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August 2nd, 2010:

Houston Votes kickoff party

Houston Votes, which is well on its way towards its goal of registering 100,000 new voters in Harris County for this election, is having a party and you’re invited.

Houston Votes Kickoff Party

RSVP here. Drink specials, no cover, and cool people. Come out and have a good time.

Interview with Ted Ankrum

Ted Ankrum

Not a whole lot of Congressional action in Harris County this year, as no Democrat ran in CDs 02, 07, and arguably 22. The one race to watch is in CD10, where Ted Ankrum takes another crack at Rep. Mike McCaul. Ankrum had previously run in 2006, where his modestly funded campaign showed that the district was potentially competitive, as McCaul topped out at 55%. With a signature local issue to focus on as well as all of the national stuff we’re familiar with, there was a lot to talk about. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Gambling industry support

The DMN has an interesting story about gambling industry players making large campaign finance contributions, but there’s some context missing.

A review by The Dallas Morning News of contributions since last July shows horse track interests have poured more than $4.2 million into campaigns and special committees.

That would average about $23,000 per lawmaker in the House and Senate, with the traditional surge of donations closer to the November election yet to come.

The News identified 33 horse track investors and those who have applied to become owners as substantial givers. They cover the political spectrum and are pushing other agendas before the Legislature in addition to gambling.

Included in this amount is Steve Mostyn and the $1.4 million it says he’s contributed so far. I’m wondering what the DMN’s parameters for this search was, since I know Mostyn contributed to a number of Harris County judicial candidates in the primary. Mostyn says in the article that his primary concern is getting Democrats elected, and I take him at his word on that, but even if you don’t a lot of his money is not going to legislative campaigns, or is going to general interest PACs. I ran a TEC query on Mostyn’s name, with a range of July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. Initially, I found $1.47 million in contributions. Taking out money he gave to the Coalition of Harris County Democratic Elected Officials and judicial candidates such as Amy Clark Meachum leaves $1.2 million. He’s also given significant amounts to Texans for Insurance Reform ($170K), the HDCC ($100K), and the Texas Forward Committee ($30K), all of which will be supporting candidates who may or may not ultimately vote for a gambling bill. There’s the Back to Basics PAC, to which he’s given over $300K. A few thousand more has gone to Bill White, and to people who are on their way out of the Lege, such as Norma Chavez and Eliot Shapleigh. If I add up his total contributions to current legislators and legislative candidates, it comes out to just short of $400K. That’s a lot of money, to be sure, but a whole lot less than $1.4 million. As such, that $4.2 million figure cited above is overstated by at least a million dollars, and maybe quite a bit more.

Duane Galligher, spokesman for the Texas Gaming Association, said that group is pushing for legislation that would allow destination resort casinos in Texas, not just slots at existing tracks. It also supports gambling rights for the state’s three recognized American Indian tribes.

[…]

Despite financial hardships for tracks and the lagging economy, early donations show horse track owners have upped the ante compared with the entire 2004 election cycle.

A study by Texans for Public Justices, a nonprofit campaign watchdog, showed track owners gave $3.6 million in 2004 elections, compared with this year’s $4.2 million.

Galligher’s group has a political committee, but so far has raised little money and made only a handful of contributions.

But two years ago, the Texas Gaming Association made large contributions closer to the general election.

“By and large, I’m not at liberty to state what our plans are, but we do intend to participate in the political process,” he said.

I presume the $3.6 million for 2004 represented the entire cycle, and not just the period ending June 30. Even if you don’t discount that $4.2 million as I just did, the final total would need to be considerably higher than $3.6 million – I’m thinking at least $6 million – just to keep up with the inflation rate for legislative campaigns. So again, while we are talking about a lot of money, it’s not as much as it first appears. Having said that, adding in whatever the Texas Gaming Association does could easily change that.

Another question to ask is are these interests giving to their usual supporters, or are they reaching out to those that have voted against them in the past? In addition, how much are they giving to candidates who are running against known gambling opponents, and how much are they giving to candidates who are seeking to fill open seats? I mean, if all they’re doing is writing bigger checks to the people who are already on their side of this issue, how much does that really matter?

The immigration wedge issue for the GOP

I have three things to say about this story.

Evangelical ministers in Texas and across the nation are splitting off from the hard right, declaring immigration reform is needed that includes a path to citizenship without first deporting millions of illegal immigrants.

That aligns evangelicals with conservative Republican businessmen who want reform because they want the labor. But it puts the evangelicals at odds with the fiscal and hard right conservatives who take the position that illegal immigrants broke the law and should be deported before being given a chance to re-enter the country.

“It may split the old conservative coalition. It’s not going to split the new one,” said Richard Land, a Houston native who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“If the conservative coalition is going to be a governing coalition, it’s going to have to include an awful lot of Hispanics, and you’re not going to bring an awful lot of Hispanics into your coalition with anti-Hispanic immigration rhetoric,” Land said.

I’ll stipulate that President Obama has been a disappointment on immigration reform. I’ll stipulate that too many Democrats have been lily-livered and just plain wrong on this issue, to the point of using the crazy as cover to tack right on the issue. But look, if even ten percent of the GOP caucus in Congress were willing to vote for a comprehensive immigration reform plan, it would be damn near a slam dunk. Hell, if the GOP Senators would just agree to not filibuster, that would almost surely be enough. They might have even gained yardage with Latinos if they had adopted a non-obstructive strategy. It’s not hard to imagine the Democrats taking months dithering and negotiating with themselves and dealing with hostage takers as they did with health care reform before finally putting forward a weak-kneed, compromise-laden kludge that nobody really liked but they owned 100%. The Republicans didn’t need to lead on this, they just needed to get the hell out of the way. So while I applaud Land and his fellow evangelicals for their words, until such time as they call out the Republicans for their intransigence, especially the so-called “moderates” from Maine and Massachusetts and the heinous flip-floppers McCain and Graham, it’s all just words, and they mean very little. Calling out the racists and the liars would be nice, too.

Bill Hammond, president of the Republican-leaning Texas Association of Business, said the state’s businesses need the foreign workers, especially in hospitality, agriculture and construction.

Immigration, Hammond said, is an issue that’s “dividing us from our traditional friends. We would cross swords on this one.”

Again, this is a matter of all talk and no action. Hammond and his cronies could have found and supported a primary opponent for the likes of Leo Berman and Debbie Riddle, if they really meant to “cross swords”. Put some of your considerable financial resources where your yap is, Bill, and then I’ll give you some credibility on this matter.

And speaking of crazy Leo:

Berman said he believes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is a path to creating Democratic voters.

“There’s 25 million in the United States – you can’t listen to the 8 million to 12 million numbers that come out of Washington every day – you’re going to create an instant 25 million Democrats,” Berman said.

“I don’t think these evangelical leaders understand that.”

Actually, I thought Richard Land addressed that point pretty clearly, but whatever. Leo’s not about the facts anyway, as you can see. But I agree he’s right that most undocumented immigrants would vote Democratic if they were allowed to vote. Berman has himself and others like him to blame for that, as they have done all they can to make the GOP as warm and welcoming of immigrants in general and Latinos in particular as they’ve been of blacks, gays, and unmarried women. Funny how these things work, isn’t it?

The retirees of Collin County

I too think of Collin County as a place that primarily attracts young people with its cheap real estate and all, but apparently that’s quite attractive to older folks, too.

Affordable living, jobs and a Sun Belt climate have made Texas one of the most attractive states for baby boomers. As America’s “first suburban generation” ages, cities are scrambling to accommodate them.

Collin County will feel one of the greatest effects in the region, with its senior population more than doubling in the next decade. But the county – known for its youth rather than its elderly – already struggles with transportation, health care and affordable housing for its seniors. Cities that fail to reshuffle priorities, experts say, face strapped social services, budget pitfalls, disgruntled residents and tarnished images.

“For the most part, communities are not planning as well as they should be,” said Doni Van Ryswyk, aging program manager at the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ Area Agency on Aging. “There’s a whole host of challenges in terms of infrastructure, livable communities and adequate transportation providers for people who are no longer able to drive.

“Even though Collin and Denton counties are relatively wealthy, there are portions that are already designated health professional shortages. That’s only going to get worse as the population ages.”

To say the least, Collin County is chintzy about public health. One presumes that sooner or later, something’s gotta give. In the meantime, this is an interesting trend to keep an eye on.