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Home | Tag Archives: texas gop

Tag Archives: texas gop

Analysis: Is Texas political sentiment changing?

The number of registered voters in the state today — 16,211,198 — is about the size of the state’s entire population in 1990.

This is not the same place it was, in lots of ways.

That Texas was making a turn from midcentury to modern, a transition captured in some ways by the race for governor between Ann Richards, who was talking about “a New Texas,” where people who weren’t white and male could participate in politics and business and culture on an equal basis, and Clayton Williams, the Midland oilman who died last week, whose appeal was to return Texas to a nostalgic idea about the good old days.

The Texas we’re living in now has almost twice the population of the Texas those two sought to govern. Still, Texas politics then and Texas politics now have something in common: uncertainty.

In 1990, Texas was in transition. Democrats had the majority of the seats in state government, but their power was eroding quickly and the political pendulum was swinging to the Republicans. When the elections were over, Richards had won, along with fellow Democrats in most of the other statewide seats. But Republicans won some, too, including Phil Gramm, reelected to the U.S. Senate, and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry, who beat Democrats to become treasurer and agriculture commissioner.

In 2020, the Republican hold on state government that began in the 1990s is beginning to shrink; in 2018, Democrats snatched two congressional seats from the GOP, along with a dozen seats in the Texas House. On top of that, the Republicans who swept into statewide offices won by tighter margins than usual. The current election cycle is an acid test of sorts — to determine whether 2018 was a sign that the pendulum is moving again, or whether it was just one of those things.

The most recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found more evidence of deep divisions between Democratic and Republican voters on guns, immigration, refugee resettlement, income equality, health care and public education. And it revealed some potential weaknesses at the top of the Republican ticket.

Texans remain split when asked whether President Donald Trump should be reelected, with 48% saying they’ll vote for him again (40% said “definitely) and 52% saying they will not (including 47% who said “definitely not). In hypothetical head-to-head matchups with some of the Democrats seeking their party’s nomination, Trump was in front every time. But not by much: His margins in those trial heats ranged from 2 to 5 percentage points — not the strong advantage a sitting Republican president might expect in what has been a solid Republican state.

It’s not all roses and chocolates for the Democrats, either. In a U.S. Senate race that has attracted a dozen contestants, MJ Hegar — the best known candidate — remains unknown to 69% of self-identified Democratic primary voters. Only 31% said they have heard of her, and the numbers were worse for her opponents in that primary. Not surprisingly, most Democrats said they haven’t picked a candidate in that race; pressed to say how they would vote if they had to, 28% looked at the list and said “someone else,” and 6% refused to say what they’d do.

Not everything was uncertain in the UT/TT Poll. Texans think property taxes are too high. Large majorities of every subgroup — Democrats, Republicans, women, men, educated and not, and so on — said criminal and mental health background checks should be required for all gun sales, including at gun shows and between private parties.

And if you accept the idea that the electorate isn’t unanimous, the viewpoints of Democrats and Republicans remain fairly certain as well. A majority of Republicans, for instance, list either border security or immigration as the most important problem facing the state, following a pattern revealed in earlier surveys. Democrats put political corruption/leadership at the top of the problem list, followed by health care.

Likewise, Democratic voters in Texas remain unhappy with the health care system, while 55% of Republicans say they’re satisfied with it. That, too, is a familiar pattern.

Some of those issues were around in different forms when Richards was beating Williams in 1990. And that election clarified a lot of speculation about the state’s changing politics. The 2020 elections promise to do the same thing — to show whether Texas politics are becoming more competitive, or changing in some other way. To test, in short, whether 2018 was just one of those things.

Author: ROSS RAMSEY –  The Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: If you’d like an email notice whenever we publish Ross Ramsey’s column, click here.

Disclosure: The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Texas Republicans Mostly Outraising Opponents in Key State Races

Republicans largely outraised their Democratic challengers this summer in the most closely watched races for statewide offices and the Texas Legislature, according to the latest fundraising reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.

But a handful of exceptions — including the challengers to Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Attorney General Ken Paxton — highlight some bright spots for Democrats in certain races.

Tuesday was the deadline for state-level candidates to report their campaign finances for the period covering July 1 through Sept. 27. Here are a few highlights:

Statewide races

Miller’s opponent, Kim Olson, took in $131,000 to his $25,000 — a paltry sum for a statewide officeholder that came from only 13 donations. Paxton’s rival, Justin Nelson, hauled in $1.1 million to $488,000 for the attorney general.

Olson ended the period with more cash on hand than Miller had, $162,000 to $53,000. Paxton retained an advantage in that category over Nelson, leaving $4.3 million in the bank to Nelson’s $1.7 million. Paxton nonetheless saw his balance go down significantly after unloading over $3 million for TV advertising.

Meanwhile, at the top of the ticket, Gov. Greg Abbott continued to dominate Democratic opponent Lupe Valdez in the money race. His bank account stood at $26.8 million after raising $5.7 million, while Valdez’s balance came in at $303,000 after taking in $680,000.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was also far ahead of his Democratic foe, Mike Collier, raising $1.6 million to Collier’s $396,000 and maintaining a far larger war chest.

Texas Senate races

In what is widely regarded as the most competitive Texas Senate district in the state, state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, posted a much larger haul than her opponent, Democrat Beverly Powell, $1.1 million to $440,000. Yet most of Burton’s haul came via six-figure assistance from three sources: Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, the political arm of the tort reform group; Empower Texans PAC, the hard-line conservative group; and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility PAC, a new entity affiliated with Empower Texans.

Burton also reported a cash-on-hand advantage — $489,000 compared to Powell’s $447,000.

Powell pounced on Burton’s funding sources in a statement Wednesday, touting that the Democrat “substantially outraised Konni Burton in Tarrant County by over a 4-to-1 margin and reported nearly 5 times the number of Tarrant County donations.”

Two other Republican state senators whose seats are viewed as in play this cycle — Don Huffines of Dallas and Joan Huffman of Houston — also outraised their Democratic challengers but not nearly by as large a margin as Burton.

Huffines, who represents a district where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in 2016, raised $412,000 and reported having $491,000 cash on hand. (His largest contribution was a $100,000 donation from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility PAC). Nathan Johnson, his opponent, raised $248,000 and has $317,000 cash on hand.

Huffman, on the other hand, has a smaller cash advantage over her opponent, Rita Lucido. The incumbent reported raising $248,000 compared to Lucido’s $185,000. And a large chunk of Huffman’s haul came from Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, which donated $100,000 — roughly one-third of all the money she raised this past quarter.

Texas House races

A majority of House Republicans locked in competitive re-election battles outraised their Democratic challengers.

In North Texas, state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, raked in $278,000 to Democrat Julie Johnson’s $188,000 — a vast improvement for the incumbent after he was outraised by an almost 3-to-1 margin earlier this year. Most of Rinaldi’s haul came from Empower Texans while Johnson had big-dollar in-kind contributions from Annie’s List and Texans for Insurance Reform. Rinaldi ended the period by maintaining his cash advantage with $287,000 to Johnson’s $251,000.

Other GOP incumbents in Dallas County — an area Democrats are heavily targeting this cycle — also came out on top in the latest money haul, including state Reps. Linda Koop of Dallas, Angie Chen Button of Richardson and Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie.

Democrats, meanwhile, posted higher fundraising numbers in a few state House races, including state Rep. Victoria Neave’s re-election bid. The Dallas Democrat raked in $165,000 to Republican Deanna Maria Metzger’s $112,000. Neave got a $30,000 boost from the House Democratic Campaign Committee, while Metzger was aided by support from Empower Texans and Abbott’s campaign. Neave ended the period with $115,000 to Metzger’s $40,000.

Democrats also reported fundraising advantages in races for two open seat currently held by Republicans. In House District 114, Democrat John Turner outraised Lisa Luby Ryan, who defeated state Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas in this year’s Republican primary. And in Central Texas, Democrat James Talarico outraised Republican Cynthia Flores, both of whom are vying to replace retiring state Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock in House District 52.

Disclosure: Texans for Lawsuit Reform has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


How Texas Democrats Lost a State Senate Seat Amid Talk of a Blue Wave

Republican Pete Flores’ upset victory in a Democratic-friendly Texas Senate district Tuesday night has spurred GOP jubilation and Democratic soul-searching with less than two months until the November elections.

“All this talk about a ‘blue wave’? Well, the tide is out,” Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick proclaimed at Flores’ election night party in San Antonio.

Flores beat Democrat Pete Gallego, a former U.S. representative, by 6 percentage points in the special election runoff for Senate District 19, where state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, resigned earlier this year after 11 felony convictions. The win made Flores the first Hispanic Republican in the Texas Senate and grew the GOP majority there to 21 members, a key addition as the caucus heads toward November looking to retain its supermajority.

Democrats moved quickly Tuesday night to blame Gov. Greg Abbott for scheduling the special election at a time when turnout was expected to be low and would favor his party. But they were nonetheless demoralized Wednesday, trying to figure out how they let a valuable seat flip in a district where Uresti repeatedly won re-election by double digits and that Hillary Clinton carried by 12 in 2016.

Gallego’s campaign said that at the end of the day, it was not able motivate its voters as much as Flores did.

“Our investment was in the grassroots and trying to increase the number of Democratic voters in the densest precincts where people hadn’t turned out and trying to cut through the clutter of all the other campaigns going on targeting November … and it proved to be a lot more difficult to get people tuned in to the fact that an incredibly important race was happening today,” Gallego strategist Christian Archer said.

The relative enthusiasm for Flores was evident in the district’s biggest Republican counties — places like Medina County, where he routed Gallego with 80 percent of the vote. Flores’ margins in the red counties were more than enough to offset Gallego’s advantage in vote-rich Bexar County, which gave Gallego a modest 54 percent of the vote.

Flores’ campaign said it benefited from a number of factors throughout the race, starting with the deep Democratic divide that unfolded as Gallego battled state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, ahead of the eight-way July 31 special election. Gutierrez, who won Bexar County then, never endorsed Gallego in the runoff, and on Wednesday, the two sides had different accounts of how much of an effort, if any, Gallego made to court Gutierrez.

But Flores also had to prove himself within his own party and emerge as the consensus candidate on July 31, when two other, lesser-known Republicans were on the ballot. Flores pulled that off with just days to spare, earning late endorsements from a who’s who of top Texas Republicans, starting with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and then Patrick, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Abbott.

“We knew that if we could get in the runoff, we’d have additional help because the stakes would be clear … and the value of winning would be obvious,” said Matt Mackowiak, Flores’ consultant.

The 11th-hour endorsements helped propel Flores from third place in early voting to first place in Election Day ballots — and a decisive first overall on July 31. Still, Democrats insisted the district remained bright blue, noting their four candidates combined for 59 percent of the vote and the three Republicans netted 40 percent. In a statement on Election Night, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said it was clear “working Texans are overwhelmingly choosing Democrats to represent their interests.”

In the runoff, the high-ranking support proved vital — especially that of Patrick, who tapped his campaign account to the tune of nearly $175,000 to help Flores with mail, polling and ads. Gallego had some deep-pocketed donors, but nothing like the campaign machinery that Flores was able to import with Patrick’s aid.

There was an also a united front of political action committees assisting Flores, including groups like the Associated Republicans of Texas and Empower Texans — two outfits that were bitterly at odds during the primaries and runoffs earlier this year. The anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life got involved especially early, running digital ads that sought to disqualify Gallego among socially conservative Hispanic voters in the district.

One of the biggest differences between the two campaigns was media spending. Flores got a significant head start on radio ads — beating Gallego to the airwaves by at least a week. And Flores went on TV, while Gallego never did. Archer defended that decision Wednesday, saying he did not view it as an effective use of money in a district like SD-19 compared to, for example, investing in an aggressive field program.

In their ads and elsewhere, the campaigns took divergent approaches to messaging. Gallego put forward a largely positive pitch about being the safe, reliable choice — “I Trust Pete” was the slogan — while Flores was not afraid to hammer attacks, airing radio and TV ads seeking to tie Gallego to Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi.

Gallego’s loss was not for a lack of money. While he depleted his campaign funds clashing with Gutierrez, he was able to replenish considerably and had much more cash on hand — $153,000 — than Flores did eight days out. That figure left some political observers wondering Tuesday night if he had left serious money unspent, but Archer said the campaign burned through the cash it had — as well as that which it raised — in the final days, ending the race with less than $15,000 in the bank.

The early voting period, which was from Sept. 10-14, held encouraging signs for Flores. Most of the biggest increases in early vote turnout over total turnout for the July 31 election occurred in counties where Flores had bested Gallego, according to an analysis by the website Texas Election Source.

At the end of the day, the race saw the largest percentage increase in turnout from a special election to a special election runoff in four years, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Still, Democrats pointed the finger at Abbott for calling the special election at a time that guaranteed there would be much lower overall turnout than if he had placed it on the November ballot. In an election night statement, Hinojosa, the state Democratic Party chairman, said Abbott “stole an election, plain and simple … denying the people of West Texas and the U.S. Mexico border representation that shares their values.”

Abbott spokesman John Wittman fired back in a statement: “When it comes to stealing things in SD 19, I’d expect that Texas Democrats, under the leadership of convicted felon state senator Carlos Uresti, know what they are talking about. However, the reason this was the biggest increase in turnout between a runoff and a special election in four years was because Col. Flores, whose life has been dedicated to law enforcement, focused on issues that matter to Texans.”

With Flores, there are now 21 Senate Republicans, giving the party breathing room as it approaches the November elections with as many as three GOP seats in play. That means Republicans can lose two of those seats and still have the 19 members required to bring legislation to the floor without Democratic support.

The value of the SD-19 pickup was not lost on the caucus, which issued a first-of-its-kind unanimous endorsement of Flores about two weeks into the runoff.

“The Republican caucus has never had 21 members until today, so that’s a two-thirds majority,” said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, who chairs the caucus. “That’s a huge advantage on passing legislation like property tax reform.”

Some Republicans also saw Tuesday night as a harbinger for the 23rd Congressional District, a perennial swing district that Gallego once represented in Congress and that overlaps much of SD-19. U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, is fighting for re-election there in November against Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who was on hand Tuesday night as Gallego addressed his supporters.

“The Resistance collided with reality tonight in SD19,” Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. “Nobody should be more worried about this Republican blowout than liberal Gina Ortiz Jones, whose chances in TX-23 are growing dimmer by the day.”

Jones’ campaign echoed other Democrats in saying Abbott scheduled the special election “to beat what’s coming in November” — and dismissed the notion her chances had decreased.

“We’re seeing it on the ground every day on our campaign—voters are excited about opportunity, excited about change and excited to vote for Gina on November 6,” Jones spokeswoman Noelle Rosellini said in a statement.

Disclosure: The Texas Secretary of State’s Office has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Texas GOP Convention Finds Unity on Trump, but Intraparty Tensions Still Flare

SAN ANTONIO — Texas Republicans may love Donald Trump, but they are still working out their differences with one another.

That was evident during here at the state GOP’s convention, a three-day marathon of presidential bear-hugging and flashes of intraparty resentments ahead of a November election where nearly every statewide official —as well as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — is on the ballot again. The biennial gathering, which brought close to 10,000 delegates to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, was headlined by a race for chairman that culminated in a long, bitter battle on the floor Friday afternoon.

At one point in the stormy session, delegate Terry Holcomb appeared to give voice to the mounting frustrations that Cindy Asche, who was challenging Chairman James Dickey, and her supporters were damaging the party by forging forward despite the numbers being clearly stacked against them.

“This sounds like something Hillary Clinton would do,” Holcomb said, earning loud cheers. “We hear speech after speech about unity, and here we are doing the most divisive thing possible. We’re gonna burn down the party so she can be queen of the ashes.”

The convention’s final day of speeches Saturday was highlighted by Cruz, R-Texas, no stranger to intraparty warring. But he referenced the chair race — as well as the March primaries — while pleading with Republicans to set aside their differences for November.

“As passionate as you may be — maybe your candidate won, maybe your candidate lost — but at this point, I don’t care,” Cruz said. “We need unity.”

Texas Republicans at least found common ground in their embrace of the president — a less unifying figure at the last convention, which came days after Cruz ended his bruising battle against Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. The 2018 gathering, by contrast, was overflowing with odes to the president.

“Is he awesome or what?” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked delegates Friday in his speech, which he briefly paused to record a video for Trump of the crowd wishing him a happy belated birthday. Patrick, who chaired Trump’s campaign in Texas after Cruz withdrew, also used his speech to hail Trump as the Babe Ruth of presidents, “knocking it out of the park every single day.”

Virtually any elected official who has been praised on camera by Trump showed it off in videos that played before they spoke. That included U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who presented delegates with an updated version of his infamous “Big John” ad from 2008 that played up his closeness to “Big Don.”

And while Cruz kept his speech focused on GOP accomplishments under Trump more than the man himself, he nonetheless put the stakes of his own re-election bid in a dire context for presidential diehards. If Democrats take back Congress, Cruz warned, the day Nancy Pelosi is sworn in as House speaker “is the day impeachment proceedings begin.”

Loyalty to the president factored prominently into the chair race between Asche and Dickey, who had been a leader in Texas of the “Free the Delegates” effort to deny Trump the nomination at the 2016 national convention. Asche argued that was an impediment to growing the party to include the new voters that Trump turned out in 2016.

Yet Asche came up short in the race, losing to Dickey 35 percent to 65 percent Friday on the floor after a protracted battle that the party likely will not be able to swiftly put behind itself. In her final speech to delegates, Asche revealed that the party’s longtime accounting staffer had just resigned because, in Asche’s telling, she could not trust Dickey.

Yet it was not just the chair race where lingering intraparty resentments were on display. In at least a couple of appearances at the convention, Patrick declared victory on the “bathroom bill” that he championed last year. He argued that while the measure didn’t pass through the Legislature, an overwhelming majority of GOP primary voters voted for a ballot item asking if they supported protecting the privacy of women and children when they go to the bathroom.

That drew a rebuke from the legislation’s biggest opponent: retiring GOP House Speaker Joe Straus.

“If ‘victory’ on the bathroom bill means that it’s not coming back and there will be more focus on fixing school finance and promoting private-sector growth, that’s great news,” the San Antonio lawmaker said in a statement.

The intraparty tensions also flared around another statewide official, Land Commissioner George P. Bush. He weathered a few rounds of boos during his remarks Friday — apparently from delegates still upset with his management of the Alamo, a key issue in the four-way primary he won this year.

Then there was the debate over censuring Republicans in office, which began this year when the State Republican Executive Committee censured Straus.

That debate intensified this week at committee hearings during the convention. Members considered proposals censuring retiring state Rep. Byron Cook of Corsicana, a top Straus ally. They also weighed similar action against several members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Cornyn, over their support for omnibus spending legislation this year. Members handily rejected resolutions against the delegation members, though the censure of Cook advanced through the committee and will be the subject of a floor vote.

Texas Democrats, who are staging their own convention next weekend in Fort Worth, relished the infighting at the rival party’s gathering, sending reporters daily recaps of the drama.

“The divisions in the Republican Party are clear,” the state Democratic Party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa, said in a statement Friday. “While the Republican Party tries to figure out where it stands and where it’s heading, Texas Democrats are united, organized and ready to deliver on the issues that matter most to Texans.”

Cassi Pollock contributed to this report.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Texas GOP Unites behind Speaker Paul Ryan, Splits on Plan to gut Ethics Office

WASHINGTON — With the backing of congressional Texans, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi easily coasted to re-election as the top-ranking members of their parties in the U.S. House on the first day of the 115th Congress.

But it was not a day lacking in drama. 

House Republicans unleashed outrage from the opposition party and watchdog groups when they moved in a Monday night secret vote to gut an investigative arm of the U.S. House, the Office of Congressional Ethics. President-elect Donald Trump also questioned the timing of the move in a tweet Tuesday morning.

Apparently caught off guard by the level of pushback, House GOP members abruptly met just prior to the House swearing-in ceremony to unwind that move, leaving the office intact. 

Among members of Congress, the OCE is a highly controversial institution, an investigative body separate from the House Ethics Committee, which is made up of House members. 

House leaders created the OCE in 2008 after a number of scandals rocked Congress in the mid-2000s. The complaints then, and now, were that the House Ethics Committee is a weak oversight body and that its members are reluctant to earnestly pursue the transgressions of their colleagues. 

Yet the OCE’s actions on various ethical issues have angered members of both parties, raising questions that the office was using its power to embarrass representatives over alleged transgressions. 

Most of the Texas GOP members’ offices were not immediately responsive to a Tribune request on where each fell on the matter at Monday night’s secret vote. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, a Bryan Republican, backed the OCE revamp and described the office as “a creation of Nancy Pelosi” that “wasn’t structured correctly.” 

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, voted against gutting the OCE, according to a spokeswoman.

The office of U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he preferred to mend the OCE, not kill it. 

“Mac believes that OCE is in need of reform, but that was not the proper way to go about it. He voted against,” his office account tweeted

U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, was the subject of an OCE investigation after his former communications director, Lauren Greene, filed a lawsuit in 2014 alleging that he sexually harassed and discriminated against her. Farenthold denied the allegations, and a 2015 OCE report found no “substantial reason to believe” that he “engaged in an effort to intimidate, take reprisal against, or discriminate against” Greene.

Farenthold supported the OCE revamp Monday night but also backed the move to unwind it on Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman.

“He supports needed reforms to the OCE and supported the amendment, but he does not support doing away with the OCE as the media is claiming and also feels there are other more important legislative issues to be tackling right now,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Peace wrote in an email. “He supports, and always has, due process.”

House Democrats watched in amused amazement as Republicans dealt with a public relations mess on a day that otherwise burnished GOP power in Washington.

Flores said the morning blowback had the potential to bring down a larger package of rules to guide Congress over the next two years.

“There was a lot of outside pressure, based on that headline — the headline was incorrect, so anyway, some of our members got spooked about what was in the headline versus what was actually in the reform package,” he said.

Later on Tuesday, the House passed that larger rules package that excluded the OCE measure. Soon after passage, a succession of Texas Republicans released statements indicating a distaste for the Monday vote.

“I am encouraged by my colleagues’ decision to pull the OCE amendment out of the House Republican package today,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin said in a statement. “I strongly believe members of Congress must maintain strong ethical accountability.” 

U.S. Rep. John Carter of Round Rock said in a news release that he opposed the measure but did want eventual changes to the OCE. 

“I opposed the [OCE] amendment during our Republican Conference meeting, but it was approved above my objections,” he stated. “I am happy to announce that earlier today my colleagues agreed with my concerns, and House Republicans removed the amendment from the rules package.” 

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio did not overtly indicate that he opposed the Monday measure, but he did state, “We should be held to the highest ethical standard as we represent the American people in Congress.” 

Despite that drama, Tuesday’s vote for speaker was one of the calmest in several terms, with all Texas Republicans voting for Ryan and all Texas Democrats backing Pelosi. Both leaders had faced serious intra-party threats in recent months.

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Tyler Republican, was expected to be the wildest card in the Texas delegation related to the Speaker vote. In 2015, he challenged former Speaker John Boehner for the speakership.

But on Tuesday, even Gohmert fell in line behind Ryan. 

Gohmert said in a statement that he had “two private discussions” with Ryan and the two men “came to an understanding on three specific issues.” 

Per Gohmert, Ryan “agreed leadership would bring no bills to the House floor without the support of a majority of the Republican conference,” a measure that will mitigate Democratic power. On immigration, Gohmert said Ryan agreed that no bills would be brought forth in an attempt to legalize anyone in this country who is here illegally unless and until we achieve complete border security with a wall built to President Trump’s liking.”

And Ryan also committed to “only bring up a trade bill that ensures fairness to Great Britain in the wake of the successful Brexit vote to end Britain’s participation in the European Union. This House will not resurrect the Trans-Pacific Partnership disaster.”

Ryan was a strong advocate for the TPP in the previous Congress. But the election of Trump, who strongly criticized the deal, effectively killed it.

Amid all of this, the primary task of the day came in the early afternoon: the biennial swearing-in ceremony. 

Amid a House chamber packed with members and their children, the 36 members of the Texas delegation were sworn in for another two-year term. The delegation added two members: Republican Jodey Arrington of Lubbock and Democrat Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen. 

Read more about Texans in Congress: 

Author:  ABBY LIVINGSTON – The  Texas Tribune

Analysis: The Blue Dots in Texas’ Red Political Sea

Texas remained true to the GOP in last week’s general election, but the blue spots on the map that represent Democratic votes and mark many of the state’s biggest cities are getting bluer.

Last  Tuesday’s election results offer further evidence that Texas mirrors America, with urban voters strongly favoring Democrats, while rural and many suburban voters favor Republicans.

Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in 227 of the state’s 254 counties, racking up an advantage of 1,697,593 votes.

His biggest vote yield came in Montgomery County, one of several suburban counties — like Collin, Denton and Parker — that turned in reliably high Republican votes. Tarrant was the most populous county in his column, turning in a pile of Republican votes in spite of Clinton’s victory in Fort Worth, its biggest city.

Trump also won many of the state’s mid-size cities and nearly all of its rural areas.

Clinton beat Trump in 27 counties by a total of 883,819 votes. That was enough to cut his overall margin in half, but not nearly enough to pull off a Texas upset.

Her wins came in some of the state’s biggest counties — Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Travis, El Paso, Hidalgo and Fort Bend. He won the vastttttt majority of rural Texas, but not everything: Clinton took a few relatively unpopulated counties like Kenedy and Culberson.

Trump’s overall margin was smaller than Mitt Romney’s 2012 win in Texas. In fact, the Republican at the top of this year’s ticket got a smaller percentage of the overall vote in Texas than any of the eight Republicans running statewide here, a group that included candidates for the Railroad Commission and the state’s two highest courts. Conversely, Clinton got a higher percentage of the vote than any of the Democrats running statewide.

A win is a win is a win, and this year belonged to the Republicans. Their streaks are intact: They’ve won the last 10 presidential elections in Texas and every statewide race in every election since 1994. But one takeaway from this year’s contests is that Democrats reduced the normal Republican margins and their scattered blue spots on the Texas map — the state’s biggest cities — turned in stronger Democratic performances than they have in the past.

Here’s another thing spotted in a run through the election results: Straight-ticket voting doesn’t always tell you how the political winds will blow.

State Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-Mission, won 56.8 percent of the vote even after being tied to an unpopular ballot measure that would have created a hospital district in Hidalgo County. Most voters — 71.8 percent — opposed that proposal even while re-electing its author. One clue to his survival was that 49.7 percent of the county’s voters were straight-ticket Democrats, while only 16.3 percent voted straight-ticket Republican.

Straight-ticket voters in Harris County wiped out courthouse Republicans, including state district Judge Ryan Patrick, son of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. That house-cleaning — Democrats won every countywide seat in the state’s biggest county — stirred some intra-party recriminations between supporters of county GOP Chairman Paul Simpson and those of his predecessor, Jared Woodfill. But consider this: 35 percent of the voters were straight-ticket Democrats, while Republicans lagged behind at 30 percent.

Judge Patrick took the loss in stride, but he admitted to at least one regret on Twitter: “You know what Im going to miss? Being able to swear in my dad when he win reelection in 2018. (totally selfish one there).”

The straight-ticket demon didn’t get everybody. Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty — he of the most popular political ad in the country during this election cycle — won re-election despite a nine-point disadvantage in straight-ticket voting and Trump’s 18-percentage point loss to Clinton in Daugherty’s commissioner district.

Turnout was down and also up, depending on how you want to think about it. Unofficially, 8.9 million people voted this year, up from just under 8 million four years ago. That’s 59.1 percent of the state’s registered voters this time, 58.6 percent last time. As a percentage of the state’s adults, turnout was 42.9 percent on Tuesday, down from 43.7 percent four years ago.

More columns from Ross Ramsey:

  • They might not have predicted this, but Republicans won full control of the federal government in Tuesday’s elections. For Texas Republicans, that removes a major political foil.
  • We’ve reached the eve of the election, with many political fortune-tellers predicting big changes in Texas. Here’s a way to measure it, if it happens.
  • Some elections are referendums on issues, public votes that give lawmakers a good idea of what voters want. This election isn’t one of those.

Author:  ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

UT Poll: Most Texas Voters Support Banning Muslims, Building Border Wall

A majority of Texas’ registered voters believe Muslims who are not U.S. citizens should be banned from entering the country, according to results of a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll released Tuesday.

The survey found that 31 percent of voters “strongly supported” denying such people entry, with another 22 percent “somewhat” supporting the idea. Thirty-seven percent of voters opposed the effort while 10 percent expressed no preference.

Among Republicans, 76 percent said they would support banning non-U.S. citizen Muslims from entering the country. About 25 percent of voters who identified as Democrats agreed. 

A majority of the respondents of the survey, 51 percent, also favored the immediate deportation of undocumented immigrants, while 52 percent said they either “strongly” (34 percent) or “somewhat” (18 percent) supported building a wall between the United States and Mexico. Twenty-four percent of the Democrats supported immediate deportation compared with 73 percent of Republicans.

Seventy-six percent of the Republicans asked also favored a wall separating the two countries.

The poll also found that there is less-than-majority support for immigration reform with or without a path to eventual citizenship. Half of the respondents were asked about comprehensive immigration reform with a path toward citizenship for most undocumented immigrants: 24 percent of them “strongly” supported that idea, while 25 percent “somewhat” supported it.

The other half of the respondents were asked about immigration reform allowing legal residence but not citizenship: 20 percent said they “strongly” supported a path to legal status without citizenship, while 27 “somewhat” supported that idea. The margin of error for those questions is about +/- 4.07 and +/- 3.94 percentage points, respectively.

The poll of 1,200 registered voters was performed June 10-20 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. Other results from the same survey, released Monday, show GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump leads Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 8 points in Texas. Trump has made banning Muslims and building a wall a centerpiece of his campaign.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

Platforms Reveal Texas Republicans, Democrats Actually Agree on Stuff

Though they disagree on nearly every major policy issue, from education funding to abortion to immigration, Texas Republicans and Democrats apparently have common ground on a few things, according to the platforms approved at recent state conventions.

Both state parties approve new platforms every two years, covering dozens of issues. Republicans put their platform together in May in Dallas. Democrats followed suit last week in San Antonio.

The platforms provide an opportunity for activists in both parties to outline the positions they expect their candidates and elected officials to hold, though there’s always some that choose to ignore some of their party’s positions.

While much of the two parties’ platforms is irreconcilable, there are a handful of policy areas where Republicans and Democrats appear to come together.

Medical Marijuana

In nearly identical language, both parties ask the state Legislature “to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis” to patients. The law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last year, legalized the sale of oils containing CBD, a non-euphoric component of marijuana, for the treatment of certain medical conditions. Supporters of medical marijuana are expected to lobby the Texas Legislature to expand the law next year.

The addition of the plank in the GOP platform represents a significant shift for the party that has long opposed any marijuana decriminalization efforts, medicinal or otherwise. The Texas Democratic Party’s platform had previously advocated for decriminalization of marijuana, but the reference to the Compassionate Use Act is new.

READ MORE Abbott Legalizes Cannabis Oil for Epilepsy Patients

Toll Roads

Both parties also express concern about toll roads in Texas, suggesting the funding of such roads should be made clearer to the public.

“We oppose the use of taxpayer money to subsidize, guarantee, prop-up, or bail out any toll projects, whether public or private, and we call upon both state and federal lawmakers to adequately fund our highways without hidden taxes, tolls, or raiding emergency funds,” the GOP platform reads.

Democrats, similarly, call for “legislation to demand transparency in how toll roads are financed and how funds are managed.”

The GOP platform also singles out its opposition of “public-private partnerships, specifically regarding toll projects.” The Democrats highlight concerns with certain toll road deals, advocating against “foreign-owned U.S. toll roads that require Americans to contribute to the balance-of-trade deficit when they travel on local roads.”

Responding to growing public resentment of the state’s reliance on tolls, state lawmakers last year ordered the Texas Department of Transportation to to review the state’s toll road network and produce a plan detailing what the state would have to do to remove them. TxDOT is expected to release the report in September.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Although their platforms suggest the parties stand on opposite sides of free trade – with Democrats in opposition and Republicans in support – both parties are opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries that is endorsed by the Obama administration but currently stalled in Congress.

In their platform, the Texas Democrats compare the TPP to the North American Free Trade Agreement passed in the 1990s, decrying the “NAFTA-style trade agreement” and urging that similar arrangements “must be opposed.”

The Texas GOP’s platform goes further, calling not only for opposition to the TPP but also “immediate withdrawal” from other trade deals, including NAFTA and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

READ MORE Trade Deal Squeezes Texas Congressional Democrats

Campaign Finance

There is clear support on both sides of the aisle for the “full disclosure” of some campaign funding sources.

The Texas GOP specifically calls for the disclosure of the “amounts and sources” of campaign contributions, “whether contributed by individuals, political action committees or other entities.”

The state Democratic platform urges disclosure of funding sources for political advertisements, “including the largest major funders of all political television, radio, print, slate mailer, and online advertising for ballot measures, independent expenditures, and issue advocacy.”

Space Exploration

While NASA’s future and funding remains a subject of debate in Washington, D.C., both parties in Texas identified ambitious aspirations to continue human travel into space and, as the GOP Platform put it, “maintain America’s leadership in space exploration.”

The GOP platform also called upon NASA to develop relationships with citizens and American businesses to further their efforts, while the Democratic platform simply expressed support of the nation’s space program, “including both manned and unmanned flight.”

READ MORE Starstruck: The Fights and Flights Behind the New Texas Space Race

Texas Democratic Party 2016 Platform
PDF (1.3 MB) download
Republican Party of Texas 2016 Platform
PDF (482.2 KB) download

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: Whose Texas GOP Is It, Anyway?

The Republican Party of Texas’ biennial convention in Dallas gives the heart of the state’s GOP electorate a chance to see their heroes and stars, to assess the current state of the party at the end of a rambunctious primary season and to figure out — if possible — where the various conservative tribes are going to come together.

They’re not going to answer all of those questions this weekend, and they probably won’t fully answer any of them. But it’s a start.

This state convention initially looked like a battlefield over delegates — specifically, over the political inclinations of the Texans selected to represent Republican voters at the national convention later this year. Ted Cruz’s campaign wanted to be sure, for instance, that delegates pledged to Donald Trump during initial ballots would turn to their guy once they were unbound. Other campaigns were working the same angle.

READ MOREAnalysis: Adjusting to Trump, One Republican at a Time

The nominating process is over now, practically speaking. But when there were still questions over who would be the party’s presidential nominee, the delegate rustling was important.

The convention is also an element of another, slower process already underway in Texas. The Republican order was shaken in the last election cycle, when one generation of the party’s statewide officeholders moved up or out and another moved in.

That transition from the Rick PerryDavid DewhurstGreg Abbott years is still underway. The conventioneers will gather in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, named for the former U.S. senator, state treasurer and state legislator who was a key establishment figure in Texas Republican politics for more than two decades.

The changing of the guard isn’t exactly a headline-grabbing story, but it’s a key to finding out where the party in Texas is going. Perry, as governor, was the party’s top attraction for years. Going into this first party convention since he left the Governor’s Mansion, it’s a little less clear.

Here are the contestants in this political edition of The Dating Game:

  • Now the governor, Abbott cruises into Dallas in a tour bus emblazoned with a picture of him, the cover of his new book, and the title — “Broken but Unbowed” — in huge letters on the side.
  • Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gets to Dallas after a publicity stop in Fort Worth, where hedemanded the resignation of a school superintendent whose new rules for transgender students and restrooms do not suit the lieutenant governor. Conservatives have rallied around similar “Game of Thrones” debates in Houston and North Carolina. Patrick’s Tuesday appearance in Fort Worth gives him a fresh example for the delegates he’ll speak to on Thursday.
  • U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is the highest-ranking Republican in Texas, the No. 2 in Republican leadership in a GOP-led Senate and also a regular foil to the state’s junior senator, Ted Cruz. Cornyn speaks on Friday at the convention, hoping — like his Republican colleagues in Washington — to build coalitions that will keep the party in power.
  • Cruz, a presidential candidate until last week and a favorite of the state’s Republican most active partisans, in what might be his first speaking appearance before a non-media crowd since he dropped out of the race and left Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee.

One question for Republicans and their different factions is which of those — or other figures — best represents them. Who can unite them? Which ideas bind them to one another, especially when the biggest race of the year has forced them to choose between candidates they agree with on ideological issues, like Cruz or Marco Rubio or even Jeb Bush, and charismatic candidates who don’t toe the line, like Trump.

If it’s about ideas, which ideas is it about? The governor proposes a set of nine changes to the U.S. Constitution that would restrain the federal government and bulk up the strength of state governments. The lieutenant governor is more of an activist, pushing limits on property taxes, restraints on tuition at state colleges and universities, and cultural wars over bathrooms. One U.S. senator is a poster child for the Republican establishment, the other a warrior against establishment politics.

The Republican Party of Texas’ convention falls in just the right place on the political calendar to get a read on those cross-currents and a real look at how rank-and-file Republicans feel about the 2016 elections.

Author:  – 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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