With apologies to Frank Zappa, Red reports on the sad demise of State Rep. Poncho Nevarez (D – Eagle Pass). A warrant for his arrest on felony drug charges was issued on Thursday. Nevárez was apparently caught on surveillance footage at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport dropping an envelope filled with cocaine as he was leaving the airport. It is unclear if the drop was intentional or accidental but unfortunately for Poncho, the envelope had his official House seal on it and contained about 2 ounces of coke.
On September 6, two Texas Department of Transportation employees found the envelope outside the special entrance to the airport that is used by state officials. Who knew? After DPS got involved, they reviewed the CCTV footage showing Poncho leaving the airport getting into the car of his chief of staff and dropping the envelope.
Frighteningly, Poncho chairs the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. Soothingly, he announced last week he was retiring from the House. And at least he has the cojones to admit he screwed up – big time. According to a statement released by Poncho, the news is correct. “I do not have anyone to blame but myself. I accept this because it is true and it will help me get better.”
From the Annals of the People (or at least some of the People) – In 1876, citizens of Texas (and by that Red means white men and some Hispanics) adopted the Constitution of 1876. The vote was 136,606 in favor with 56,652 against. The 1876 Constitution was the sixth such document governing Texas since the declaration of independence from Mexico in 1836. The 1876 Constitution was primarily a reaction in connection with the reassertion of the Democratic Party (again white men) in the wake of Reconstruction. It also incorporates some aspects of law from Spanish and Mexican rule, as well as protection for agriculture and debtors. While calling for equal rights and due process on its face, those guarantees meant little to women and minorities at the time of adoption and for decades afterwards. The 1876 Constitution has been repeatedly amended, but it remains the governing document of Texas to this day.
From the Annals of Voting Rights – In 1940, Lonnie Smith, an African-American dentist from Houston, was denied a ballot to vote in a Democratic primary because of his race. The stated rationale was that the parties ran their primary elections and that as a private entity, the Democratic Party of Texas could decide its membership and thus determine who could and could not vote in its primary elections. Of course, Texas was a one-party state at the time (much like now) and winning the Democratic primary was tantamount to winning office in all but a very few instances. The ensuing legal battle lasted four years and resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision – Smith v. Allwright , 321 U.S. 649 (1944) in which Smith was represented by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The Supreme Court overturned the Texas law that authorized the Democratic Party to set its internal rules which called for whites only primaries. The court held that it was an unconstitutional violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment for the state to delegate its authority over elections to the Democratic Party in order to allow discrimination to be practiced. This ruling affected all other states where the party used the white primary rule and was an important step in opening the ballot box to citizens of all races.
Photo of Lonnie Smith
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 Capital City – In 1840, Moses Johnson was elected mayor of Austin. Johnson, a medical doctor, had moved to Texas in the late 1830s. He practiced medicine and surgery in Harrisburg and Liberty counties until moving to Austin in 1840, where he was quickly elected alderman and later mayor and also appointed justice of the peace. He was a Mason and served as the grand marshal of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1844. On December 14, 1844, he was appointed treasurer of the republic by Pres. Anson Jones. In April 1846 he was a member of a Democratic committee that marked the beginnings of Texas Democratic party. In 1848, Johnson was appointed inspector and collector of revenue for the port of Lavaca.
From the Annals of the Democratic Party – In 1922, the “Independent Democrats” met in Dallas to select Houston attorney George Peddy as a candidate for the United States Senate. The Independent Democrats were a splinter group from in opposition to the effective takeover of the party by the Ku Klux Klan. The Democratic Party had nominated KKK candidate Earle Bradford Mayfield for senator in the primary. Even worse, at the state Democratic convention in San Antonio it appeared to many that the Ku Klux Klan had gained control of the party. This caused the anti-Klan Democrats to seek a candidate to oppose Mayfield in the general election. Peddy had campaigned for James E. Ferguson as the anti-Klan candidate in the primaries. Unfortunately, Mayfield and the Klan forces succeeded in keeping Peddy’s name off the ballot. Peddy ran a write-in campaign and captured one third of the vote. Challenges to Mayfield’s qualifications to serve led to a Senate investigation and delayed his ascension to the Senate. He was, however, seated in the Senate in December of 1923.
Photo of George Petty from the Legislative Reference Library.