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Home | Tag Archives: texas voting

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Presidential candidates turn their focus to Texas, as early voting begins

Bernie Sanders wasted little time Friday night at a Dallas-area rally getting to what he said would be a “dramatic announcement.”

“We’re gonna win the state of Texas,” he declared, setting off raucous cheers.

“Yeah, we will,” he added nonchalantly seconds later.

While none of Sanders’ primary rivals has exuded as much confidence ahead of the March 3 primary, several others clearly see opportunity in the delegate-rich state — and are acting accordingly as early voting begins Tuesday. Still, the primary here remains somewhat in flux as campaigns gauge just how seriously to make a homestretch push in the massive, resource-intensive state, one of over a dozen that vote on Super Tuesday. To top it all off, early voting begins in Texas before Nevada or South Carolina even vote, meaning the state of the overall primary could be dramatically different by election day in Texas.

“I think a lot of this is going to have to do with momentum,” said one of the candidates, California billionaire Tom Steyer, who predicted he would come out of Nevada and South Carolina “with a lot of momentum” and with a “diverse coalition” that will position him well for a state like Texas.

“The state of the presidential race in Texas is fluid,” added state Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton, who sees her candidate, Michael Bloomberg, on more of an upswing in the state than anybody else as he builds an unparalleled operation here.

The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll of the state’s primary, released Friday, found Sanders and Joe Biden statistically tied after months of Biden leading most surveys here. Bloomberg was fourth, with 10%, behind Elizabeth Warren, at 15%.

There are 261 delegates up for grabs in Texas, allocated based on the results of the statewide vote and in 31 state Senate districts. The bluer the district, the more delegates at play — as many as 10, which is how many are available in Sen. Kirk Watson’s Austin-based district. A candidate must clear 15% of the vote in a district to be eligible for its delegates, and the same threshold applies to the statewide delegates.

Texas appears increasingly important for the former vice president, whose campaign is eager to show he can break through in more diverse states after disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“They remain bullish about Texas, I remain bullish about Texas,” said Biden supporter Mike Collier, the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. Collier added that he thought there was “no surprise” in the first two states and that it was natural for the Texas polls to tighten as the campaign heats up.

Biden has staff on the ground in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, according to his campaign, and it has offices in those first three cities. Biden also has the most impressive endorsement list in the state, to which he is adding state Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins on Tuesday. In a statement first shared with The Texas Tribune, the San Antonio lawmaker said Biden “has always fought for us — and as President, I know he will continue the fight to ensure that all Texans have the same economic and educational opportunities regardless of race, gender, or ZIP code.”

Sanders, the independent U.S. senator from Vermont, has moved briskly in recent weeks to beef up his Texas presence after winning the popular vote in Iowa and prevailing in New Hampshire. He now has five offices and 10 staffers in Texas, and his campaign is on TV as part of a $5.5 million ad buy across the Super Tuesday states. That makes him the only Democratic candidate other than Bloomberg who has been airing TV ads in Texas.

Undoubtedly looming large is the former New York City mayor, who is skipping the first four states on the nominating calendar and effectively beginning his campaign in the Super Tuesday states. While saturating Texas with eight figures worth of spending in TV ads, he has built easily the biggest campaign here, opening 17 offices — with two more on the way — and amassing a 160-person staff.

Also, Bloomberg himself has been to Texas five times since launching his campaign in late November, easily more than any other candidate over the same period.

Bloomberg’s priority focus on Texas has won over several important endorsers, including Johnson. She said Bloomberg’s commitment to keeping his Texas infrastructure in place through the general election “was significant to me,” calling his effort in the state “not just a three-week splash and out.”

Asked about another candidate who has vowed to help put Texas in play as the nominee, Johnson said, “Bloomberg’s actually doing it and Biden’s just talking about it.”

Long before Bloomberg swept into the state, though, at least one candidate made Texas an early priority: Elizabeth Warren. The U.S. senator from Massachusetts has had people on the ground since August, and her campaign says it has dozens of staffers and organizers across 14 cities. It has four offices open.

While Warren herself has not visited Texas since September, her campaign sent surrogates on a five-city “Latino community engagement tour” that wrapped up Saturday.

“I see a lot of enthusiasm for Sen. Warren,” said Julián Castro, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor who ended his own presidential run last month and quickly endorsed Warren. “Her campaign has been organizing for several months in Texas. They’re not taking any vote for granted in Texas and also reaching out to the Latino community, to the black community, so her campaign is putting in the work here in Texas to have a good showing, and I’m confident that she can do well on March 3.”

Then there are some candidates who are truly playing catch-up in the state, making their first serious moves here in recent days. Steyer opened his first Texas office Thursday in Houston and is planning to open a Dallas office later this week. Pete Buttigieg sent 24 staffers to Texas starting Monday, following his top-two finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. And the campaign of Amy Klobuchar, who is scrambling to scale up after beating expectations with a third-place finish in the Granite State, announced Sunday that her campaign “will have … staff on the ground in every Super Tuesday state,” but did not provide further details.

Over the weekend, Klobuchar won the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle, the newspaper in the state’s biggest city.

In an interview, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa acknowledged that candidates like Klobuchar could do well in Texas given the momentum they are building elsewhere, but he voiced skepticism of any campaign that is just now investing in the huge state.

“Unless you are willing to spend $30 million flooding the airwaves, it’s very, very difficult to have an additional impact than what you’ve already got,” Hinojosa said. “You cannot organize and you cannot put together a machine to pull out the vote for a candidate in a week or a month even.”

When it comes to endorsements, Biden has long led the way in Texas, accruing the support of dozens of members of Congress, state lawmakers and major county and city officials, with support particularly concentrated in South Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But Warren has also been able to put together a respectable endorsement list, and Bloomberg has been making considerable inroads, landing his biggest Texas nod yet last week, when he got the support of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Both Texans who had run for president earlier this cycle — Castro and Beto O’Rourke — are playing distinctly different roles as the primary nears. Castro has endorsed Warren and emerged as a highly active surrogate for her. O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman, has said he does not plan to endorse before the primary, which a spokesperson reiterated Friday. (He has, however, been himself available to candidates seeking advice about Texas and he showed up at a Bloomberg event late last month in El Paso.)

Like many Democrats nationwide, Texas Democrats are highly focused on who can beat President Donald Trump. But in a traditionally Republican state that is getting more competitive, state Democrats are also looking for a nominee who can lead a robust down-ballot effort in November — or be a “party builder,” as Collier said in promoting Biden.

Before Bloomberg came along, Biden was making the most overt appeals to Texas Democrats’ general-election hopes. And along with Warren, Biden and Bloomberg sought to prove their down-ballot commitment by weighing in last month on a nationally targeted special election runoff for a Texas House seat that Democrats were hoping to flip. The Democrats’ efforts fell well short — Republican Gary Gates won by 16 percentage points.

Sanders and Warren have taken their down-ballot involvement a step further, looking to burnish their progressive credentials by endorsing a few prominent primary challengers across the state. Those include Jessica Cisneros, who is running against U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and José Garza, who is taking on Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore.

Now, with two weeks until election day, the candidates are getting more opportunities to take their long-building Texas courtship directly to the voters.

On Saturday, Sanders and Steyer participated via video conference in a forum in Pasadena put on by Jolt, a group focused on mobilizing Latino youth. Biden, Klobuchar and Warren sent surrogates.

A few days earlier at the Harris County party’s annual Johnson, Rayburn, Richards Dinner in Houston, some of the central tension of the primary was on full display. Bloomberg was the first headliner to speak, and he was interrupted twice by hecklers, including at least one objecting to the stop-and-frisk policy that Bloomberg pushed as mayor but apologized for days prior to announcing his White House bid. Bloomberg then headed to another event in Houston — the launch of “Mike for Black America” — where he and Turner used their remarks to address the recent uproar over stop and frisk.

Meanwhile, back at the dinner, another headliner, Castro, took the stage and made a passionate pitch for Warren — and while he did not directly mention Bloomberg, there was little doubt he had the billionaire on his mind. In his speech, Castro acknowledged that Democrats’ number one priority is defeating Trump, but he sought to remind primary voters that they have choices for who will best represent their values in the general election.

“Having said that,” Castro said after a pause, “I also want to commend the folks that spoke up about stop and frisk earlier tonight.”

Author: PATRICK SVITEKThe Texas Tribune

Bill to Abolish “One-Punch” Voting Approved in Texas House

House Bill 25, approved 85-59, could drastically change Texas politics considering straight-ticket ballots accounted for almost 64 percent of total votes cast in the state’s 10 largest counties this year.

The Texas House late Friday night gave preliminary approval to a bill that would eliminate “one-punch” voting, forcing voters to make an individual decision on every ballot item, starting with the 2020 election.

House Bill 25, approved 85-59, could drastically change Texas politics considering straight-ticket ballots accounted for almost 64 percent of total votes cast in the state’s 10 largest counties this year. Forty-one states don’t allow straight-ticket voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, one of the authors of HB 25, said he filed the measure to foster more educated voters since they’d have to go down the ballot and make a decision on every race.

“I think it’ll give us better candidates and better elected officials. It won’t have people getting voted out just because of their party identity,” Simmons told The Texas Tribune on the House floor prior to Friday’s vote.

Opponents of the measure said they’re worried Simmons’ bill will lead to lower voter turnout. On the House floor, several Democrats, including state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, expressed concerns that getting rid of one-punch voting would inconvenience voters and discourage them from participating in future election.

“There are a lot of races on the ballot in these general elections, and voting individually takes extra time,” Turner said. “Instead of one-punch, you’re asking people to individually vote in dozens of races, perhaps even 100 of them. This can be a real impediment.”

State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, agreed. He proposed a failed amendment to Simmons’ bill that would’ve exempted counties with more than 25 total offices on the ballot from having to eliminate the one-punch option.

“I think the bill’s author got here on the basis of straight ticket voting,” Dutton said. “We shouldn’t take this option away from voters. If voters don’t want to do one-punch voting, guess what? They don’t have to. They have a choice. And this bill takes away that choice.”

Simmons, however, said that equating a high number of straight-ticket voters to civic engagement is “kind of like comparing apples or oranges.” He pushed back on Democrats who insisted that taking away one-punch voting infringed on the rights of Texans.

“People will still come out to vote, they’ll just take a few more seconds to get down the ballot. And it’ll make sure people know who they’re voting for,” he said.

In the November general election, two-thirds of the votes in the state’s two biggest counties — Harris and Dallas — were straight-ticket. In Harris County, Democratic straight tickets accounted for 35.3 percent of the overall vote, while in Dallas, straight-ticket Democrats cast 41.3 percent of the overall vote. Republican straight tickets were 30 percent of the total in Harris and 23.8 percent in Dallas.

Texas lawmakers have made several failed attempts to get rid of it in recent sessions. The list of lawmakers who have filed legislation similar to Simmons’ most notably includes then-Sen. Dan Patrick, now the lieutenant governor, and state Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who’s now House speaker.

In the upper chamber state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, proposed similar legislation. His bill has not been heard in committee.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author:  ALEX SAMUELS – The Texas Tribune

Five questions for Election Day 2016 in Texas

SAN ANTONIO — From a stage at a barbecue joint here Monday evening, Gov. Greg Abbott gestured toward the three lawmakers standing behind him and proclaimed them the “face of the current Republican Party in the great state of Texas” — and its future too.

Come Tuesday night, all three of those legislators — state Reps. Rick Galindo and John Lujan, as well as U.S. Rep. Will Hurd — could be without an immediate political future. Partly to blame: their party’s presidential nominee, whose unorthodox candidacy has shaken up the political landscape across the country, even in ruby-red Texas.

The scene, which unfolded at a get-out-the-vote rally for Hurd, spoke to one of the overarching questions heading into Election Day in Texas: What impact will Donald Trump have on this traditionally Republican state? Texas’ long-beleaguered Democrats have watched with excitement — and determination — as polls have forecasted a tighter-than-normal race for the White House in Texas.

Now they will find out if the Trump effect is just that — or a massive political mirage. Here are five questions for Election Day 2016 in Texas:

By how much will Donald Trump outpoll Hillary Clinton?

The biggest headline this election cycle in traditionally Republican Texas has been the closer-than-usual presidential contest, with many polls showing Trump beating Clinton by only single digits. A spate of recent surveys, however, has shown Trump trending toward a more traditional position for a GOP nominee in the Lone Star State, which John McCain carried by 12 points in 2008 and Mitt Romney by 16 in 2012.

Whatever the margin is Tuesday, Democrats are anticipating the closest Texas outcome in a long time, possibly since Bob Dole won the state by only five points in 1996. Garry Mauro, Clinton’s Texas chairman, touted Monday that she is “within five points” in Texas, though it was not immediately clear to which polling he was referring.

Clinton’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, summed up Democrats’ Texas outlook while visiting North Carolina on Monday.

“It’s still probably a little bit of a bridge too far this cycle, but I mean, I think you’re going to see movement in the right way,” Kaine said, according to an NBC reporter.

Republicans, meanwhile, have long dismissed the idea Clinton has a shot at Texas and, in the home stretch, maintained that Trump’s margin ultimately will not be much of an outlier compared to recent history. “I think we’re going to be in double digits in Texas,” Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler told reporters Friday.

Will Trump doom Will Hurd in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District?

In Texas’ only competitive congressional race, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, is fighting for re-election in a rematch with Pete Gallego, a Democrat from Alpine. In the predominantly Hispanic 23rd Congressional District, Trump has not made it easy on Hurd, who never endorsed the GOP nominee but only recently ruled out voting for him.

The final days of the contest have seen both sides escalating long-simmering allegations of unethical behavior, in addition to the usual wrangling over Trump. Texas Democrats, long confident presidential year turnout would boost Gallego to victory, believe Hurd did too little too late to fully denounce Trump — and voters will punish him for it Tuesday.

At the get-out-the-vote rally, Hurd fit in one last barb at Gallego, branding him a puppet for national Democrats who have poured millions of dollars into what has become one of the most expensive congressional races ever in Texas.

“Nancy Pelosi and her liberal friends are trying to buy this seat,” Hurd said, invoking the House minority leader who has served as a GOP boogeyman in the race. “My opponent is actually just kind of a side thought, to be frank.”

How many seats will Democrats pick up in the Texas House?

Democrats in the Texas House are likely to pad their minority Tuesday, though like with the presidential margin, the question is by how much. Fewer than a dozen House Republicans are in competitive races, with three to six of their seats expected to flip to Democratic control.

However many seats Democrats pick up, it will not make much of a difference in the 150-member House, where Republicans currently outnumber Democrats nearly 2-to-1. Still, when the dust settles Tuesday, the extent of Democrats’ gains in the House will offer one gauge of how difficult Trump made life for down-ballot Republicans in Texas.

“I actually believe one way or the other, it helps us up and down the ballot,” Democratic House candidate Mary Ann Perez said Monday, calling the White House race a boon to her chances of taking back House District 144. She is challenging state Rep. Gilbert Peña of Pasadena, one of the most endangered state lawmakers on the ballot Tuesday.

One little-noticed scenario going into Tuesday: Of the six Hispanic Republicans in the lower chamber, as many as four could lose their seats — two of whom, Galindo and Lujan, were onstage with Abbott in San Antonio. The two others are Peña and Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville.

Will Latinos turn out against Trump?

Part of Democrats’ hopes for Tuesday rely on something happening that usually doesn’t in Texas politics: Hispanic voters turning out in droves. While Clinton’s support among Latinos is deep, Democrats are most prominently banking on Hispanic voters showing up to cast a ballot against Trump and his hard-line immigration positions.

While the extent to which Latinos turned out in this election may not be immediately known, early voting trends offered some hints. Analysis done by Republican consultant Derek Ryan found that 19.7 percent of early voters this cycle had a Hispanic surname, up from 15.5 percent in 2012.

“I think statewide it’s probably not going to be a factor,” Ryan said Monday. “I think we’re going to see some statewide races that are closer than they have been in recent history, but I do think it could cost us some local and legislative races.” 

Among those contests: Lujan’s and Galindo’s bids for re-election in the San Antonio area. At the Monday rally, both acknowledged the volatility of their districts as they argued they were the right candidate to keep the seats in GOP hands.

“This is a seat … that flip flops every two years, the past few cycles,” Galindo said, recalling how he began block walking in late April to try to get a head start on a tough campaign. “This is something that we believe we really have a hold on. We’ve been working hard, and I believe I represent everyone.”

Does Trump change the map in Texas?

In the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama won 26 of Texas’ 254 counties. Can Clinton outdo him?

While Trump’s margin of victory is no doubt worth watching, what happens at the county level could matter more for Democrats’ long-term hopes in the Lone Star State. The biggest county to watch is Harris County, Texas’ most populous and the site of a razor-thin victory by Obama in 2012.

There is also Fort Bend County, a hugely diverse and fast-growing area southwest of Harris County. It went for Romney by seven points in 2012, a relatively close margin by Texas standards that political observers expect to tighten this time around, potentially moving the county toward true battleground status.

“It’ll be a good test of the extent of the collateral damage that Trump is inflicting on the Republican Party within the Asian-American and Latino communities,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. 

One more county to keep an eye on: Bexar County, which includes San Antonio. It is considered Democratic-leaning territory, with the GOP still being able to win some countywide races there under the right conditions. If Trump underperforms, Bexar County could emerge from Tuesday its most solid shade of blue yet. 

Did you have any trouble voting? Text us your experience by joining the ElectionLand project. We’ll check in to find out how long it took you to vote and whether you had or saw any problems. Sign up now by texting TEXAS VOTES to 69866.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Agreement Means More Texans Can Vote in November

AUSTIN, Texas – Voting rights advocates encouraged the more than 500,000 Texans who could not have voted under the Texas Voter ID law because they lacked a photo ID to cast a ballot in the November general election.

Following a federal court ruling striking down most of the law, state officials and the plaintiffs in the case agreed to a set of rules making it easier for voters to identify themselves at the polls. Mary Moreno, communications director with the Texas Organizing Project, said her group is gearing up to get the message out to minority voters to get them to the polls on Election Day.

“We’re going to launch our ‘Get Out the Vote,’ which is what we really focus on, more than registration,” Moreno said. “We knock on doors and we connect the issues to the ballot box. You might not know who the politicians are that are running, but people always care about the issues that affect their lives.”

Under the agreement, a voter who doesn’t have a photo ID like a driver’s license or passport can now use a birth certificate, a paycheck stub, or a utility bill to establish their identity.

When the voter ID law was passed in 2011, backers said it was designed to prevent voter fraud. But opponents like Matt Angle, executive director at the Lone Star Project, believed it was passed to keep minority voters away from the ballot box, whether they had an ID or not.

“A lot of Texans who might have had the type of photo ID that was necessary were discouraged from voting by the Republican state leaders making voting sound like a risky proposition, sounding like it was something difficult to do,” Angle said. “That discouragement will no longer be there.”

Following the Texas ruling, courts struck down all or some of similar voter ID laws in Arkansas, North Carolina, and North Dakota. Legal challenges to voter ID laws are also pending in several other states.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

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