especially so in border states like Texas.”

[…]

Mackowiak predicted that the Senate will “ultimately pass a bill with 80 votes, putting pressure on the House to pass a similar measure.” He suggested a way that Texas House Republicans can finesse their aversion to anything remotely sounding like amnesty.

“You can make the case that granting a temporary legal status to those here illegally, while they pass a background check and pay a fine and back taxes until those in line legally are processed first, does not qualify as amnesty,” he said.

Denial is your friend here. This shouldn’t be too difficult for the average GOP member of Congress to pull off – just imagine that we’re talking about climate change or something similar. Bone up on the Rove memo, I’m sure that’ll help. And good luck dealing with your primary voters. BOR has more.

Endorsement watch: Martin and Sullivan

The Chron can’t quite believe that Steve Stockman is on the verge of being foisted on us again as a member of Congress, so they do what they can by endorsing his opponent, Max Martin.

Max Martin

Max Martin is a credible, if long-shot, candidate. Martin, a retired pilot who now owns an education software business in Clear Lake, is our endorsement choice over the stealth candidate Stockman to represent this economically diverse district. Martin is an old-school Texas Democrat, whose moderate, pro-business views should have appeal to many Republicans in the district, which includes refineries, Gulf fisheries, ranches and timbering operations. Constituents include blue-collar workers, small business owners and a growing number of retirees from out of state.

Martin, who came to live in southeast Houston with his family in 1955, has an admirable history as a self-starter. He also possesses an encyclopedic geographic knowledge of the area from his many years as a short-haul pilot for private businesses and Metro Airlines. In every sense he presents himself as someone truly representative of this district. By contrast, Stockman strikes us as a political opportunist whose out-of-the-mainstream views would not serve District 36 residents well.

We recommend a vote for Max Martin to represent Texas House District 36.

Martin had previously collected the endorsement of the Beaumont Enterprise as well. Sadly, CD36 was drawn to be heavily Republican, and even with the financial resources to mount the kind of campaign needed to alert people to what a whackjob Stockman is, it would be an uphill climb. And with the likes of Louie Gohmert in Congress these days, Stockman doesn’t even stand out as particularly crazy anymore.

Elsewhere, the Chron writes the last of the endorsement editorials for candidates listed on their master list by recommending Mike Sullivan for Harris County Tax Assessor.

Mike Sullivan

Over the past 15 years or so, the office of Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector has been deliberately but needlessly politicized. It shouldn’t have been – and we’re confident it won’t be again if county voters elect Mike Sullivan in the Nov. 6 election.

Sullivan, the current Houston City Council member and former trustee of the Humble Independent School District board, has built a reputation as a straight shooter with facts and public finances. That is precisely what is required of a tax assessor-collector.

The assessor-collector’s office is where residents and taxpayers go, often online, to register their vehicles, pay their property taxes and register to vote.

It is, by definition, a service department, not a roost for partisans, whether Republican or Democrat, to spread their views on political issues.

The reason is clear: The constitutionally ordained duty of voter registration does not mix well – or at all – with politicking.

Perhaps it is churlish of me to point this out, but “over the past 15 years or so”, the office of Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector has been exclusively held by Republicans. Paul Bettencourt won a special election in 1998 to replace Carl Smith after he passed away earlier that year, and after him came Leo Vasquez and now Don Sumners. Maybe, just maybe, that might have had something to do with the problem that the Chron so astutely identifies, and if so maybe electing another Republican isn’t the optimal solution to it. I’m just saying. Sullivan, to his credit, says the right things about focusing on the clerical aspects of the job. If he is elected, I sure hope he lives up to that. But I still think that a real change is needed here, and to that effect I’ll be voting for Ann Harris Bennett. By the way, in case you missed it, here’s the Chron overview story of this race – there’s a Libertarian candidate as well – which appeared in the print edition a week ago but which I couldn’t find online until a few days after that.

Endorsement watch: Lampson and Gallego

I mentioned on Monday that the Chron had endorsed Nick Lampson for CD14. Yesterday, they wrote the endorsement editorial for him.

Nick Lampson

Lampson, a native of Beaumont, first came to Congress in 1996 and served four terms from the Golden Triangle area before being defeated in 2004. He served another term from 2008-2010 in the district long represented by disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Now aiming to represent a district that includes miles of hurricane-prone Texas Gulf Coast and is the center for the nation’s refining and petrochemical industries, Lampson says he would “at least study” the Ike Dike to protect both the Texas Medical Center and the complex that makes so much of the nation’s plastics and gasoline.

We can only do so, he contends, by being less centered in one party and reaching across the aisle.

We share that view. The tradition of working out things together is the beating heart of a functioning democracy. We urge voters in Congressional District 14 to cast their ballots for the candidate who practices that virtue admirably and effectively: Nick Lampson.

There’s also the fact that Lampson has a record of outstanding constituent service as a member of Congress. He has always worked hard for the people he has represented.

Over the weekend Lampson also picked up the endorsements of the other two newspapers in the district. Here’s the Galveston Daily News:

Former Congressman Nick Lampson, a Democrat, has obviously been following issues in Galveston County closely. That attention to what’s happening here, as opposed to what’s happening elsewhere, would be welcome. The seat is being vacated by Ron Paul, who appeared to be more focused on national ideological debates than on local interests.

And the Beaumont Enterprise:

U.S. Rep., District 14: Nick Lampson, D.
Lampson has a solid track record as a moderate who works hard for Southeast Texas.

U.S. Rep., District 36: Max Martin, D.
He’s a former airline pilot with an impressive record as an entrepreneur. He’s also not Steve Stockman.

I threw in that Max Martin endorsement because how could I not? Not being Steve Stockman isn’t a sufficient reason to support someone, but it’s a pretty good head start. I should note that both papers also endorsed Romney and Cruz, each demonstrating a touching faith in the magic of business experience and the deficit-reduction fairy, so make of that what you will.

Meanwhile, out west in CD23, the two major papers there made their endorsements for Pete Gallego. Here’s the Express News.

We recommend that voters cast ballots for Democrat Pete Gallego in District 23. The veteran state representative from Alpine is challenging freshman U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco.

Canseco is too extreme for the poor district. For example, his harsh position on immigration and opposition to a pathway to citizenship is out of touch in a congressional district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso.

As a member of the Texas House, Gallego demonstrated an ability to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He will be a strong addition to the Texas congressional delegation.

And here’s the El Paso Times.

Pete Gallego

Alpine’s Pete Gallego has long been a good friend of El Paso in his role as a state representative. We now need this fellow West Texan as an ally in Washington, D.C.

Gallego is running for the congressional seat that represents about 100,000 El Paso County residents in a district that spans from a part of our Lower Valley to San Antonio.

This is a chance for El Paso to have two U.S. representatives with El Paso ties, and with El Paso’s needs on their agenda. The rest of our city, more than half a million people, are represented by the District 16 representative.

We especially like Gallego’s forte of working as a moderate. As he said, “Congress needs coalitions” to get positive actions going again.

Gallego said he will work to maintain Medicare and Social Security, citing District 23’s aging population. He said the Veterans Administration is underfunded and he will work to rectify that.

“The system needs moderate people who are practical,” Gallego said.

We urge District 23 voters to send Pete Gallego to Congress on Nov. 6.

These are the two opportunities for Democrats to win seats currently held by Republicans. Newspaper endorsements may not mean much, but I’d rather have them than not. It’s a little boost of confidence if nothing else.

UPDATE: Former President Bill Clinton will be in Texas today to attend rallies for both candidates, one for Gallego in San Antonio, and one for Lampson in Beaumont:

On Thursday, former President Bill Clinton will join Congressman Nick Lampson in support of his campaign for the 14th congressional district of Texas. This will be a Get-Out-The-Vote rally to encourage people to vote early in support of Nick Lampson for Congress. The event will take place at Vincent-Beck Stadium at Lamar University on Jim Gilligan Way, Beaumont, Texas.

The event is free and open to the public.

WHO: President Bill Clinton and Nick Lampson

WHAT: Get-Out-The-Vote rally for Nick Lampson. President Clinton will talk about the 2012 election and why Nick Lampson is the best choice for the 14th district

WHEN: 6:00 PM on Thursday, October 25th

WHERE: Vincent-Beck Stadium – Lamar University, Jim Gilligan Way, Beaumont, TX 77705

Hope you can make it.

2012 Republican primary runoffs

All the results are here. In the end, Ted Cruz won a pretty solid victory. I’ll note that in the last two publicly released polls, PPP had Cruz up by 10, whereas Baselice & Associates claimed Dewhurst was up by 5. Oops. The latter poll sampled people who hadn’t actually voted in the May primary, which sure seems like a stretch now. By the way, Baselice & Associates is the pollster that did that first Metro poll. Two completely different universes, and one silly poll result doesn’t cast a shadow on another, it’s just a reminder that polling isn’t destiny.

In the Congressional primaries of interest, Randy Weber in CD14 and Roger Williams in CD25 won easily, while Steve Stockman won a closer race for CD36. Multiple incumbents went down to defeat, most spectacularly Sen. Jeff Wentworth in SD25. Am I the only one who thinks that he might have been better off switching parties? Hard to imagine he could have done worse in November than this. Nutjob John Devine won himself a spot on the Supreme Court, which like the Senate just got appreciably more stupid. I will console myself with the thought that Devine, who is in many ways a huckster, is highly likely to run afoul of the code of judicial conduct at some point. Speaking of party switching, former Democrat Chuck Hopson is now an ex-Representative, as are Sid “Sonogram” Miller and Jim Landtroop. The only legislative incumbent to survive was the other party switcher, JM Lozano, who now faces a tough race in November. The runoff was even hard on former incumbents, as Warren Chisum lost his bid for the Railroad Commission. However, Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman did survive, and former SBOE member Geraldine Miller got her spot back.

In other races of interest, Rick Miller won the nomination in HD26, thus likely delaying the de-honkification of the Fort Bend County delegation for at least another two years. By my count, of the eight Parent PAC candidates in the runoff, all but Wentworth and Hopson won, which is a pretty impressive result. Maybe, just maybe, the Lege will be marginally less hostile to public education next year.

Finally, in Harris County, it took awhile for the results to come in, but Louis Guthrie won the right to face Sheriff Adrian Garcia in the fall. That will be one to watch. Did any of these results surprise you? Leave a comment and let me know.

UPDATE: Make that five of eight for Parent PAC. When I went to bed, Trent McKnight was leading in HD68, but by the time I got up this morning he had lost.

Election night returns

For your convenience:

Statewide Democratic results

Looks good for Paul Sadler. Going to be a long night in CDs 23 and 33.

Statewide Republican results

Ted Cruz has a modest early lead. Wackjob John Devine is leading Supreme Court Justice David Medina. Steve Stockman is leading in CD36, and Donna Campbell is crushing Jeff Wentworth. The crazy flag is flying high.

Harris County Democratic results

Looking good for Gene Wu, Alan Rosen, and especially Erica Lee, who has over 70% in the disputed HCDE runoff.

Harris County GOP results

Louis Guthrie will get to oppose Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

I’ll post full results in the morning.

Congressional runoff stories

A couple of Chron stories about area Congressional primary runoffs for your perusal.

CD14:

Sometimes [CD14 GOP candidate Randy Weber] mentions that he was designated the most conservative member of the Texas House during his two terms in Austin.

“We don’t knock on a lot of moderate doors, because my message doesn’t really resonate with them,” he said.

[…]

Felicia Harris, whose reserved, no-nonsense style is in sharp contrast to the voluble Weber, said she has been knocking on doors, as well – thousands and thousands, sometimes between 200 and 400 a day.

“Our grass-roots game is the same as it’s always been,” she said at her campaign office in a League City strip center.

The lawyer and former Pearland city councilwoman, a graduate of Texas A&M University and South Texas College of Law, said she has a more youthful outlook than her opponent.

“I’m 42 years old. He’s almost 60,” she said. “Nothing wrong with age differences, but it’s a different perspective.”

It is, or at least it can be. I don’t really expect that Harris would vote any differently than Weber – the story doesn’t mention any disagreements the two have on issues – so it’s all a matter of style. Weber’s style is apparently to only talk to people who already agree with him. Unclear if Harris is the same way or not, but I doubt she’d say otherwise in the heat of a primary runoff. Much better to vote for Nick Lampson in November and get someone who’d do his best to represent the whole district, wouldn’t you say?

CD36:

If neophyte political candidate Stephen Takach was unaware that politics ain’t beanbag, as the saying goes, he’s fully aware now, thanks to his Republican primary runoff experience in the newly created 36th Congressional District with an opponent whose campaign strategy is unorthodox, to say the least.

Steve Stockman, 55, who served one term in Congress in the 1990s, spurns most public events and candidate forums and rarely talks to news media. Instead, he has blanketed the East Texas district with fake tabloid newspapers emblazoned with such headlines as “Stephen Takach drove family friend into bankruptcy,” “Gunowners Furious as Takach sides with ‘gun grabbers’ ” (Sheila Jackson Lee, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi) and “Takach smears Stockman for taking care of his Alzheimer’s-stricken father.”

Takach, 50, said last week that he mentioned in a mailing that Stockman had declared bankruptcy in 2002. According to the account in Stockman’s “Times Free Press,” the candidate had to declare bankruptcy because he quit work to tend to his father’s needs – ergo Takach was smearing Stockman for caring for his father, “a World War II veteran who served his country fighting the Nazis.”

“The people that know me are just livid,” Takach said. “They are so upset.”

[…]

Most of Takach’s positions are doctrinaire Republican: against the Affordable Care Act, against amnesty for undocumented immigrants, for traditional marriage, against abortion.

He pointed out that he and his opponent hold similar positions on a number of issues – issues that are closer today to the tea party-infused GOP mainstream than they were when Stockman was in Washington. Back then, Stockman supported a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, as does Takach.

What we learn: Being a better person does not necessarily make one a better Congressperson. As with CD14, and with every other Congressional Republican from Texas, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Takach and Stockman on the issues. Having not been raised by wolves, Takach will be less embarrassing, though even Steve Stockman may have a hard time outdoing Louie Gohmert these days. But that’s about all it means. Sadly, CD36 was drawn to elect a Republican, so there’s a decent chance Stockman will get his return engagement to Congress. You ought to get to know Max Martin anyway.

As of the end of early voting, no story has been written on the Democratic runoff in CD07. I know, it likely won’t matter in November, but if you wanted to highlight a race in which the two candidates did actually differ on some issues, and for which there’s been no lack of, um, material for a story, I don’t know how the Chron could overlook this one right in their own back yard. Finally, I have to agree with David Nir that the Democratic runoff in CD34 deserved a hell of a lot more attention than it has gotten. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have done much about that, either. I sent Filemon Vela an email asking to do an interview way back when I first geared up for the May primaries and the Congressional districts had been settled, but he never replied. I didn’t try to contact Denise Saenz Blanchard, and once the May primary was over I was too busy and distracted to try either of them again for the runoff. I’ll try to reach the nominee for a November interview, but you know how it goes. The CD33 race has understandably gotten a ton of coverage, but this one should not have slipped under the radar.

Endorsement watch: Who’s your fourth choice?

The Chron endorses a new candidate for the CD36 Republican primary runoff.

Two survivors emerged from the crowded May Republican primary race to fill the new congressional seat for U.S. District 36, one of four new congressional districts added to the Texas delegation in Washington as a result of the 2010 Census.

The remaining candidates are Stephen Takach, a political newcomer from Baytown with deep roots in the district, and Steve Stockman, a former one-term congressman who upset veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks in the 1994 Republican sweep.

We urge District 36 Republican runoff voters to cast their ballots for Takach. The runoff winner will face the unchallenged Democratic primary winner, businessman and pilot Max Martin, in November. The sprawling district encompasses Newton, Jasper, Tyler, Polk, Orange, Hardin and Liberty counties in East Texas, as well as Chambers County and a portion of east Harris County.

Remember, this was the race in which the Chron had made a three-way endorsement for the May primary. As none of those three made the cut, they had to dig a little deeper for the runoff. Given that one of the two candidates left standing was the notorious whackjob Steve Stockman, the choice was easy if not obvious when they started. Hey, you endorse from the pool of candidates you have, not the pool of candidates you wish you had.

Of the other runoffs – and I’m going off the top of my head here, so jump in and make whatever additions or corrections are needed – the only other one I can think of where the Chron’s first round choice was eliminated was the HD137 primary, in which the Chron originally recommended Joe Madden. Since the May field was as they called it an “impressive slate of candidates”, their second choice will hardly be a consolation prize. Beyond that, the Chron did not make a choice in CD07, HCDE Precinct 1 Position 6, or Constable Precinct 2, so we’ll see if they get around to it this time. For all the other races I can think of, the runoff candidates include the Chron’s pick from May. On the Democratic side that includes Paul Sadler and Cindy Vara-Leija; for the GOP that includes David Dewhurst, David Medina, and Carl Pittman. Again, if I’ve missed anyone, let me know.

GOP results, statewide

Full, though not necessarily the most up to date, results, are here. The Trib and the Observer have good roundups as well.

– Mitt. Yawn. He was at just under 70% statewide, with Ron Paul getting 11% and Rick Santorum 8%. You have to wonder what might have been if Santorum had held on through May.

– Dewhurst and Cruz in a runoff, with the Dew getting 45% to Cruz’s 33%. I will not be taking bets on the outcome of that one. Tom Leppert had 13% and Craig James – cue the sad trombone – was below 4%. Why did he get in this race again? And did he really think he had crossover appeal? Geez.

(UPDATE: Mike Baselice, Dewhurst’s pollster, says every Republican candidate with over 43 percent going into a statewide runoff during the last 20 years has gone on to win. So Cruz may as well go ahead and concede now, right?)

– Christi Craddick and Warren Chisum will go into overtime for Railroad Commissioner, as will Barry Smitherman against Greg Parker. Supreme Court Justice David Medina got less than 40% in a three-way race and will face the will-he-never-go-away? candidate John Devine.

– All incumbent Congressfolk easily won re-nomination, with Campaign for Primary Accountability targets Ralph Hall (59%) and Joe Barton (63%) not particularly bothered. Kenny Marchant in CD24 was on some people’s watch lists as well, but he got 68% in his race. The two open seats for which the GOP is heavily favored in November were interesting. Roger Williams will duke it out with somebody, most likely Wes Riddle as I write this. Michael Williams was a total dud, finishing with just over 10% and in fifth place. Over in CD36, what in the world happened to Mike Jackson? Steve Stockman (!) and somebody named Steve Takach were neck and neck for the runoff slot. The other open seat, CD14, saw Pearlanders Randy Weber and Felicia Harris make it to the second round.

– The first signs of carnage are in the SBOE races. David Bradley, Barbara Cargill, and thankfully Thomas Ratliff all won, but George Clayton was headed to a third place finish in his four way race – Geraldine Miller, whom Clayton knocked off in a 2010 shocker, was leading the pack – and in a race that sure wasn’t on my radar, SBOE Chair Gail Lowe lost to Sue Melton. Where did that come from? The open SBOE 15 seat to replace Bob Craig was the closest race, with Marty Rowley leading Parent PAC-backed Anette Carlisle by 2000 votes.

– State Sen. Jeff Wentworth will have to keep running in SD25, as he had about 36% of the vote with 75% of precincts in. His opponent in July, in a blow to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, will not be Elizabeth Ames Jones, however, as Donna Campbell took for second place. I hope Wentworth can do better in overtime, because Campbell would make the Senate even dumber than Ames Jones would have. Former State Reps. Kelly Hancock (SD09), Mark Shelton (SD10, opposing Wendy Davis), Larry Taylor (SD11), and Charles Schwertner (SD05) all won the right to get a promotion in November.

– It’s in the State House that the body count begins to pile up. The following incumbents lost their races:

Leo Berman (HD06)
Wayne Christian (HD09)
Rob Eissler (HD15)
Mike Hamilton (HD19)
Marva Beck (HD57)
Barbara Nash (HD93)
Vicki Truitt (HD98)

Hamilton was paired with James White. Eissler was the chair of the Public Education committee. With Scott Hochberg retiring, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on two new people next year. And no, Eissler wasn’t beaten by someone who wanted to make public education better. Eissler didn’t distinguish himself last session in my opinion, but this is not an upgrade.

Incumbents in runoffs:

Turncoat Chuck Hopson (HD11, 47.15% to Travis Clardy’s 46.30%)
Turncoat JM Lozano (HD43, 41.55% to Bill Wilson’s 44.38% but with only 42 of 69 precincts reporting)
Sid Miller (HD59, 42.48% to JD Sheffield’s 41.50%)
Jim Landtroop (HD88, 34.63% in a four way race to Ken King’s 30.08% with two precincts out)

Speaker Joe Straus easily survived his re-election bid and picked up an opponent for Speaker before the first vote was counted.

– The Parent PAC slate had mixed results:

Texas Senate

S.D. 9: Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless – Lost
S.D. 11: Dave Norman, R-Seabrook – Lost
S.D. 25: Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio – Runoff

Texas House of Representatives

H.D. 2: George Alexander, R-Greenville – Lost
H.D. 3: Cecil Bell, Jr., R-Magnolia – Won
H.D. 5: Mary Lookadoo, R-Mineola – Lost
H.D. 7: Tommy Merritt, R-Longview – Lost
H.D. 9: Chris Paddie, R-Marshall – Won
H.D. 24: Dr. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood – Leading, in runoff
H.D. 29: Ed Thompson, R-Pearland – Won
H.D. 57: Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin – Won
H.D. 59: Dr. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville – In runoff
H.D. 68: Trent McKnight, R-Throckmorton – Leading, in runoff
H.D. 74: Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass – Winning as of last report
H.D. 92: Roger Fisher, R-Bedford – Lost
H.D. 94: Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington – Won
H.D. 96: Mike Leyman, R-Mansfield – Lost
H.D. 97: Susan Todd, R-Fort Worth – Lost
H.D. 106: Amber Fulton, R-The Colony – Lost
H.D. 114: Jason Villalba, R-Dallas – In runoff
H.D. 115: Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell – In runoff
H.D. 125: Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio – Won
H.D. 138: Whet Smith, R-Houston – Lost
H.D. 150: James Wilson, R-Spring – Lost

State Board of Education

SBOE 7: Rita Ashley, R-Beaumont – Lost
SBOE 9: Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant – Won
SBOE 15: Anette Carlisle, R-Amarillo – Lost

Unclear to me at this time if this is a net gain, a net loss, or a wash.

– David Bradley won his race, but Williamson County DA John Bradley was trailing as votes slowly trickled in. If that holds, it’s one of the best results of the day.

– Turnout was likely to be around 1.5 million, which will be a bit better for them than 2008 was (1,362,322 votes in the Presidential primary). Clearly, the Senate race drove their turnout. In 2004, they had less than 700,000 votes total.

(UPDATE: Total votes cast in the Presidential race were 1,438,553.)

On to the Democrats…

Four Congressional stories

CD27:

It’s a relatively unknown field of hopefuls trying to unseat incumbent Republican Blake Farenthold in the newly configured U.S. House District 27, an area that stretches from Bastrop County south to Nueces County.

The field includes former Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald — well-known in Central Texas but not in the most populous part of the district. His three opponents in the Democratic primary — Rose Meza Harrison, Murphy Junaid and Jerry Trevino — are from Corpus Christi, where Farenthold also resides.

The primary election is May 29. Early voting began Monday.

“I’m known in Bastrop, Caldwell and Gonzales counties, so I’m campaigning 24/7,” said McDonald, 41, who served 14 years as Bastrop County’s top administrator and led the county through its worst natural disaster, the wildfires last September.

McDonald is not fazed by his underdog status. No one gave him a chance when he became a county judge at age 27. He did it by going from door to door, which is his strategy again.

“This is not about connecting with people for their vote but about connecting to get to the heart of the people and find out what is important to them,” he said. He points to his experience in balancing a county budget and working across party lines to do that.

Other than one quote from the dimwitted incumbent Farenthold, that’s all you get from the candidates themselves. Several paragraphs are dedicated to stuff from outside experts who discuss how the district isn’t particularly competitive. Maybe so, but it still would have been nice to hear from the people who are running for the seat. I’ve said that before, haven’t I? You can hear from Ronnie McDonald in the interview I did with him here, and from Rose Meza Harrison here. I didn’t get to interview Jerry Trevino, but he picked up the endorsement of the Corpus Christi Caller.

CD23:

The winner of a three-way primary between Ciro Rodriguez, Pete Gallego and John Bustamante will become the Democrat’s best hope to unseat Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco with strong GOP backing this fall.

“This is a must-win race for Democrats. The stakes are very high,” said David Wasserman, a political analyst with The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter.

[…]

Rodriguez is mired in a close race with Gallego, a popular state representative from Alpine and the favorite of the Democratic establishment that financially supports his campaign.

Bustamante, a patent lawyer and son of former U.S. Rep. Albert Bustamante, D-San Antonio, who represented the district in the 1980s and 90s, also is seeking the Democratic nomination.

The race tightened in the closing weeks, said Larry Hufford, a professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

“It certainly could go either way. It depends on turnout and where the turnout is,” Hufford said.

Rodriguez’s strength is San Antonio and Eagle Pass; Gallego’s is in the western reaches of the district that he has represented in the state House for more than 20 years.

Hufford would not rule out a runoff. “The wild card is Bustamante,” he said.

I’ve heard that Bustamante has been pretty impressive out on the trail. In a world where I had more time and more certainty about who would respond to my emails and when, I’d have tried to contact him for an interview. My interview with Pete Gallego is here and with Ciro Rodriguez is here. The story notes that Rodriguez has been under attack from environmental groups for a vote he cast in 2009; that may have an effect on the outcome as well.

CD35:

“I am giving it my all to turn out more votes, but much more help is needed. We face a perfect storm of less than 2 percent voter participation resulting from Rick Perry’s redistricting scheme, recent local elections and the Memorial Day weekend,” [Rep. Lloyd] Doggett said in a statement. “I run every race like I’m 10 points behind, and I will be unless more folks vote and volunteer to help.”

In the challenging race for the Austin-to-San Antonio district, Doggett is running in a new, majority Hispanic district against Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Sylvia Romo, a Latina politician who has been in public life in Bexar County for 20 years. Furthermore, Doggett is seeking votes from hundreds of thousands of citizens he has never represented.

Walter Clark Wilson, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas-San Antonio, said Doggett’s efforts show he’s taking seriously the primary race for District 35, one of four congressional districts that were created in Texas to reflect population growth and to allow Hispanics to elect the candidate of their choice.

“It would make sense that Lloyd would dip into his significant war chest for this particular race,” Wilson said.

It also makes sense that he’d spend the majority of his time courting the party establishment in South Texas. Doggett, 65, has won the support of South Texas insiders and union members, who are expected to help turn out voters for him, Wilson said.

According to Federal Elections Commission reports, Doggett has pulled in more than $1.1 million since the race began.

Romo, who got into the contest later, has raised $60,800. Maria Luisa Alvarado, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor as a Democrat in 2006, has raised only about $5,000.

Romo, 69, has spent about $47,000; Doggett has spent $1.1 million.

Harold Cook, for one, thinks that turnout so far is not favorable to Doggett. I guess that depends on how well he’s been doing in Bexar County and other points south of Austin. My interview with Sylvia Romo is here; as you know, I was never able to get an appointment to talk with Doggett. I’ll try again for the general election if he survives the primary.

CD36:

Former Congressman Steve Stockman has a question for Republican voters in the new 36th Congressional District: “Would you eat at a restaurant that had to pay people to say nice things about it?”

Probably not, assumes Stockman, a GOP candidate for the congressional district that runs from the Louisiana state line into southeast Harris County. In a similar vein, he encourages voters who receive a voter guide or sample ballot in the mail to toss it in the trash, saying on his website that it is from “a liberal group using a Republican name that charged liberal candidates money for their endorsement.”

Stockman is alluding to the front-runner and best-known name in the race, state Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, who is among the more conservative lawmakers in Austin.

Ah, Steve Stockman. He was crazy before crazy was cool. For those of you who don’t remember the 90s or weren’t here to experience his particular brand of nuttiness, let me take you through a stroll of the Houston Press archives for a taste of how things were. It’s just a shame that Stockman isn’t running in CD14, because a rematch with Nick Lampson, who mercifully ended Stockman’s Congressional career back in 1996, would be too awesome for words. An interview with Democratic candidate Max Martin is on my to do list for November.