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November 19th, 2009:

Stay away from Hotze

The following is a message from HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg:


Steven Hotze is a hatemonger.

For nearly twenty five years he has stoked the flames of bigotry in this community like no other local politico. In the mid-1980’s he masterminded the repeal of the City of Houston non-discrimination ordinance which had been enacted by Mayor Kathy Whitmire and the Houston City Council. The following year, he fielded a group of right wing zealots to run for City Council on the “Straight Slate.” Their platform consisted of unadulterated gay-baiting epitomized by the reply of their mayoral candidate to a question of what could be done about the AIDS epidemic: “Shoot the queers.” Hotze would not repudiate that response, nor the mayoral candidate who uttered it. Fortunately, they all lost.

Hotze continues vehemently to espouse his brand of extreme intolerance. For example, he regularly insists that the death penalty is fitting for homosexual conduct. And in 2008, he insisted, without one iota of evidence, that gays and lesbians were devoted to “recruiting sexually confused adolescents into their lifestyle.”

Hotze’s bigotry and extremism are not confined to homophobia. His anti-women beliefs are evidenced by his strident insistence that “a wife may work outside the home only with her husband’s consent.” And in 2008, he was reportedly behind the financing of a blatantly racist piece of campaign literature which depicted Barack Obama, Harold Dutton, Congressmember Sheila Jackson-Lee, and the Anglo Democratic candidate state legislature in House District 144, and an ominous line of black crows on a dead tree, with the caption “birds of a feather flock together.” Maybe he wasn’t the person who arranged financing for that shameful piece as has been suggested, but the political consultant with whom he has worked for years was the author of the flyer.

And Hotze is virulently anti-Obama and ardently anti-Democrats. He intently opposes health care reform. And on November 12, 2009, he sent an e-mail across Texas in which he disclosed his commitment to defeating Democratic state legislative candidates in the 2010 elections, asking, “Will we continue down the road of socialism, universal health care, and the leadership of Obama / Pelosi / Reid? Or will conservatives finally stand united and declare ‘Enough!’ in the face of economic and moral starvation?”

Anyone who is as dedicated to destroying the Democratic Party and crushing its candidates and unyieldingly opposed to the anti-discrimination principles of the Democratic Party as is Steven Hotze cannot be embraced by Democrats.

It has been reported that before the November election, more than one Democrat still running for city office in the December 12 runoff sought the support of Hotze or one of the gay-baiting groups with which he is associated. The Houston Chronicle has recently called on all candidates to repudiate the hateful and divisive rhetoric of these folks. (Do The Right Thing – It’s time to disavow the politics of discrimination and bgotry. Click here to read.)

I do, too.

Hotze did not endorse the Democratic mayoral candidate who sought his endorsement before November. Instead, he threw his support to the Republican in the race, Roy Morales. And the Democratic mayoral candidate who solicited Hotze’s help before November has publicly condemned the “divisive rhetoric” and “style of campaigning” Hotze has always embraced. Good for him.

But all candidates – judicial, city council, and mayor – take heed: whether in the December 12 runoff election, the March, 2010 primary election, or the November, 2010 general election, accepting support from anyone who, like Steven Hotze and the right wing extremist groups with whom he is associated, spews homophobic rhetoric, racial hatred, and intolerance, who would subjugate women to the dictates of their husbands, and who is working tirelessly to destroy the Obama administration, block heath care reform, and defeat Democratic legislative candidates would be anathema to Democrats and contrary to the cherished ideals for which we stand. Courting endorsement from such despicable individuals or groups – or failing unequivocally to repudiate and reject it should such support be unsolicitedly bestowed – would be reprehensible, condemnable, and utterly unacceptable to Democrats.

My Dad used to say, “You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” He was right.

Gerry Birnberg
Chair, Harris County Democratic Party
November 17, 2009

I could not agree more.

Courting the conservative voters

Conservative voters remain up for grabs in the Mayoral runoff, so both Annise Parker and Gene Locke were out at the Pachyderm Club on Tuesday looking to grab a few of them. I found this bit to be revealing:

Parker outlined her public safety initiative to allow any certified peace officer to respond to serious crime, regardless of jurisdiction. She also expressed support for the city’s affirmative action program, but got her loudest applause when she reiterated her pledge to not raise taxes.

“I have stated on a number occasions on the campaign trail that I don’t plan to raise taxes in this economy — that’s the wrong thing to do to struggling taxpayers and business.“ Parker said. “My pledge is not to raise the tax rate — certainly not in the near term. That’s not necessary.”

Locke recounted his East Texas roots, where his father was a farmer and his mother a school teacher, and introduced his wife of 27 years. He told the group he was a devout Christian who had raised five children.

“I’m not going to raise anybody’s property taxes. We’ve got to find a way to give property tax relief,” Locke said.

The voters who were at this forum spoke about “fiscal responsibility”, which is always a popular phrase among voters of all kinds of stripes. To me, being fiscally responsible means ensuring that you have the means to pay for the things you want and need. I have no idea how one can seek to lower taxes while simultaneously pledging to increase the size of the police force, which is not only the single largest line item in the budget already but has also been growing rapidly in recent years even without an increase in the number of officers, but it doesn’t sound fiscally responsible to me. It sounds like a path to deficits and cutbacks in other city services. Locke is painting himself into a corner here. Parker is leaving herself room to deal with reality. Which of these sounds more responsible to you? Mary Benton has more.

Texas to get Powerball

The Texas Lottery Commission is fixing to bring Powerball to Texas.

The commission unanimously voted to publish rules for the game for public comment. If the panel gives final approval to the rules early next year, the first Powerball ticket could be sold in Texas on Jan. 31.

Texas already is part of the Mega Millions multi-jurisdiction lottery game, and officials for years have discussed the idea of adding Powerball to the mix.

The two big games just recently reached an agreement to allow states to participate in both. Previously, states had to pick one or the other.

It was back in 2003 that the TLC approved Mega Millions, after being given the authority to join multi-state games by the Lege. Looking back through my archives, I don’t see why they demurred on Powerball at the time. It may be because its jackpots are not guaranteed as advertised and can be reduced if ticket sales do not reach the needed levels. That’s kind of a sore spot at the Lottery Commission.

One objection that was raised at the time and is being raised again is that Powerball will not bring in the millions of extra revenue that the TLC is projecting.

Lottery watchdog Dawn Nettles, who operates the Lotto Report Web site, predicted, “It’s going to kill (the state jackpot game) Lotto Texas.”

“They’re not going to get more money out of the players, because the people don’t have it to give,” Nettles said. “All they’re going to do is divide their money amongst the games.”

Rob Kohler, a consultant for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, said his group is most concerned about instant-win scratch tickets because they are impulse purchases.

He said that as a jackpot game, Powerball is “pretty benign.” He added, however, “We don’t think it will solve any of the budget problems or add any more money to the state.”

I think that at first, when Powerball is shiny and new, it will spur an increase in lottery revenues. Going forward, its ridiculously large jackpots may draw in more casual players. But I think Nettles has a point – I think a lot of Powerball’s sales will come from Texas Lotto players who have shifted their purchases from one game to the other. At the very least, I hope the TLC tried to include that likelihood in its models. Anyway, for those of you looking for the chance to throw away a few bucks on a one-in-147,000,000 chance, you’ll get it starting next January. We’ll see how much revenue for the state it really does generate.

KBH invokes the power of the Dark Lord

I just have one thing to say about this:

Firing another shot in an endorsement war that is pitting prominent national and state Republicans against each other, gubernatorial candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison landed her most prominent backer to date Tuesday when former Vice President Dick Cheney formally placed his name in her column.

“We Westerners know the difference between a real talker and the real deal,” Cheney told a small but noisy gathering in the Air Terminal Museum at Hobby Airport. “When it comes to being conservative, Kay Bailey Hutchison is the real deal.”

Remember when KBH was going to win the GOP primary by expanding its electorate with her appeal to independents and Democrats? Boy, those were the days. Funny how nobody talks about it any more, isn’t it?

Solar power for Houston hits a snag

Back in September, I noted a deal that the City of Houston was working on with a firm called NRG to build a solar plant that would supply some of the city’s power needs. This deal has apparently hit a snag because it is a 25-year deal.

The city generally doesn’t commit future taxpayer funds without some sort of oversight and approval, however, said spokesman Frank Michel. Future elected leaders don’t necessarily like being forced to pay for past administration’s decision should they go bad, so the city usually has a clause in long-term agreements that says they have to be reapproved on a year-by-year basis.

Michel said he doesn’t believe state law prohibits the city from making long-term commitments, “But it’s a precedent the mayor does not want to set.”

But NRG isn’t so comfortable with that uncertainty.

“NRG is unable to finance this project without the certainty of future payments under a power purchase agreement,” said NRG spokesman David Knox in an e-mail. In other words (not Knox’s) no company wants to build a $40 million project with just a single-year’s payment guaranteed.

Both sides say they want to do the project with each other, but this disagreement appears to be pretty fundamental to both sides.

Bummer. I hope they can work it out, but we’ll see.

Turning Texas blue the hard way

Obama campaign guru David Plouffe comes for a visit and gives his hope-y vision for Texas as a swing state.

[Plouffe] says Texas could soon become a swing state and drastically alter the landscape of state and national politics.

To that end, Plouffe is urging candidates to use the Obama model for winning elections, which involves heavy grass-roots organizing and the deft use of campaign volunteers.

Mastering technology, especially to network and raise money, also helps.

“We have to organize now, here in Texas,” Plouffe told about 300 people gathered at Deux Lounge at Mockingbird Station. “If we do that, we’ll win.”

From your lips to God’s ears, David. I’ll say this much, that’s far easier to do when there’s an Obama-like candidate to organize around. Be that as it may, that kind of trench work could make the difference in a lower-level state race, like for the Supreme Court or CCA, or maybe for an office like Railroad Commissioner. For races where one side will have millions of dollars available for TV advertising and other traditional forms of voter contact, I don’t think you’ll get very far until you can at least be in that same ballpark. Yes, I know, one of the points of all that grassroots organizing is to build a small-dollar donor network that can compete with the big-check writers. Again, I feel like this is more candidate-driven than anything else, and I don’t have any idea where that stands right now. I also feel that if putting Texas in play is a priority of the national party, they could give this effort a huge boost by bringing in some of their own folks to do some of this work. And maybe they are doing that and I’m just not aware of it. I guess what I’m looking for here is more specifics and less hopeyness. But this is what I’ve got.