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McCaul, Castro and O’Rourke Give Cornyn’s Senate Seat a Look

WASHINGTON — At least three members of the U.S. House are mulling a run for a possible U.S. Senate vacancy, should President Donald Trump appoint U.S. Sen. John Cornyn as the new FBI director.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, an Austin Republican, is one of those hopefuls for the would-be vacancy, along with Democratic U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio and Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.

“McCaul has put himself in a good position to be toward the top of the list of people who might succeed Sen. Cornyn,” a source close to McCaul told The Texas Tribune. “He’s built statewide name recognition and a political effort that could be quickly turned on for a statewide campaign for Senate.” 

There was a similar readout on the Democratic side.

“If there’s a special election called, Joaquin would strongly consider that,” a source close to Castro told the Tribune of a would-be Senate vacancy.

“He’s already running for Senate, and … if an election came up for a Texas [U.S.] Senate [seat] before that, he would undoubtedly look at it,” a source close to O’Rourke told the Tribune. “There’s no question he would take a look at it.”

O’Rourke is currently running against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, as the junior senator aims for a second term in 2018. The O’Rourke source did not elaborate on what these deliberations might mean for the 2018 race.

The Senate vacancy is a serious possibility: Cornyn met with his former Senate colleague, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on Saturday afternoon at the Department of Justice headquarters to interview for the job, according to news reports.

Should Cornyn leave the Senate, Gov. Greg Abbott would appoint a placeholder, and then the state would hold a special election several months later.

The political calculations for Castro and McCaul — both men of stature within their party caucuses who’ve mulled Senate runs in the past — are a little different. A special election would allow each man a free pass — a chance to run without vacating their House seats.

McCaul considered running for the Senate in 2012, and again last year in what would have been a primary challenge to Cruz. McCaul is chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, and he could be on deck for the gavel at the House Foreign Affairs Committee once he is term-limited out of his current leadership role.

Castro recently passed on a challenge to Cruz after a lengthy deliberation process.

In his previous deliberations, Castro had to weigh leaving behind his climbing rank within the U.S. House — he’s a deputy whip within his caucus, and he is racking up seniority as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

But more than anything, Castro in recent months has become a high-profile party spokesman on the investigation into the 2016 Russian cyberattacks on the U.S., thanks to his assignment on the House Intelligence Committee.

The positioning in the GOP field is highly volatile and involves a different calculation.

In the event of a vacancy, it is assumed Abbott would appoint a Republican, which could — or could not — clear the nomination field for the special election. Senate hopefuls are both gaming out who might be his pick, and whether that person would be a weak enough primary candidate to challenge in a special election.

Since Friday morning, political insiders across the state have weighed the different scenarios and contenders. But actual Republican contenders are fairly quiet — for the time being.

A key consideration for many GOP contenders is the 2012 Senate race. A number of high-profile Republicans passed on running for retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison‘s Senate seat, out of a fear of then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — only to see the once-unknown Ted Cruz take the nomination.

This could be a second chance for ambitious GOP politicians eyeing the Senate. And the same circumstances as Castro would also apply to Republicans: They can run in this special election without risking their current seats in the congressional delegation or in state government.

Despite the Democratic interest, this is still a likely hold for the Republicans. No Democrat has won a statewide race since 1994.

All the speculating aside, there are no assurances this race will come to pass: Cornyn is one of around a dozen serious contenders for the FBI post.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • U.S. Sen. John Cornyn could be the next FBI director, a White House official says. Cornyn is one of about 11 contenders for the post, according to a news report.
  • U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, has decided not to challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2018.

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON –  The Texas Tribune

U.S. Reps. Hurd, Castro Rally for Bipartisanship on the Border

During a “bipartisan, bilingual, binational” rally, U.S. Reps. Will Hurd and Joaquin Castro spoke out against President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

In sweltering heat, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd and the mayors of the border towns of Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña held hands — presumably sweaty ones — with residents from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border on Saturday. It was a gesture they hoped would represent the unity and interdependency between their cities.

About 150 people joined Hurd and the mayors in a “bilingual, binational, bipartisan” rally at the International Bridge, which connects both towns, in an event during which the Helotes Republican reaffirmed his position against President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Hurd said his time as a CIA officer taught him that “building a wall from sea to shining sea” is not going to secure communities. Rather, he said, working together “against your common threat” will make Mexico and the U.S. safer.

US Congressman William Hurd speaks during the Border Unity Rally on March 25, 2017 |  Marjorie Kamys Cotera
US Congressman William Hurd speaks during the Border Unity Rally on March 25, 2017 | Marjorie Kamys Cotera

“As the member of Congress who has the most border … this is a message I take to Washington,” he said. “I’ve been trying to bring my colleagues down to the border as well. A lot of folks who talk about the border have never seen the border.”

The border rally was billed as a “demonstration of unity” between both countries. Mayors Hector Arocha from Ciudad Acuña and Robert Garza from Del Río encouraged crowds on both sides of the border to remain supportive and understanding of each other.

An hour into the rally, most of the attendees walked part of the bridge and held hands, forming a human chain as mariachis played in the background.

While the human chain formed, crowd members joked about how this is the kind of barrier they want on the U.S.-Mexico border, instead of Trump’s proposed wall. After a few pictures, residents from both sides of the border shared paletas and drinks with the Rio Grande River and some U.S. Border Patrol pickup trucks in the background.

During his speech, Hurd said, in Spanish, that a lot of people who talk about the border don’t recognize or don’t realize that Ciudad Acuña and Del Río aren’t just two cities, but “a community.” He thanked U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, for being at the rally. Citing his famous road trip to Washington, D.C., with El Paso Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke earlier this month, Hurd said bipartisanship isn’t a “dirty word.”

“People are expecting us to focus on what unites us, not what divides us,” said Hurd, who returned to Texas this weekend after U.S. House

US Congressman Joaquin Castro speaks during the Border Unity Rally on March 25, 2017
US Congressman Joaquin Castro speaks during the Border Unity Rally on March 25, 2017

Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the American Health Care Act — the supposed GOP replacement from Obamacare — from consideration on Friday when there weren’t enough votes to pass it. “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Castro also emphasized the important relationship between Ciudad Acuña and Del Río. Trump’s criticisms of Mexican immigrants, he said, only hurt the relationship between both countries.

“This is a place that makes a big difference to our country and we have to make sure that people understand that the prosperity of our nations depends on the success of each other,” he said.

Garza, the Del Rio mayor, said the International Bridge brings $7 million annually in revenue for his city, mostly due to the trade partnership between Ciudad Acuña.

“It is my hope and desire that all of our efforts be focused on building bridges and not walls,” Garza said.

Read more

  • As the Trump Administration moves ahead with its plans for a barrier just north of the Rio Grande, Texans are weighing in on how the president should approach the project. And the ideas range from the comical to the practical.
  • U.S. Reps. Will Hurd and Beto O’Rourke — a Republican and a Democrat from Texas, respectively — arrived at the U.S. Capitol after a two-day trek from San Antonio that drew thousands of fans.

Meet Paige: Our new Facebook Messenger bot helps you keep track of the 85th Legislature. Subscribe by messaging HELLO to m.me/texastribune.org. Learn more.

Author:  MARIANA ALFARO – The Texas Tribune

Election 2016: Early Voting Begins; Info, Links and More

After what seems like years in the making, Borderland residents and their fellow Texans  can finally hit the polls starting Monday to let their voice be heard via early voting.

From the $668m dollar bond requested by El Paso ISD to the race for El Paso County Sheriff, voters have much more than just the Presidential Race to decide.

Critical to several of the smaller communities will be who will serve on the school boards and water boards, as those elected officials directly administer the monies collected via fees and taxes, leading to decisions directly effecting resident’s lives.

And even with just over 428,000 county residents registered to vote, if the past is any prologue, some of the races will be decided by less than 100 votes.

According to our news partner, The Texas Tribune, the local race between Congressman Will Hurd and Pete Gallego is one to watch, thanks to the GOP’s Presidential Candidate Donald Trump.

Trump’s down-ballot effect is getting the most attention in Texas in the 23rd Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, is locked in a heated rematch with Pete Gallego, a Democrat from Alpine. Democrats have long hoped that Gallego will prevail due to turnout in a presidential year — which tends to favor Democrats — and Trump’s toxicity in the sprawling district, which covers hundreds of miles of the Mexican border roughly between San Antonio and El Paso. 

Above all the candidates, speeches and promises, Texas voters also had to deal with the revised voter ID regulations, which led to confusion for some.  A simple informational article explains what voters need to bring to the polls to vote this year.

As for the information on ballots, voting locations and more, the El Paso County Elections Department has a one-stop-shop for all the information needed, and can be found HERE.

Early voting runs through November 4th, while Election day is set for November 8th.

Clinton and Trump are Night and Day, so Why are Some Texans Still Undecided?

For someone who has followed the 2016 presidential race since its earliest days, the concept of an undecided voter might be hard to fathom.

Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy on April 12, 2015. Donald Trump threw his “Make America Great Again” hat down the golden escalator of Trump Tower and into the ring two months later. Since then, each has spent tens of millions of dollars on ads, endured thousands of hours of television coverage and elicited millions of words from print outlets. What more information could a voter be waiting for?

To many undecided voters in Texas, that question misses the point.

“I really can’t see myself voting for either Trump or Hillary,” Lorena Reyna, 27, of Austin said.

A self-described business Republican who voted twice for President Obama, Reyna says her voting decisions are not primarily driven by ideology. She wants to vote for a candidate whose positions are logical, consistent and transparent.

Reyna is not alone.

Polling has shown that both Trump and Clinton are historically unpopular, and both have been criticized for changing positions on major issues.

Republican Larry Lanclos, 53, a contract agent for Doyle Land Services Inc., said he too wants a principled leader in the Oval Office. A Ted Cruz supporter in 2016, Lanclos said he’s troubled by how Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has emboldened his white nationalist supporters. Lanclos, a resident of Victoria, can’t see voting for Clinton “or probably any other Democrat.” He will probably leave the top of the ballot blank this November.

Some undecided voters are merely fed up with the two-party system.

Arlan Foster, 64, a retired law enforcement officer from Dayton who ran for the Texas House in 2008 as a Democrat, said he voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Texas Republican primary mainly to mess with the professional political class.

“I wanted to see what they were gonna do with that crazy bastard,” he said.

Foster said he liked Trump’s plainspoken rhetorical style but can’t see backing the billionaire in the general election. He says Trump is too unpredictable.

“He’s liable to be like Eisenhower, and we’ll be back doing the duck-and-cover drills,” he said. “If it wasn’t for that part, I don’t think anybody would have a problem with the guy.”

Samantha Davis, 36, who worked for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, said the Democrats and Republicans often failttqtt to address the concerns of nonpartisan citizens.

“Texas is largely independent. It’s populist,” the independent Cedar Park progressive said. “We’re a nonvoting state. Both parties need to work a lot harder if they want to represent us.”

Davis has written off Trump, but she’s struggling to choose between Clinton, whom she doesn’t trust, and Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate.

Many undecided voters expressed frustration at the personal attacks that have dominated the campaign’s news coverage.

Linda Curtis, who helped found Independent Texans, a PAC that champions independent candidates and causes important to the state’s unaffiliated voters, called the 2016 race a “slugfest.”

“Independent voters I know are like, ‘Gee, could we have a conversation?’” she said.

Fernando Martinez, a student at the University of Texas-El Paso, said he finds it hard to choose between Clinton, who he said is widely painted as a “liar,” and Trump, often called a “racist.” Martinez, a moderate, said he is leaning toward Clinton because of Trump’s harsh immigration proposals but remains undecided.

Some in Texas vote strategically, believing that the solidly red state is unlikely to turn a different color any time soon.

Independent Jeff Harper, 55, a real estate agent from Fort Worth, said he “shops the ballot,” sometimes throwing votes to third parties to support their future ballot access.

Lanclos said he would “have to think a lot harder” if he lived in a swing state where his vote were more likely to tip the balance away from Clinton. Davis said she’d probably vote for Clinton if Texas were close.

Reyna said when she votes, the horse race is not a factor.

“I don’t like the fearmongering around having to make a choice between the two,” she said. “I really would like to live in a country where both were great. Or decent.”

Read more of the Tribune’s coverage of the 2016 presidential election:

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Clobbered in the Northeast, Trump Claims “Presumptive Nominee”

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz lost all five states that held primaries Tuesday, an expected string of defeats that nonetheless put frontrunner Donald Trump closer to the nomination.

As soon as polls closed Tuesday night, the billionaire was projected to win three of the states: Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Similar outcomes were soon projected for Delaware and Rhode Island.

With well over half the vote in in all five states, Cruz was solidly in third place in four of them, trailing Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The lone exception was Pennsylvania, where Cruz was placing second with 21 percent, two points ahead of Kasich.

Cruz has already moved on from the Northeast, going all in on the next primary, which is being held May 3 in Indiana. At a rally in the Hoosier State as Tuesday’s results were coming in, Cruz acknowledged Trump was “expected to have a good night” and dismissed what he said would be a rush by the media to crown Trump the nominee.

“The media has told us the candidates in this race, the Republican and the Democrat, they’re both going to be New York liberals, but I’ve got good news for you: Tonight this campaign moves back to more favorable terrain,” Cruz told supporters inside Knightstown’s Hoosier Gym, best known for its role in the iconic basketball movie of the same name. “Tonight, this campaign moves back to Indiana and Nebraska and North Dakota and Montana and Washington and California.”

Appearing in New York to claim his sweep, Trump declared the race effectively over, calling himself the presumptive nominee. The billionaire also reiterated his criticism of the deal Cruz and Kasich have struck to split three upcoming primaries, calling it a “very weak signal.” Trump also spoke dismissively of Cruz’s increasingly public search for a running mate, saying the senator is “wasting his time.”

Cruz had entered Tuesday expecting a series of defeats, telling audiences as far back as a week ago that it would likely be another successful election day for Trump. In the run-up to the primaries, he had largely written off three of the five states, instead focusing on Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In Maryland, with 64 percent of the vote in, Cruz was coming in third with 19 percent and on track to collect zero delegates. The results were less clear in Pennsylvania, where Cruz’s campaign was hoping to have a significant amount of supporters among the 54 uncommitted delegates the state will send to the GOP’s national convention in Cleveland.

The one place where Cruz stood a chance of winning committed delegates was Rhode Island. By cracking 10 percent statewide and in one out of two congressional districts, he was on track to score three delegates.

Cruz is scheduled to continue campaigning Wednesday in Indiana, with a retail stop scheduled for the morning and a rally for the evening in Indianapolis. He is expected to spend much of time in the Hoosier State between now and its primary.

Author: Patrick Svitek – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues

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