“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.
Sen. Rafael Edward “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz (TP-Texas) has been sending out letters soliciting campaign funds which are disguised as an “Official [Insert County Here] Summons” and as shown above state in big bold letters “SUMMONS ENCLOSED – OPEN IMMEDIATELY”. This is an attempt to use a deceptive but apparently legal tactic to increase the rate at which recipients open the letter instead of immediately tossing into the trash can (or recycling – something that would no doubt piss off the Senator). As deceptive as the envelope is – the tactic is legal as long as the contents are clear that it is coming from a campaign. But you have to wonder at this desperate of a tactic. Well you might have to wonder if this wasn’t coming from Lyin’ Ted. As much as Trumph The Insult Comic President™ has gotten wrong – he seems to have been spot on with his characterization of Cruz’s true nature. Red is only surprised that Cruz is not telling Red that he “May Already be a Winner!” or that he is the favored nephew and only heir of the late former minister of oil development of Cote d’Ivoire and needs some help transferring $26,000,000 to a U.S. account.
Still embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has reached another low point in his quest to dismantle the very low ethical standards Texas imposes on its political class. Paxton is refusing to defend the Texas Ethics Commission in a lawsuit filed against it by one of Paxton’s major campaign contributors. Empower Texas an Astroturf organization funded and chaired Tim Dunn, a Midland based oil and gas developer, is seeking to strip the TEC of its powers to regulate and monitor campaign spending and financing in Texas. The TEC requires candidates to report their campaign contributions, loans and expenditures on a regular basis in order for the public to know who is greasing the political wheels in Texas. The AG’s office is typically required to defend state agencies when they are sued but has some discretion to decline to do so. Why would Paxton not defend the TEC? Other than his own well-reported ethical problems, it turns out that Dunn and Empower Texas are Paxton’s biggest source of campaign cash. According to the Houston Chronicle:
Since 2014, Paxton’s campaign has received $377,000 from the Empower Texans PAC, according to campaign finance disclosures filed with the commission. Empower Texans also secured a $1 million loan for Paxton’s campaign in 2014, and Dunn is Paxton’s largest donor, shelling out $405,000 since 2014, records show.
Well, perhaps it is a good thing that an attorney as apparently ethically challenged as Paxton is not defending the case as he might just botch the effort by accident. The result, however, is that the taxpayers will be out about $600,000 for outside counsel hired by the TEC which is a huge hit for the agency and detracts from their mission. The Houston Chronicle has the full story here.