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Home | Tag Archives: texas politics

Tag Archives: texas politics

Analysis: The middle is intriguing but uncrowded in Texas politics

It’s a bit much to suggest that the middle in Texas politics is blossoming into a giant political force, but there are signs of life outside the most progressive and conservative corners of the electorate.

Some of it is rhetorical, as in Joe Straus’ recent essay on LGBTQ rights in Newsweek. The former Texas House speaker was writing to say the U.S. Supreme Court should side with those who believe civil rights protections include LGBTQ Americans.

“This may not be a common public position for a Texas Republican politician, but it reflects majority opinion in the state, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats, and people of every race and every major faith tradition,” he wrote.

He recalled his opposition to the so-called bathroom bill in 2017 — legislation intended to require people to use the public restrooms that correspond with their sex at birth.

The monthslong debate over that legislation was unusual for a social and cultural issue in Texas, pitting not only Republicans against Democrats, but also socially conservative Republicans against socially moderate members of their own party.

In a moment for the middle, that legislation failed. And it was clear the social conservatives in elected office heard the crowd; no serious attempt was made to revive the battle in this year’s legislative session.

Author: ROSS RAMSEYThe Texas Tribune

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

 

Analysis: In Texas politics, a little ignorance can lead to bliss

This is going to sound a little sarcastic, but don’t read it that way: Let us salute the voters who aren’t paying attention to every single dadgum thing that happens in Texas politics.

The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll revealed that 68% of Texas registered voters know “a little” or “nothing at all” about the controversy that forced House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to say he won’t seek a second term in a job he has held for less than a year.

Bonnen’s collapse has hardly been quiet: He and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, were recorded talking politics with an activist who proved not to be a confidant. They offered media floor passes to the House and listed 10 Republican House members they’d like to replace. Bonnen spent weeks trying to work his way out of the jam he created, but when the full recording was finally made public last month, his support in the House buckled and he announced his intention to leave.

As it unfolded from late July to last month, Bonnen’s self-made mess was a huge story for the political class, a top item of conversation and intrigue among state employees, lobbyists, journalists and political consultants.

But for normal Texans, it was just a political sideshow. The same UT/TT Poll found 20% of voters approve of the job Bonnen is doing in office, 25% disapprove — and 55% have either a neutral opinion or no opinion at all. Most didn’t know much about Bonnen before, and this indiscreet political scheming didn’t have any direct effect on most of them.

No wonder they weren’t paying attention.

Bonnen, on his way out, is slightly better known than the pack of Democrats who hope to be on their way into a nomination for U.S. Senate in next year’s primaries. But it’s another instance of something that’s more important to the political chatterers than to the voters.

The best known of nine candidates who’ve said they will run for Senate — Chris Bell of Houston — is unknown to 76% of Texas registered voters who identify themselves as Democrats.

The best known.

And Bell has been on Texas ballots again and again, as a candidate for governor, Congress, mayor of Houston, Houston City Council, Texas Senate and the Texas House. All of that, and just 24% of Democrats in the poll pointed to him when asked, “Which of the following potential 2020 Democratic U.S. Senate primary candidates have you heard of?”

And even with that, he was well back in the pack of candidates — sixth, with 3% — when those same voters were asked whom they would vote for in a Democratic primary held today. MJ Hegar of Round Rock finished first, with 12%. Come to think of it, she was third, behind “haven’t thought enough about it to have an opinion,” with 41%, and “don’t know,” with 16%.

Voters aren’t paying attention yet, which might be alarming to people steeped in political conversation all of the time but is perfectly natural for the normal humans all over the state.

It’s not time yet.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, running for reelection next year, has been in that job since 2002. He was elected to statewide office three times before that — twice to the Texas Supreme Court and once as attorney general. That’s six elections in front of the state’s voters over almost three decades. Yet the poll found 31% of Texans have neither a positive nor negative opinion about him.

Like most people in politics and government, he’s just not part of their daily dose of necessary news, and he probably won’t be until it’s time to decide whom to send to Washington for the next six years in the Senate.

The voters aren’t wrong; they’re just not obsessed. They have strong opinions about a lot of public issues, from immigration to gun laws to climate to impeachment investigations. They’re sometimes very opinionated and partisan.

But with a few exceptions — presidents are the easiest example — they don’t mistake their elected officials for celebrities. That seems healthy, doesn’t it?

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.

Author:  ROSS RAMSEYThe Texas Tribune

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

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Analysis: What Might Be Next in Texas Politics

Here’s a political parlor game we’ll call, “And then what?”

First, take a political occurrence, and then pop the question.

An example from several years ago: Gov.George W. Bush decides to run for president. And then what? (This was a burning question once upon a time.) Whoever was lieutenant governor — Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry and Comptroller John Sharp faced off for the post in 1998 — could be in line for the governor’s office. Bush ran, Perry succeeded him as governor, some other offices shook out, and then very little changed in the upper rungs of state politics for another 14 years.

The game is obviously more challenging when you don’t know the answers. More fun, too. Try these:

• U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is elected president. And then what?

The question is not about the presidency, tempting as that might be, but about the Texas end of this question. An empty Senate seat is filled by gubernatorial appointment until a special election — also called by the governor — can be held.

That happened after the 1992 election, when Bill Clinton tapped U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen to serve as his Treasury secretary. Then Gov. Ann Richards appointed Bob Krueger to the open seat, and he lost in a special election runoff to Kay Bailey Hutchison. She retired in 2012. Ted Cruz is her replacement.

Whom would Greg Abbott appoint? And because a special election allows incumbent state and federal officeholders to run without risking their current jobs, who would run?

• U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro becomes the Democratic candidate for vice president and wins. And then what? Or loses. And then what? Or isn’t appointed at all. And then what?

In the first case, Texas would have a political toe back in the White House for the first time since Bush left office in 2009. It would be a Democratic toe, too, which could have some implications for a party trying to dig its way out of a very deep hole in Texas.

The second and third cases — a loss in an election or just the loss of a job as the administrations change — would set a young and ambitious Texas politician on the loose just as the campaigns are forming for the state’s 2018 election cycle.

• U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves office for some reason. And then what?

If that seems like an inquiry from the outfield bleachers, remember that U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas — he’s the relatively quiet one — is the Senate’s No. 2 Republican. He’s powerful now, with his party in the majority, and he’s positioned, once McConnell leaves, to be the most powerful Texan in the U.S. Senate since Lyndon Johnson.

• Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton leaves before his turn is up. And then what?

Start with Paxton’s argument that the criminal charges against him are trumped up, political and will be dismissed or will result in an acquittal. It’s an expensive nuisance in his version of the story, and not a disqualifying set of circumstances. He’s not the first statewide elected official in Texas to be indicted in office, and that sometimes has a happy ending. Hutchison, indicted and acquitted while she was state treasurer, was in the U.S. Senate less than a year after her crucible.

That said, a Paxton departure would give the governor an appointment, with the appointee serving until the next election date. It’s a version of the Cruz question: Who would be on the governor’s list?

• State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, wins a spot on the Harris County Commissioners Court. And then what?

Ellis has been in the Texas Senate since 1990. It is safe to say there is some pent-up demand among ambitious Houston Democrats, and chances are, they’ll be able to try for his spot in the Senate in a special election that doesn’t cost the contestants whatever jobs they currently occupy.

He has to quit the Senate to trigger anything real, but his departure could reverberate through the Texas House, if someone were to replace him, or the Houston City Council, if the replacement comes from there.

• Rob Morrow, the vulgar provocateur who won Super Tuesday’s election for chairman of the Travis County Republican Party and who has already been condemned by its executive committee, shows up for his first meeting. And then what?

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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