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October 24th, 2004:

Penultimate weekend Congressional roundup

Links for the Congressional race fan:

Here’s the Chron on Edwards versus Wohlgemuth, Lampson versus Poe, and Stenholm versus Neugebauer Notice any prominent local races missing? Yeah, me too. Here’s something from the first article that is a theme in just about all of these stories.

Arlene Wohlgemuth isn’t part of the Bush-Cheney ticket, but she doesn’t mind if voters in the 17th Congressional District think she is.

Much of her campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards in the district that President Bush calls home is built around the theme that she and Bush are partners.

“In Congress, she will work with President Bush to enact their shared vision for America,” promises one of her television ads.

In pretty much all of the tight Texas races, the main thrust of the campaign on the GOP side seems to be “Vote for me, I’m the Republican, I’ll do whatever George Bush (more accurately, Tom DeLay) tells me to do.” Nothing about their qualifications, their ideas, their experiences, or their independence – certainly not the latter. Nope, they’re rubber stamps and they’re proud of it. I suppose that’s good strategy in districts that lean GOP, but I think it says a lot about where the Republican Party is these days and what you can expect of it.

The Express News has a fairly boilerplate story about the Anglo Texas Democrats. This is worth a chuckle:

Two of [the state’s 10 Anglo Democrats in Congress] — Reps. Gene Green of Houston and Lloyd Doggett of Austin — look like solid bets for re-election.

Given that Gene Green has no Republican opponent on the ballot, I’d say he’s pretty darned solid. You can draw your own conclusions as to what this pairing means about Becky Klein’s candidacy.

The Morning News updates us on the money race in Frost versus Sessions and notes that both candidates have made an issue of Smoky Joe Barton. They also say that Stenholm is gaining on Neugebauer.

The Star Telegram continues its thorough coverage of all races by looking at the new CD24 and CD06. Gotta love a story that notes the nickname Smoky Joe.

To cap or not to cap

The Chron has a long article on the pros and cons of the two big city propositions on the ballot this year. I’ve expressed my concerns about Props 1 and 2 before, and I’ve got a long list of them. Here’s the one I’m thinking about today:

“What TABOR has meant for Colorado is a dramatic reduction in the kinds and amounts of public services the state has been able to provide for its citizens,” said Carol Hedges, director of the fiscal project at the Bell Policy Center, a Colorado group that opposes TABOR.

Hedges said Colorado voters sent a clear message in 2000 that TABOR wasn’t working by exempting kindergarten-to-12th-grade education funding from the revenue cap. She said because of spiraling costs, TABOR didn’t allow school funding to grow adequately.

Hedges said TABOR has caused Colorado to be hit much harder by the recent recession because of a ratchet-down effect: Since 2001, state revenues have fallen below the limit established by TABOR.

This means Colorado’s spending is falling behind population growth and inflation, because future revenue caps are calculated on the basis of lower revenues.

According to the Bell Policy Center, TABOR has forced Colorado to eliminate state funding for public health facilities, putting the entire funding burden on local governments; to lay off 100 judicial employees including 50 probation officers; to cut park funding by 54 percent; and to cut library funding by 79 percent.

“The debate in Houston should be about what services the citizens want cut,” Hedges said.

That’s pretty much how I see it, that both of these propositions will to some extent change the debate from “what should we fund?” to “what must we cut?” regardless of needs or resources. Oh, sure, there’s a mechanism to allow for an exception, but I doubt it’ll ever get used. Requiring a public vote is an expensive proposition, and who’s going to want to push for that when funds are tight anyway? Obviously, some people will see this kind of framing as a good thing. All I can say to you is that we fundamentally disagree.

Since Colorado was brought up as an example of how this kind of cap works in practice, I’ll note that Colorado Luis and the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network have many things to say about that state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Check it out.

All that said, given that there’s no high-profile, well-funded opposition to these propositions (other than each to the other), I must reluctantly conclude that my best bet is to vote for Prop 1 and against Prop 2. I’d prefer that neither would pass, but I strongly suspect that in reality both will, and given that, I want Prop 1 to have more votes since under that scenario only it would take effect. Do remember that if you vote a straight ticket, you still have to vote separately on the city propositions. You don’t want to miss out on this.

Statesman and Chron endorse Bush

The Statesman and the Chronicle gave President Bush a clean sweep of Texas major newspaper endorsements today. I’m not surprised by this – in fact, I predicted it. I simply never expected any of the major Texas dailies to hold Bush accountable for any of his screwups. The cognitive dissonance would be too great for them.

I understand that a lot of people in Austin are mad about the Statesman endorsement. Democracy for Texas is apparently holding an impromptu anti-Statesman rally today (see Sarah for details; the DFT email is below the fold). I say don’t get mad, get even. The best revenge you can take is to do whatever you can to see to it that John Kerry carries Travis, Harris, Dallas, and Bexar counties. Make those newspapers realize that they’re the ones who are out of touch. Put up a yard sign, knock on doors, drive someone to the polls, it doesn’t matter. Take action and make a difference. There’s no excuse.

(One point to note: The DFT mail is incorrect when it says that Bush “didn’t carry Austin the last time”. Bush won a plurality of Travis County votes with 45%, thanks in large part to the 10% share that Ralph Nader got – Al Gore finished with 41%. I don’t care how red Texas is – your vote matters. Make the right choice.)

Finally, some kudos to Texas papers that do get it: The Waco Tribune (via Byron), the Baytown Sun (via Tom), and of course, the Lone Star Iconoclast. Let me know if I missed any.

UPDATE: Lasso has a report on the protest, along with a picture. Another picture is here, currently on the Statesman homepage.