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.
democrats are now 0-3 in Trump Era special elections. Democratic candidate John Ossof wasn’t really close to winning Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. He was handily defeated by Karen Handel after the most expensive congressional race in U.S. history – a contest marred by vicious ads attacking Ossof. Shadowy right wing PAC money painted Ossof as a stooge of the “mouthpiece of terrorists” and attempted to tie him up in the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise.
Ossof could not even match the showing of little-known Archie Parnell in the almost completely under the radar South Carolina special election also held on Tuesday. Ossof lost by 6 points, Parnell only lost by 4 in a much more heavily Republican district.
All this shows that the GOP is holding serve where it needs to and that the Dems are lost in the woods right now. Running basic unknowns against established politicians isn’t going to cut it no matter how much money is thrown at a race. The message of “At least we’re not crazy” doesn’t seem to be resonating in the heartland. Sitting around waiting for the Republicans to shoot themselves in the foot (something they are wont to do) is not working. There is no coherent message as an alternative to a party that has been the party of War and Recession for nearly 40 years. If you can’t beat these guys, maybe just maybe you should think about folding up shop. Red has some ideas for a new party – but that is for another time.
Right now 2018 is looking better and better for Trump. Red thinks Trump has a real shot at securing an even larger working majority in the House and Senate while the GOP retains control at the statehouse level across the country. The U.S. is not headed towards strict one-party rule (like Texas), but it is approaching de facto status in that regard.
In the past two weeks, two Texas judges have said, “Enough” to the Tea Party dominated Texas GOP. First Terry Jennings of the First Court of Appeals in Houston switched to the Democrats. According to Jennings:
“The Democratic party- and the Democratic party alone- presents our country with a positive and optimistic vision for the future of all Americans, not just a select few.”
Then this week, Judge Lauren Parish of the 115th Judicial District which serves Upshur and Marion Counties returned to the fold. Parish had served as a Democrat but changed teams as those rural counties turned more and more red. Parish cited her Christian values in making the decision to return to the Democratic Party.
“The Grand Old Party of Lincoln no longer exists today. The current Republican Party has abandoned all the principles instilled in me by my parents, my church and my community.
I was brought up to respect my fellow man and to respect authority, to love my neighbor, to help those who cannot help themselves, and to help build people up not tear people down.
I see no way of reconciling my Christian beliefs with the manner in which the Republican Party is conducting itself. That is why I feel compelled to stand up and come back to the Texas Democratic Party.”
Almost too predictably, the Republican powers that be in Upshur County are now contemplating suing Parish after she issued an order making it easier for prospective jurors to do their civic duty. Parish ordered the court house to be opened at 7:30 on jury days with the metal detector operating. That got up the hackles of the Tea Party controlled county government and the county commissioners have hired an Austin law firm to investigate whether to sue Parish.
Red doubts that this signifies a larger trend. It may be that some RINO judges in Harris County join Jennings in abandoning the GOP ship, but it seems unlikely right now. If the Democrats sweep in November, Red may be singing a different tune.
From the Annals of All the Way with LBJ – In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated to as the Democratic candidate for president at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, NJ. LBJ had of course been elevated to the presidency upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy the previous November. Shortly before his nomination, the seeds of trouble had been planted when LBJ began the escalation of the Vietnam War based on the now discredited Gulf of Tonkin incident. Vietnam and the domestic unrest that it unleashed would be the undoing of Johnson’s presidency and he would decline to run again in 1968.
From the Annals of the Political Machines – In 1914, the Duval County Courthouse in San Diego burned down taking with it most of the evidence that might have revealed the criminal activity of legendary South Texas boss Archer Parr. Parr ran a powerful political machine that controlled Duval County and beyond. Parr was 22 when he settled in Duval County in 1882. By 1907 he had control of the local Democratic Party and was the undisputed political boss of Duval County. He maintained his control with the help of local Hispanics who kept voting Parr and his cronies into office in elections stained by corruption and fraud. He ran Duval County as his personal business enterprise parsing out County funds to himself, his machine and the local poor folks who did receive some modest benefits from their boss. The fire occurred during an audit of County finances that resulted in the indictment of Parr – by then a Texas State Senator. But the fire likely destroyed the evidence needed to secure a conviction and Parr escaped further prosecution. Parr’s control over the County was consolidated and he built a considerable personal fortune on the backs of his constituents. The Parr family continued to control the County with Parr’s son George taking over after his death in 1942. Parr family domination continued until at least 1975.
Texas delegates do not play a large role at either of the two major party conventions under the current political state of affairs. The Republicans pay scant attention to Texas because it is currently the reddest of the red states. If Trump cannot win Texas, he cannot possibly secure victory and there appears to be no doubt about his ability to win the Lone Star State no matter what he says or does. He might even be able to violate the Edwin Edwards Rule (who claimed he would be okay unless caught with a dead woman or a live boy) and still win the Lone Star State.
The Democrats ignore Texas for similar reasons. Why pay the slightest bit of attention to a state where your party has not won a state-wide election since 1994 and has not voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976. After the abject failure of Battleground Texas in 2014, it’s almost amazing that the Democrats even acknowledge that Texas exists.
Nonetheless, at least of couple of Texans will soak up some of the spotlight in Philadelphia this week. On the deserving side, there is HUD Secretary Julian Castro – who might be the only hope for Democratic Governor in Red’s remaining time. Castro is a polished politician who has parlayed his success into serious consideration for the Vice-Presidential nod – only to lose out to Tim Kaine. On the undeserving side is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Lee is notorious for staking out any opportunity to bore the public. Never discount a woman who managed to push her way into a speaking spot at Michael Jackson’s funeral. Red hears that is one of SJL’s favorite stump opportunities around Houston. There are tales of SJL showing up at a funeral and just taking possession of the altar uninvited and pontificating on someone she barely knew.
Red will tune in for Castro and tune out SJL.
From the Annals of the Democrats – In 1928 the Democratic National Convention concluded in at Sam Houston Hall in Houston. Houston deal-maker and civic leader Jesse Jones was instrumental in bringing the convention to Houston and it was the first national convention held in a Southern state since the Civil War. The intent was to sway the Protestant and Prohibitionist southern wing of the Democratic party to the Catholic, Anti-Prohibition candidate Al Smith. The Texas delegation led by Governor “Dry” Dan Moody wasn’t buying and displayed open hostility towards Smith’s nomination. Women’s temperance groups and Baptist ministers held round-the-clock prayer meetings to invoke God’s intervention to prevent Smith’s nomination. The majority of delegates were not swayed and saw him as their only hope of victory over the Republicans in the fall. The delegates gave Smith a resounding first ballot victory with no other candidate even close behind. Smith did not back down and his strong anti-prohibition acceptance speech further alienated many Democrats. In November, Texas went for Herbert Hoover – the first time a Republican presidential candidate carried Texas. The massive defection of Texas Democrats to Hoover was attributed both to Smith’s antiprohibition views and his Catholicism.