“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.
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.
The Texas Observer reports on Bunni Pounds’ run to replace retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TP-Flower Mound). TO takes issue with Pounds’ claims that she is headed to Washington to help clean up the swamp after a full decade of groveling for money for Hensarling and others from well-heeled GOP donors in North Texas.
Pounds set up her own political fundraising and consulting shop in 2015 and within two years had turned it into a half-a-million-dollar business with nine employees, according to her campaign website. The site also boasts that Pounds “is now seen as one of the top fundraisers in North Texas from Fort Worth all the way to Tyler.”
This background raises questions not only about Pounds’ qualifications for office, but about whose debt she’ll be in should she become a member of Congress. Groveling to donors day in and day out is enough to compromise your average politician, to say nothing of someone whose expertise that was before they became a politician.
The Republicans who represent a good chunk of the Texas Panhandle in the Texas House and Senate are facing ultra-right wing challengers in the upcoming GOP primary. Merely being a somewhat thoughtful conservative or even considering a Democratic proposal is a dangerous game to play in the Tea Party dominated Texas GOP. If you are unwilling to lick the boots of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, you might just find yourself back home wondering how you aren’t quite conservative enough. Senator Kel Selinger and Representatives Ken King (Lubbock) and Four Price (Amarillo) may be unseated in March. The Texas Observer has more on the far right movement to take down any such “Establishment Republicans.”
The challengers are generally following a playbook developed by Empower Texans, a right-wing enforcement group that targets what it considers establishment Republicans: claim that you are unequivocally conservative and that the other guy is basically a Democrat, all the while vilifying bipartisanship and accusing your opponent of being a big-government patsy who’s soft on abortion.
Far-right groups, including Texans for Vaccine Choice, Texas Right to Life and Grassroots America — We The People are working to knock off the incumbents. And while the Panhandle is one of the reddest parts of the whole country (Trump took 90 percent of the vote in some of the counties here), the area continues to elect Republicans with a pragmatic streak. For instance, King has sought to secure funding for struggling rural schools; Price has been a champion for mental health care; and Seliger refused to divert money from public schools for private school vouchers. Wielding accusations of perceived liberalism, challengers have made the region a battleground in the civil war raging within the Texas GOP.
The Texas Tribune reports that members of the so-called Freedom Caucus sabotaged more than 100 bills in the Texas House last night in retribution for not getting their way in attempting to restrict abortion rights even more, make sure that everyone has a gun and that good God-fearing white people are not abused. It’s all too complicated and inside baseball for Red to explain, but it does show that there is no Republican solidarity in Texas and that the ultra rightwing of the party is willing to do anything to inflict punishment on those who will not go along with their attempt to turn Texas into the largest Christian Church in the country where the good ol’ boy whiteys are running the show.
Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton just can’t help himself from continuing to waste taxpayer dollars on important issues like who gets to pee where. One might think that Paxton was merely trying to draw attention away from his own considerable legal woes – but then one would be a small petty-minded type of person – like Red.
But the chances that Paxton would shy away from the most important legal and moral issue of the day, involving – as Red so crudely puts it – which hole gets to go in which hole, were slim to none. Apparently there is not a single action of the federal government that Paxton does not feel up to challenge – at least until another Bush becomes President. Paxton reflexively must challenge anything that might possible offend or cause the slightest consternation amongst his Tea Party followers – all the while maintaining his innocence in the face of what the legal experts refer to as “pretty damn good evidence” that he himself is the real lawbreaker. Thus despite the lack of a shred of evidence that allowing the various varieties of our transgendered Texans to decide where they would like to evacuate their various by-products of human existence has endangered anyone or caused any of the Baptist women to cry “Oh, my!”, Paxton bravely soldiers on in the belief that only he knows best and that the very fate of the constitutional republic hangs in the balance on his briefs (no pun intended).
Red for one expresses no opinion (as yet) on the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s rule on bathroom equality. What is clear, however, is that Paxton and ilk truly believe that this is the issue that will re-ignite the Tea Party movement (not just their bowels) and lead them back to national prominence in the wake of seeing their influence eviscerated by Donald Trump’s emergence (from the anus of the political sphere). The right must have a bogeyman – real or imagined – and fear is the only thing they know how to properly manipulate into a position of power. If not the Red Menace washing upon our shores, or the Hippies destroying our social fabric, or the Welfare Queens taking us to the cleaners, or Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll corrupting our youth anymore, then there must be a new cause. And with the so-called War on Terror falling out of fashion after a sort, what can the denizens of the right latch onto now. Aha, bathroom safety. The terrifying image of a grizzled child molester tarted up in a chemise and sporting some f*#k me pumps coming in to the Women’s room to terrorize Ted Cruz’s daughters will certainly get the base riled up. Except maybe enough Americans are not quite stupid enough to believe such nonsense. And no one will ever accuse Ken Paxton of not being stupid enough.
The voters in the GOP primary run-off elections did themselves and Red a great disservice by rejecting Mary Lou Bruner for a position on the State Board of Education. Readers may recall that Bruner, a Tea Party stalwart and former school teacher, had claimed that President Obama had been a gay prostitute in his youth to pay for his drug habit. That’s just an extraordinary dose of crazy that very few politicians can deliver. But Bruner kept the hits coming when she also claimed that the Noah’s Ark flood had extinguished the dinosaurs and that the Democrats had killed President Kennedy. Such crazy talk did not keep Bruner down as she nearly won in the GOP primary in March and would surely have been elected to the SBOE in the fall despite her lunatic fringe beliefs. But alas, Bruner went down in flames Tuesday night losing the run off by 18 points to local school board president Keven Ellis. So unfortunately, Red will not be able to parade her around as the poster child for the band of right-wing zanies that goes by the name of the Texas GOP.