Big-time Plaintiffs’ attorney and political wannabe Tony Buzbee is running for mayor of Houston and already he is doing what he does best to win – suing people. Buzbee claims that billboards with a public safety announcement for AlertHouston (which issues emergency alerts) featuring a photo of incumbent mayor Sylvester Turner are really an illegal campaign contribution allegedly paid for by Clear Channel in violation of Texas election law. Although Buzbee claims he is not accepting campaign contributions, the lawsuit may be his way of funding the campaign as he is seeking damages of $5 million as well as attorney’s fees and injunctive relief. Buzbee claims the billboards are campaign contributions disguised as “non-reported corporate ‘donations.’” Buzbee’s petition states:
“These billboards are directly meant to influence the outcome of this upcoming mayoral election by means of public advertising. . . . The billboards are obviously aimed at gaining support for current mayor Sylvester Turner regarding the health and safety of the city.”
Good old “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz (TP – Texas) is suing the Federal Election Commission seeking to invalidate a law limiting the ability of candidates to use contributions repay his or her loans to the campaign. Part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform placed limits on the ability of candidates to repay their loans from political contributions. Roughly speaking, a candidate cannot repay more than $250,000 to himself or herself with money raised after the election. It appears that Cruz loaned his campaign directly or indirectly about $260,000 and was repaid $250,000. That means this suit is over the grand sum of $10,000. Cruz claims that the law is a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech and given the Supreme Court’s conclusion that $ = Speech, Cruz may be on to something. The consequences of a favorable ruling for the Tea Party favorite could be interesting. A candidate could place a huge bet on his or her success and then have unlimited ability to use elected office to repay that winning bet from the well-heeled donors seeking favorable treatment. In any event – given the amount involved – maybe LT is due for a new nickname. How about “Penny Ante” Ted?
“We’re here to let you know that the Texas speaker’s race is over. The House is ready to go.”
Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton)
Bonnen appears primed to become the next Texas Speaker of the House. Bonnen was something of a dark horse having repeatedly denied that he was interested in the job. But support rather quickly coalesced around the feisty conservative and he claimed he had over 100 votes for Speaker – well above the 76 needed. Bonnen has been a member of the house since 1997 and is a predictable “red meat” conservative vote on restricting abortion rights, promoting guns in the public arena, imposing onerous requirements on welfare recipients, and reducing public school funding. He was also one of outgoing Speaker Joe Strauss’ lieutenants serving as Speaker Pro Tempore. Bonnen, however, does look to be something of a thorn in the side of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as he has clashed with the bombastic blowhard before. The House will look different as Democrats picked up 12 seats and now may able to form coalitions with the few remaining moderate Republicans to advance some issues or block some of the more rabidly right-wing measures Bonnen has supported in the past. Maybe Bonnen is smart enough to realize that there is a new game in Austin. Or maybe not.
One important election result that likely passed under the nose of most observers was the drastic transformation of the Texas Courts of Appeals on Tuesday. There are fourteen Courts of Appeals in Texas varying in size from 3 to 9 judges (technically called justices) with a total of 80 appellate justices statewide. Before Tuesday night these courts were dominated by Republicans with only a handful of Democratic judges on the El Paso and Corpus Christi courts. The Democrats swept through the Dallas (5th) , Austin (3rd) , San Antonio (4th) and both Houston (1st and 14th) courts on Tuesday. Those five courts and the El Paso and Corpus Christi courts will now have Democratic majorities. The only court of appeals based in a major urban county that remains in Republican control is the Fort Worth (2d) court. Even that may change in another couple of years. The remaining courts under Republican control (Amarillo, Beaumont, Eastland, Texarkana, Tyler and Waco) cover the more rural areas of the state and typically do not get as many high profile cases. This is a major shift as the now Democratic controlled courts of appeals are the end of the line for a large number of the most hotly contested cases in Texas. Very few cases reach the still Republican dominated Texas Supreme Court.
Red can hardly wait to see all the great things that Rafael “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz (TP- Tex.) is going to do for our fair state over the next six years. When Red considers all of LT’s fantastic legislative achievements he is reminded of – well, Red’s not really sure what he is reminded of – maybe a freshly erased chalkboard, a losing lottery ticket, a fallow field, an empty pistol, erectile disfunction, the Rice Owls football team . . .
Anyhow, Beto O’Rourke gave it a good shot and maybe Texas just isn’t ready for someone who actually wants to represent Texas interests in Congress. Texans apparently want someone who is there for the greater glorification of their own ego and naked ambition. Someone who is willing to sell their soul to the devil on the cheap. Someone who kowtows to the man who insulted their wife and father. Someone proven to be a spineless weasel when his political life was on the line. Someone who only spoke the truth once when he called Trump a “pathological liar” and “utterly amoral.” Someone who is so disliked in the Senate that he cannot form a coalition to get anything passed. Well friends, that is exactly what you got in Lyin’ Ted. At least it seems that the servile Canadian immigrant will not challenge the Alpha Dog Trump in 2020. He cannot bite the hand that feeds. So LT will set his sights on 2024 but by then will anyone be paying attention?
Early voting turnout in the most populous Texas counties has been remarkable. Apparently both sides are motivated to turn out the voting. In the 30 counties that comprise about 78% of Texas voters, early turnout has already surpassed the total votes cast in the 2014 midterm elections. Early turnout in these counties has been about 4.8 million votes case as compared to just over 2 million early votes in 2014.
The rule has always been that bigger turnout favors Democratic candidates. But Red suspects that the surprisingly exciting Senate race pitting Beto v. Lyin’ Ted has a lot to do with this surge in turnout. Red will be a winner either way in this race. If the charismatic Beto wins then Texas will be represented by someone who actually cares about the state – rather than the current occupant whose agenda basically consists of the greater glorification of all things Ted Cruz coupled with the most naked ambition witnessed in several decades of watching Texas politics (LBJ can hardly hold a candle to Lyin’ Ted). But if LT wins, then Red still has someone to kick around for another 6 years – and kicking Ted is like shooting alligators in swimming pool.
Texas voters are likely also casting their ballots in a referendum on the first two years of the Reality TV Show Joke of a Presidency aka the Trump Administration. Those who really like reality TV and disfavor actual reality (or “fake news” in Trumph parlance) are coming out to support Trumph. On the other side, those who have been horrified by the continual onslaught of daily falsehoods, fabrications and duplicity, and the racist fear-mongering, hatred, maniacal egotism and rampant nepotism and profiteering that are the hallmarks of the current White House occupant are also out in force to be heard – even in deep red Texas.
So regardless of your particular stripe, Red urges you to go and vote if you have not exercised the franchise already. The people get the government they deserve and in Texas we have been getting a lot of it for a long time. All Red knows is that Tuesday will either be exciting and down to the wire or same old story of one-party dominance in his beloved Texas. So go out and vote – or cease complaining.
While Red is still encouraging everyone to show up and vote, it is looking more and more like Texans (and probably the nation as well) will have to put up with Sen. Rafael Edward “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz (TP – Texas) for another six years. In the most recent Quinnipiac University Poll, LT has a nine-point lead over El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke. LT leads Beto with a 54% to 45% gap among likely voters. That means that there are very few undecided voters out there and unless there is an October surprise, Red will still have LT to kick around for six more years – which is admittedly fun. Red credits Beto with having run an enthusiastic campaign – but if in the age of Trumpism, the charismatic Beto cannot get more than 45% of the vote after having raised over $23 million, there is little hope that any Democrat will win statewide office in Texas for another decade at least.