Friday, February 28, 2014

A Small Subset of Voters Holds a Lot of Sway by John Reynolds Feb. 28, 2014

A Small Subset of Voters Holds a Lot of Sway

In modern-day Texas, the election that matters is usually the Republican primary.

The winners who emerge from Tuesday’s Republican primary and subsequent May 27 runoff elections will in most cases be the prohibitive favorites to win in November.

But the low turnout in the statewide primaries and the dominance of the Republican party in winning statewide elections — about 8 percent of the voting age population cast ballots in the 2012 primaries — means that a small subset of the state’s electorate holds considerable influence. Democrats have not won a statewide race since 1994.

Estimates vary on what turnout will be in the Republican primary. Richard Murray, a University of Houston political science professor, projects that about 1.2 million Texans will cast ballots in the Republican primary. 

Marc DelSignore, a Republican pollster and strategist, put a “realistic range” on Republican turnout at 1.2 million to 1.6 million, with 1.5 million a likely good estimate. He attributed his expectation of a higher turnout to the large number of statewide candidates battling and buying ads in races for a slate of open seats not seen in 12 years.

In the past three elections — 2008, 2010 and 2012 — the totals of Republican primary voters have peaked at 8 percent of the state’s voting-age population. If Murray’s 1.2 million Republican voter projection proves true, that would equate to 6 percent of the state’s adults.

That power of the 8 percent (or 6 percent) has implications for Texas and its ability to address long-term public policy challenges thrown up by the state’s high rate of population growth, like a persistent achievement gap between minority and Anglo schoolchildren.

Murray said one concern was that the makeup of the primary electorate did not reflect the state at large.

The Republican primary voter, he said, tends to be older, better educated and not “just conservative” but “very conservative.”

For that matter, the Democratic primary also skews from the general population, tending to be more liberal with a higher percentage of minority voters, Murray said.

“It seems to me not to be a good situation,” Murray said.

From the 1970s until the early 1990s, when the Democrats were in power in Texas, participation as a percentage of the voting-age population in their primaries regularly hit double digits. It peaked in 1972, when 28 percent of the voting-age population voted.

Aside from the anomaly of the 2008 primary — when the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama contest drove participation to 16 percent of the voting-age population — participation rates in the Democratic primary have sunk to the 3-to-6 percent range in the last 15 years.

Participation rates in the Republican primary have overtaken those in the Democratic primary, though double-digit percentages have been elusive.

Mark McKinnon, a onetime media adviser to former President George W. Bush, said the situation “is problematic, because then government becomes even less responsive to the real policy needs of voters, and reactive to minor but vocal constituencies that are more likely to just create paralysis.”

Public schools, for instance, are facing big challenges. And an older Republican primary electorate means fewer of those voters have children enrolled in public schools. That produces, in turn, “Republican legislators who just aren’t very interested in the issue,” Murray said.

One solution could be scrapping the traditional party primary to break the stranglehold that the parties’ respective bases have on the Legislature, Murray said.

He pointed to California, which was experimenting with nonpartisan primary elections in which the top two vote-getters of all candidates go on to the general election.

But the parties in Texas have not shown much interest in a wholesale overhaul of the primary process, either, Murray said.

DelSignore said he was sympathetic to others’ “good government” argument that the best primary electorate was one more representative of the state as a whole. But, he added, “you go to work with the primary electorate you have, not the one you want.”

The average Republican primary voter might not overlap with the average Texas adult, he said, but the average primary voter also tends to follow politics more closely and has a higher familiarity with the basic issues.

DelSignore highlighted the continued impact of the Tea Party on Texas politics.

The continued appeal of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is the embodiment of what sets Republican voters in Texas apart from their counterparts elsewhere in the nation, DelSignore said.

“Ted Cruz remains in a class by himself in terms of his positive image among primary voters in Texas,” he said. “But in the larger universe, his negatives are increasing greatly.”

To DelSignore, the biggest battle for candidates in this year’s primary is the one to have their name recognized by more voters than their opponents. The overlap between Tea Party views and Republican primary voters create a shortcut for candidates looking to cut through the clutter of a crowded ballot.

The result is a lot of political advertising from candidates who invoke illegal immigration or the Affordable Care Act even though they would have no jurisdiction over either issue if elected.

He argued, though, that it would be wrong to conclude that Republican primary voters’ sympathies with Tea Party views preclude them from assessing and approving needed investments in the state’s future.

He pointed to the approval in November of an amendment to the Texas Constitution establishing a new source of funding for water projects as an example of the limitations of the Tea Party’s influence on Republican primary voters.

“We expected a bigger fight on that,” DelSignore said. “But we found out early on that even in that older, more Republican crowd, there was support” for investment in infrastructure.

Disclosure: At the time of publication, the University of Houston was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune, and Mark McKinnon was a major donor to the Tribune. (See the full list of Tribune donors below $1,000 here.) 

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TribuneFest: Changing Populations, Changing Politics by Evan Smith Feb. 28, 2014

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Texas PAC Funding Ad on Anti-Immigrant GOP Rhetoric by Aman Batheja Feb. 28, 2014

Texas PAC Funding Ad on Anti-Immigrant GOP Rhetoric

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Report: Texas Lags in Hispanic Voter Turnout by Corrie MacLaggan Feb. 26, 2014

Report: Texas Lags in Hispanic Voter Turnout

Low voter turnout among Hispanics in Texas plays a key role in preventing the Republican-dominated state from being politically competitive, according to a new report from the polling company Latino Decisions.

In Texas, which is home to nearly one in five of all U.S. Hispanics, just 39 percent of Hispanics who were eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election cast a ballot. That’s compared with 48 percent of eligible U.S. Hispanics, 61 percent of eligible white Texans and 64 percent of eligible white Americans.

“If Hispanic voter mobilization efforts were successful in the state, Texas would be as competitive as Florida in statewide contests, including presidential elections,” said the report, which was commissioned by America’s Voice, which advocates for immigration reform.

Twenty-five percent of Texas Hispanic voters said they were contacted by campaigns or organizations encouraging them to vote in 2012, the report said. The national average was 31 percent.

"That's really abysmal; these are voters," said Sylvia Manzano, principal at Latino Decisions. "If they're not even getting contacted, then we can only surmise that the less-frequent voters and the eligible but not registered are also not being encouraged to participate."

In Texas, where 38 percent of residents are Hispanic, both major political parties are actively pursuing Hispanic voters, 56 percent of whom identified as Democrats in 2012. Hispanics are expected to be a plurality of the state population by 2020.

Republicans have retained some support among Texas Hispanics in part because there hasn't been an "anti-immigration Pied Piper" in the state, Manzano said. But she said that is changing, citing campaign materials from GOP lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick calling for stopping the "illegal invasion." 

"The current slate of candidates is using distinctively non-Texas tactics that we know spurn Hispanic voters," Manzano said of Republican primary candidates for lieutenant governor and other offices.

Patrick, a state senator from Houston, has said that he and other conservative Republicans are "absolutely not" anti-immigrant but rather anti-illegal immigrant and concerned about criminals crossing the border. He said Mexican-Americans share that concern. 

A narrow majority of registered Texas voters would favor an overhaul of federal immigration law that included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

The Republican Party of Texas has nine staffers dedicated to minority outreach with the help of money from the Republican National Committee. One is focused on black voters, one on Asian voters and seven on Hispanics.

And since Battleground Texas was created a year ago to register Democratic voters and get them to the polls, the organization says it has drawn more than 10,000 volunteers. Democrats haven't won a statewide race since 1994.

The idea that Texas could turn blue ignores the possibility that Texas could turn bright red if Republicans return to the George W. Bush-era model of outreach and policy friendly to Hispanics, Manzano said.

"It's a matter of come and take it," Manzano said. "Whichever party decides to invest in long-term engagement, establishing relationships with new voters, with alienated voters, can maximize the demographics."

Those demographics are rapidly changing. Age differences between Hispanic and white Texans help explain the growth of Texas’ Hispanic population. More than half of Hispanic Texans are under age 30, while 35 percent of white Texans are under age 30, the report said.

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Man Rescues Dog From the Middle of Busy Freeway - Rickey Young - Texas

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

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Texas AG Greg Abbott promises to fight same-sex marriage ruling – LGBTQ Nation

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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The Texas Tribune Battleground Texas Fires Back at Critics by Jay Root Feb. 25, 2014

Battleground Texas Fires Back at Critics

Allegations that Battleground Texas broke the law during its voter registration activities are “entirely without foundation,” the Democratic group wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Tuesday. 

Dewhurst, citing a secretly recorded video of Battleground volunteers in Bexar County, had earlier called for a criminal investigation because of allegations that privacy laws had been broken.

But Graham Wilson, an attorney for the group, told Dewhurst in the letter that his call for a probe “reflects no familiarity with either the law” or rules promulgated by the office of the secretary of state, which handles voter registration regulations at the state level.

He said opinions from Attorney General Greg Abbott demonstrate that phone numbers gathered during the voter registration process were considered public information. Phone numbers allegedly copied down by Battleground volunteers sparked the accusations in the first place.

“In short, Battleground Texas is operating in full compliance with the law as set forth in the Attorney General’s legal opinions, and with attention paid as appropriate to the Secretary of State’s official guidance in this area,” Wilson wrote.

Aides in both Dewhurst’s and Abbott’s press offices said they had not seen the letter and thus could not comment.

The flap stems from a videotaped conversation with Battleground Texas volunteers in Bexar County. It was gathered surreptitiously by controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe, who has sent people posing as interested volunteers to infiltrate Democratic or liberal activist groups, after which he disseminates video that was secretly gathered. 

The office of Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry suggested last week that the group's voter registration practices might violate the law.

In the video, an unedited version of which The Texas Tribune reviewed, a Battleground voter registration coordinator is quoted as saying the group takes phone numbers gathered as part of the registration process. She said the phone numbers would be used to call the voters close to election time to urge them to vote.

Section 13.004 of the Texas Election Code says county registration officials may not “transcribe, copy or otherwise record a telephone number furnished on a registration application.” Berry spokeswoman Alicia Pierce said that section applies to “volunteer deputy registrars,” such as the ones working for Battleground Texas.

The Battleground lawyer disputes that interpretation, saying the statute refers only to county officials — not the volunteers who act on their own out in the field. 

As for the phone numbers, Wilson cited three opinions from the office of the attorney general, including one from 2010 stemming from a case in Dallas County. In that opinion, Abbott’s office concluded that “the county may not withhold the telephone numbers” from a requestor who had asked for the information.

Battleground also cited a pamphlet from the office of the secretary of state that says in part that a volunteer deputy registrar “may also copy the relevant information from the application in writing just as you would be able to do if you went to the registrar’s office and pulled a copy of the original application.”

Wilson said the group does not photocopy voter registration applications and “has not used and is not retaining phone numbers taken off voter registration forms by volunteers.”

Abbott, the Republican front-runner for governor, has recused himself from any investigation and referred the matter to Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed. A call placed to Reed’s office Tuesday afternoon was not immediately returned.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

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A Focus on Helping Colonia Residents With Health Law by Alexa Ura Feb. 24, 2014 The Texas Tribune

A Focus on Helping Colonia Residents With Health Law

EDINBURG — Sitting at an old picnic table in front of a dilapidated house, María Díaz, a hotel housekeeper, tells stories of the rejection that comes with living in impoverished Texas colonias.

The trash on her street is not picked up regularly, so she is used to a wretched smell at night when her neighbors burn their garbage. There is no drainage system on her block, so Díaz, a 44-year-old single mother of four, is accustomed to heavy flooding on her street when it rains.

As she looks into buying private health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, which requires most people to obtain coverage in 2014, Díaz is facing a new type of rejection: She probably does not make enough money to qualify for tax credits to purchase coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace.

Thousands of residents of Texas’ colonias along the U.S.-Mexico border are in similar situations after falling into the “coverage gap” created when Texas’ Republican leadership declined to expand Medicaid eligibility for poor adults under the ACA, saying Medicaid was a broken system. Living in unincorporated subdivisions, where the uninsured rate is between 50 and 80 percent, colonia residents may be largely left with little hope of obtaining coverage.

But community-based organizations are working to educate residents on the federal law and walk them through the application process with the goal of helping them obtain a “hardship waiver” to be exempted from having to buy health insurance.

“We help people go through the application process, even if we can figure out pretty quickly that they’re in the gap,” said Rachel Udow, the program director for Migrant Health Promotion, a Weslaco-based group with six full-time navigators charged with helping individuals sign up for health insurance through the federal marketplace. “Because at the end, they’ll receive the determination that essentially says they’re in the gap, which they’ll then be able to use to access the waiver.”

The hardship waiver exempts those living in the coverage gap — individuals who make less than $11,490 a year or a family of four making less than $23,550 — from paying a penalty when they file their 2014 taxes.

While some navigators have been surprised that several colonia residents have completed the application process and enrolled in the marketplace, the gap keeps many colonia residents from continuing the process after they realize they cannot afford full-price premiums, which can cost hundreds of dollars a month without tax credits, Udow said.

Colonia residents, who are predominantly Hispanic migrants, are among the minorities who make up three-quarters of uninsured adults in the state’s coverage gap. But with more than 384,700 individuals living in Texas’ colonias, which are in 10 border counties, outreach seems to be a bigger problem.

Some colonia residents say they have never heard of the Affordable Care Act, although they live in areas that could benefit most from increased access to health insurance. The colonias, which were first established in the 1950s, have been known to be a breeding ground for disease because they often have no running water, adequate sewage systems or solid waste disposal, among other basic infrastructure.

To increase awareness, organizations like La Unión del Pueblo Entero, a nonprofit community union, hold public seminars and enrollment events, where staff members provide colonia residents information about the federal health reform law and navigator referrals.

Ann Carol Cass, executive director of Proyecto Azteca, a nonprofit affordable-housing organization in the Rio Grande Valley, said the organization refers colonia residents to navigators and helps with enrollment efforts but added that being uninsured was a situation to which colonia residents were accustomed.

“They have never had health insurance, so to be left out doesn’t change much in their lives,” Cass said. “I call it ‘learned helplessness,’ after so many years of being exploited and excluded. It’s just the way life is for them.”

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In Primaries, Political Issues Trump State Issues by Ross Ramsey Feb. 24, 2014 The Texas Tribune

In Primaries, Political Issues Trump State Issues

The people who want to run the state government certainly care a lot about making sure Texas has enough water, about handling transportation issues, and about solving the latest version of the persistent school finance riddle. Some know a lot about budgeting and taxes and public health and education, and they have ideas ranging from wholesale overhauls of state agencies to adjustments that might improve this or that bit of government machinery.

You wouldn’t know it from their campaigns.

Instead, they are talking about topics that motivate and influence their primary voters: President Obama, concealed and open carry of handguns, increased law enforcement presence on the border between Texas and Mexico, prayer in schools, marijuana as a boon to agriculture, and whether comedians in cowboy hats should be on a serious political party’s ticket in November.

Some of the serious business of government is boring. Some of it does not reveal much difference between the candidates, and elections are all about showing voters the differences and then asking them to make choices.

Nobody who wants to get elected is saying the roads are unjammed, that the rivers are flowing or that public education in Texas is the nation’s best. But talking about real problems is tricky, since it forces a candidate to pick sides, and since picking sides is what separates one group of voters from another. And most of what lawmakers do once they are in office is hard to explain in 30-second advertisements, on short and colorful mailers, or in anything that requires short, black-and-white answers.

Budgets are complicated. Lawmakers get some of what they want and have to swallow some things they do not want. Sometimes at the end of a legislative session, you can tell who might run for higher office the next year just by watching their budget speeches and votes.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, voted to advance the state budget until the final vote in last year’s legislative session. That turnabout so angered the Finance Committee chairman — Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands — that he wrote an editorial excoriating Patrick and concluding that “he was looking for an excuse to distance himself from our good work to advance his own political interests.”

Patrick, of course, is now a candidate for lieutenant governor, joining in criticism of the incumbent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, for growth in the state budget since Dewhurst took over in 2003.

At least two statewide candidates are running commercials showing them in gun ranges. State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic candidate for governor, said recently that she is open to allowing licensed Texans to wear unconcealed handguns. Her likely opponent in November, Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, made a couple of campaign stops with the rock musician Ted Nugent to fortify his standing with Second Amendment enthusiasts. Some people might not like the controversial and outspoken Nugent, but the Abbott campaign is betting that most of them are not Republican primary voters.

The main duties of Texas’ attorney general include acting as the state’s in-house law firm, as its largest enforcer of child support, but those are not issues in the primary campaign between three Republicans, because it is not where their differences are found. Instead, the differences are in their résumés, in their affiliations and endorsements, and in what they have done or not done in their various public offices.

Every election year is preceded by speculation — a period when the various possible contestants and important supporters are figuring out who will run, and for which office.

Gov. Rick Perry announced fairly early that he would not seek another term, and that means neither he nor anyone else will have to do a line-by-line defense of his tenure. Comptroller Susan Combs was considered a formidable candidate for lieutenant governor, but decided not to run. She would have faced a referendum on her time in office, about a data breach that left personal information of 3.5 million teachers and state employees exposed, and about a huge 2011 underestimation of how much money would be available for the state budget — an error that Republican budget-writers blamed for huge cuts in public education spending.

Had they run, their contests might have been focused on what candidates do once elected to high office — kind of an “eat your vegetables” approach. Instead, in these primaries, the candidates are serving red meat.

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Abbott and Davis Both Claim Fundraising Success by Jay Root Feb. 24, 2014

Abbott and Davis Both Claim Fundraising Success

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis and a fundraising partner raised more money in the last month than the campaign of Attorney General Greg Abbott, but the Republican front-runner for governor had almost three times the amount of cash to spend. 

The fundraising figures were released by both campaigns. Details of who gave and in what amounts, which have to be reported to the Texas Ethics Commission by midnight Monday, were not yet available.

The Davis campaign reported raising a combined $2.85 million. She counts money going into both her gubernatorial campaign and a joint fundraising operation with the Democratic group Battleground Texas, in addition to her old Senate committee.

The gubernatorial campaign raised $1.6 million and the joint “Texas Victory Committee” raised about $1.2, her campaign said. The Senate committee "officeholder" account got only $2,000. 

All told, Davis will report having $11.3 million in cash on hand for the three entities. Abbott, who raised $2.45 million over the latest reporting period, has about $30 million in the bank, his campaign said.

The Davis campaign said it had raised nearly $16 million from over 91,000 individual donors since July. The campaign said there were over 14,000 new individuals in the last reporting period, which ran from Jan. 24 to Feb. 22.

“We are surpassing expectations,” said Karin Johanson, Davis’s campaign manager. “The level of support we are receiving across the state demonstrates the issues we are emphasizing — education, the economy and caring for our veterans — are Texas values.”

Abbott, a prodigious fundraiser and heir to a vast Republican donor network, faces little competition for his party’s primary election and has already been engaging with Davis, his expected opponent. The campaign said 98 percent of its donations came from inside Texas.

"Texans from across the state are joining Greg Abbott in building a strong campaign and a brighter future for Texas," Abbott campaign manager Wayne Hamilton said in a written statement. "As the campaign progresses, Greg Abbott will continue to travel the state, speaking with and hearing from Texans who share his goal to improve Texas’ education system, grow jobs, and strengthen individual freedom."

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Texas Politics Blogging politics, elections and the Capitol with the Austin bureau Patrick denies writing letter produced by former employee Posted on February 24, 2014 | By Patricia Kilday Hart

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UT/TT Poll: Abbott Holds 11-Point Lead Over Davis by Ross Ramsey Feb. 24, 2014 The Texas Tribune

UT/TT Poll: Abbott Holds 11-Point Lead Over Davis

After what are shaping up to be easy primary wins in March for the leading gubernatorial candidates, Republican Greg Abbott starts the general election race for governor with an 11-point lead over Democrat Wendy Davis, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Meanwhile, several statewide races on the Republican primary ballot — for lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller — appear headed for May runoffs. None of the leaders in those races looks close to the 50 percent support they would need to win next month's primary outright.

In the governor’s race, Abbott would beat Davis 47 percent to 36 percent in a general election held today, with 17 percent of registered voters saying they have not made up their minds about which candidate to support, according to the poll.

“We’ve been talking since the beginning of this race about whether anything would be different, and we’re not seeing anything that’s different,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “There was some talk about how Davis had done better in our last poll, and that was partially an artifact of her rise in the fall, and we’re seeing something of a reassertion of the normal pattern.”

In the October survey, Davis’ announcement and sudden political celebrity cut the Republican's lead over her to 6 percentage points. Now, the distance between the two has widened a bit.

“The story of the last four months is, Davis loses a couple points, Abbott gains a couple of points,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at UT-Austin. “He had a pretty good couple of months. She had a pretty bad couple of months, all without many people paying attention.”

Before they get to the general election, each faces a primary election. On the Republican side, the poll found Abbott well ahead of his rivals, with 90 percent support among likely Republican voters, followed by Miriam Martinez at 5 percent, Lisa Fritsch at 4 percent and Larry Secede Kilgore at 1 percent. Davis leads Ray Madrigal 87 percent to 13 percent among likely Democratic voters.

In the heated Republican primary for lieutenant governor, incumbent David Dewhurst leads the pack with 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters at his side, followed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at 31 percent; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples at 17 percent; and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson at 15 percent.

“Each of them has run a conservative — that’s a small C — risk-averse campaign,” Shaw said. “I get that, but I think two of them are going to really regret it.”

The Republican nominee will face state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who is unopposed in her primary. Van de Putte lagged behind each of the four Republicans in hypothetical general election matchups, trailing Dewhurst 44 percent to 32 percent, Patrick 41 percent to 32 percent, Staples 41 percent to 29 percent, and Patterson 41 percent to 30 percent. Undecided voters made up the difference in each race.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, facing a field of seven other Republican primary candidates in his bid for re-election, won the support of 62 percent of the likely Republican primary voters, followed by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, who got 16 percent. Support for the rest was in single digits: Linda Vega, 7 percent; Dwayne Stovall and Ken Cope, 4 percent each; Reid Reasor and Chris Mapp, 3 percent each; and Curt Cleaver, 1 percent.

In the Democratic primary, the candidate who has been on the ballot the most times, Kesha Rogers, leads the best-financed candidate, David Alameel, 35 percent to 27 percent. Maxey Scherr had 15 percent, followed by Harry Kim at 14 percent and Michael Fjetland at 9 percent. Voters are largely unfamiliar with those candidates; 74 percent initially expressed no opinion before being asked how they would vote if they had to decide now.

“This is what it looks like when you have a bunch of candidates, no infrastructure and no money,” Henson said. “The first person to raise some money and run some ads could really move this.”

High numbers of initially undecided voters were evident in races for attorney general and comptroller as well. “Once you get to these down-ballot races, you can expect things to be more volatile,” Henson said.

The Republican primary for attorney general is a statistical dead heat between state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, at 42 percent, and state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney, at 38 percent — a difference smaller than the poll’s margin of error. Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman got 20 percent. When they were initially asked about the race, 47 percent expressed no preference between the candidates.

In the race for comptroller, that group of initially undecided voters accounted for 54 percent, perhaps an indication of continuing flux in the race. Debra Medina, the only candidate who has been on a statewide ballot (she ran for governor in 2010), got 39 percent after voters were asked whom they would support in an election now, followed by state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, at 26 percent; state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, at 24 percent; and former state Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, at 11 percent.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is the most popular Republican candidate for president among Texas Republicans right now, winning 28 percent of the votes in a hypothetical primary. Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky were next at 10 percent each, followed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 8 percent each; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 6 percent; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 4 percent. Another 12 percent said they haven’t decided whom they would support.

Voters who identify with the Tea Party remain an important constituency for conservatives. Asked how they would identify themselves if that was a formal party, 37 percent said they would be Democrats, 21 percent said Republican and 21 percent chose Tea. A little more than a third — 35 percent — said the Tea Party has too much influence within the GOP, 29 percent said it has too little, and 18 percent said it has about the right amount.

Abbott has burnished his reputation with voters since October: 45 percent said they have a favorable impression of him now, up from 36 percent in the October UT/TT Poll. His unfavorable ratings were pretty stable: 25 percent now, 24 percent then. Davis got favorable marks from 36 percent, compared with 37 percent in October; her unfavorable marks rose to 35 percent now from 31 percent then.

They appear to be evenly matched in terms of whether voters know who they are. “Abbott is not Perry, and he’s not Bush,” Shaw said. “Democrats up to now have been dealing with huge name ID deficits. That’s not true for Davis and Abbott. He’s not one of the 800-pound gorillas of state politics.”

Cornyn’s numbers have improved, with 33 percent saying they view him favorably — up from 25 percent in October — and 32 percent registering unfavorable impressions, up from 30 percent. Cruz’s favorable/unfavorable marks are now 43 percent/37 percent, improved from 38 percent/37 percent in October. Perry’s numbers improved a bit, to 44 percent favorable and 40 unfavorable now, from 39 percent/43 percent in October.

Dewhurst was seen favorably by 31 percent and unfavorably by 30 percent. Everybody else in the race for lieutenant governor had more-positive ratios but was also unknown by more people: Van de Putte, 27 percent to 22 percent; Patrick, 26 percent to 18 percent; Staples, 22 percent to 14 percent; and Patterson, 21 percent to 10 percent. Among voters who support Staples and Patterson, 39 percent registered favorable views of Dewhurst and 27 said the same about Patrick; 29 percent had unfavorable views of Dewhurst, and 18 percent had unfavorable views of Patrick. The rest registered no opinion.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted Feb. 7-17 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. For questions of likely Republican primary voters, the margin of error is +/- 4.56 percentage points; for likely Democratic primary voters, +/- 6.04 percentage points. Numbers in the charts might not add up to 100 percent, because of rounding.

This is the first of several stories on the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Tomorrow: Texans’ views on various proposals for public education.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Good times mean higher milk prices

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How Ted Nugent riles and divides

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Painting Dixie Blue Can Democrats retake the South? Yes, and here’s how. By SCOTT ARCENEAUX February 20, 2014 Read more:

Rand Paul: Ted Nugent should apologize

Rand Paul: Ted Nugent should apologize

No, a Minimum-Wage Boost Won’t Kill Jobs By MICHAEL REICH February 21, 2014 Read more:

Stockman Campaign Denies It Was Behind Mailer by Aman Batheja Feb. 23, 2014

Stockman Campaign Denies It Was Behind Mailer

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman’s campaign for U.S. Senate denied multiple allegations Sunday from rivals that it is engaging in misleading or illegal efforts to sway Republican voters.

Stockman, of Friendswood, is one of seven Republicans hoping to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the March 4 primary.

Over the weekend, some Texas voters received a 16-page campaign mailer made to look like a newspaper titled “The Conservative News.” The publication was from an organization called Center for the American Future, and is also available on the group’s website. Every page of the publication is devoted to criticizing Cornyn or praising Stockman. It includes images that are nearly identical to those posted by Stockman’s campaign in recent weeks.

Quorum Report and Big Jolly Politics, a conservative blog, were the first to report the appearance of the newspapers in some Texans’ mailboxes. Cornyn campaign spokesman Drew Brandewie, among others, linked to the posts on Twitter and accused Stockman of sending the publication.

Stockman has faced questions of political impropriety, including sending out campaign materials made to look like newspapers, since his first successful run for Congress in the 1990s. In 1998, the Federal Election Commission fined Stockman’s congressional campaign $40,000 for distributing a newspaper, the Southeast Texas Times, that purported to be an independent newsletter published by area conservatives. It was published out of Stockman’s house. In 2012, Stockman’s congressional campaign produced another newspaper that suggested a leading opponent had dropped out of the race.

On Sunday, Stockman campaign spokesman Donny Ferguson said the campaign had nothing to do with "The Conservative News."

“That's not us,” Ferguson said in an email. “They appear to be using information we publicly wrote, but the Stockman campaign did not mail that.”

A call to the Center for the American Future was not immediately returned Sunday.

Ferguson also said the Stockman campaign had no involvement with recent political activity by Public Advocates, a Washington D.C.-based conservative group. The group sent out questionnaires to Cornyn and his Republican and Democratic opponents asking about their views on the “homosexual lobby.” The group’s president, Eugene Delgaudio, emailed voters in Texas last week that only Stockman responded to the questionnaire and is “100% pro-family.” Ferguson used to work as a legislative aide for Delgaudio, who is a member of the Loudon County Board of Supervisors in Virginia.

On Friday, the campaign of Dwayne Stovall, another Republican in the race, launched a website,, accusing the organization of deceiving voters by painting the other candidates as opposed to traditional family values for not filling out the survey.

“Hundreds of thousands of Texans received this email,” the website reads. “It is deceptive, and it is from an associate of Steve Stockman to help push voters to him and away from others. Why travel across Texas to meet voters and campaign when you can send scary and deceptive emails like this one with the click of a button?”

On social media, both Stovall and Brandewie have also promoted a recent podcast by Lee Stranahan, a reporter for conservative news site, Breitbart Texas, which accuses Delgaudio and Public Advocates of “scamming” voters and working to pump up Stockman’s campaign.

“Public Advocate has been around since 1981 and has surveyed House and Senate candidates nationwide for decades,” Ferguson said. “We received a survey, filled it out and returned it. No one with the campaign has communicated with Eugene Delgaudio.”

An email to Public Advocates was not immediately returned.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Private Prison Companies Make Big Money Off Detaining Undocumented Immigrants AP | By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ Posted: 08/02/2012 4:43 am Updated: 08/02/2012 11:42 am

Aloe Blacc - The Man (Official Lyric Video)

New Arizona law: religious businesses can deny service to gays. Is that OK?

New Arizona law: religious businesses can deny service to gays. Is that OK?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

DREAM ACT - TEXAS: Houston Latino History - 1977- 1978

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Emily Shire U.S. NEWS 02.21.14 No, Texas, Spouse Abuse Isn’t Foreplay

Austin police chief says jaywalkers should be happy they’re not sexually assaulted by cops By George Chidi Saturday, February 22, 2014 22:59 EST The Raw Story

Aloe Blacc - Wake Me Up (Official Video)

Seeking To Correct Potential Acts Of Bias, Obama Will Award Medal Of Honor To Minority Veterans Published February 22, 2014Fox News Latino

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02.20.14 Boehner's Newest Battle Don't cry again, Mr. Speaker. Patricia Murphy talked to CNN about John Boehner's latest threat from the Tea Party.

Robert Maguire POLITICS 02.22.14 Consultants Are Cashing In On Campaigns’ Dark New Economics

Anna Nemtsova WORLD NEWS 02.21.14 Pussy Riot Whips Sochi

Baby Gift From Uncle Sam? Senator Proposes Giving $500 Each to Newborns BY FOX NEWS INSIDER // FEB 22 2014 // 1:35PM

Texas Republicans Who Dismantled Women's Health-Care Program Now Trying to Save It With a Concert

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Correspondence: The Battle for Abortion at the Clinic Doors

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Stephen Colbert Hits Back At Bill O'Reilly Over Microwave Auction The Huffington Post | by Ross Luippold Email RSS Posted: 02/21/2014 10:05 am EST Updated: 02/21/2014 10:59 am EST

Article Arizona Legislature OKs religion bill; on way to Gov. Brewer Measure pits freedom against discrimination By Alia Beard Rau The Republic | Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:30 AM

Rick Perry: The Minimum Wage Is Not 'The Government's Business' The Huffington Post | by Chris Gentilviso Email RSS Posted: 02/22/2014 12:19 pm EST Updated: 02/22/2014 4:59 pm EST

Friday, February 21, 2014

Gangs recruiting teens but communities fighting back The border between Texas and Mexico is fertile ground for cartels and gangs looking for new recruits. Two sister cities are banding together to fight this distrubing trend.

I Stand With Wendy Davis! #ImWithWendyDavis



Historical Houston Latino neighborhood, El Barrio Del Alacran, to get Texas historical marker Community Stories South zNew HeadlineAugust 13, 2013

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Abortion Debate Reignited In Austin - Austin News, Weather, Traffic KEYE-TV Austin - Top Stories

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Anne Frank Books Vandalized in Tokyo

Anne Frank Books Vandalized in Tokyo: AnneFrank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" and scores of books about the young Holocaust victim have been vandalized in Tokyo public libraries. A total of 265 books in 31 libraries had been found damaged. (Feb. 21)

Anne Frank Books Vandalized in Tokyo

Anne Frank Books Vandalized in Tokyo: AnneFrank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" and scores of books about the young Holocaust victim have been vandalized in Tokyo public libraries. A total of 265 books in 31 libraries had been found damaged. (Feb. 21)

265 Anne Frank Books Vandalized TOKYO February 21, 2014 (AP)

HOME>ENTERTAINMENT 265 Anne Frank Books Vandalized TOKYO February 21, 2014 (AP) Top Headlines This Hour From ABC News Associated Press Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" and scores of books about the young Holocaust victim have been vandalized in Tokyo public libraries since earlier this year.

ABC Entertainment News|ABC Business News

Republicans Throwing Time and Money Into Field Game by Jay Root Feb. 21, 2014

Republicans Throwing Time and Money Into Field Game

“Bring it on,” he said through a spokeswoman. The governor later offered his own swaggering prediction, telling The Wall Street Journal that the University of Texas would sooner adopt the battle colors of its erstwhile rivals at Texas A&M University rivals “before Texas turns purple, much less blue.”

It was a different story inside the headquarters of the Republican Party of Texas and the campaign office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who as minority whip is the second most powerful Republican leader in the U.S. Senate.

Though neither Cornyn nor Steve Munisteri, chairman of the state Republican Party, was reaching for the antacids, they knew they needed to ramp up their minority outreach efforts in Texas, the only reliably Republican state without a white majority.

They also knew they needed to get better at using “big data” technology and social media to interact with supporters and to create more sophisticated electronic voter-contact files.

That was the pitch Munisteri had been making to the Republican National Committee since 2010, when he took the state party reins, a job he won after promising to focus less on ideological warfare and more on modernizing the party's outdated get-out-the-vote infrastructure. But he says he had a hard time conveying the need to improve voter outreach in a state that many consider to be safely in Republican hands.

“Battleground coming down here did something for me that I was unable to do on my own for three years, which was to get the RNC engaged to help us at an early stage, to get victory operations underway earlier,” Munisteri said. “They gave me the ammunition to convince the national party to put us on a priority list.”

This week, as promised, RNC officials arrived with software in hand, installing sophisticated programs that merge consumer data with voter preferences and allow better targeting of supporters, Munisteri said. And they are giving the state party about $50,000 a month largely to conduct outreach in black, Hispanic and Asian communities.

Individual candidates are ramping up their own field games, too. Munisteri noted that Attorney General Greg Abbott, the expected Republican candidate for governor, had 50 paid staff members doing grassroots outreach, a commitment that Munisteri called unprecedented. Abbott’s campaign declined to give details about its field program but said it was signing up gobs of supporters each week at “gun shows, county fairs, pro-life rallies, parades and other GOP events.”

Even before Battleground Texas, Cornyn had seen the writing on the electronic wall. His sense of urgency became particularly acute after watching Obama decisively win the technology war with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

“The Obama campaign was masterful,” Cornyn said in an interview. “They were able to turn out, due to their digital and data collection efforts people that Republicans weren’t even thinking about, much less reaching out to. So we’re playing catch-up in that regard.”

Today, Cornyn estimates he is spending about $100,000 a month on digital outreach. While he is using the technology in part to boost his primary re-election campaign, he has the luxury of worrying about the party’s success up and down the ballot because his main challenger in the primary, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, has failed to gain traction ahead of the March 4 election.

The Democrat who wins the race to run against him will be will be a long shot at best.

With the help of two young aides, Brendan Steinhauser and Josh Eboch — tech-friendly operatives who preach the gospel of campaign analytics as told in Sasha Issenberg’s book The Victory Lab — Cornyn has seen a big payoff from the increased voter-contact efforts and engagement on social media.

Cornyn’s fan base on Facebook has exploded, rising at last count to more than 250,000 from about 27,000 in August. Since the summer, his campaign's email list has grown by some 250 percent since the summer, and the number of online donors has increased by more than 200 percent during the same period, according to figures provided by the campaign.

The campaign has merged the information it gathers online with offline voter history. That lets the Cornyn campaign track behavioral trends and create 15 different subsets of Republican primary voters based on propensity to vote, issues that move them and  level of support for the senator.

The Cornyn campaign’s social media success has been so impressive that Facebook is in discussions with the campaign about making it a case study, aides say.

“I can see the power of this thing in terms of getting people to the polls, which obviously is the ultimate goal,” Cornyn said.

The focus on voter targeting comes amid a changing demographic landscape in Texas. While whites still make up about two-thirds of the electorate, they are no longer a majority of the population, and the fight is on for the nonwhite voters who will make up an increasingly larger share of the voting public.

Munisteri said there were no staff members dedicated to full-time minority outreach when he became party chairman. Today, thanks in part to the RNC money, there are nine: one focused on black voters, one conducting Asian outreach and seven working to court the rapidly growing Hispanic population.

Democrats are not moved. They say there is only so much that increased staff and money can do to help Republicans with minority voters.

Ellis Brachman, a spokesman for Battleground Texas, said increasingly strident rhetoric from Republican candidates would torpedo any gains they made behind computer screens. He cited, for example, harsh anti-immigrant talk in the lieutenant governor’s race and Abbott’s recent appearance with the profanity-spewing rock musician Ted Nugent — who has issued a string of controversial statements and recently called Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”

“It doesn’t matter how you sell your product if people don’t want to buy it,” Brachman said. “And what we’re seeing with Republicans is a product that frankly, more and more Texans don’t want to buy.”

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Eugene Mulero How A Texas Border Republican Can Oppose Immigration Reform And Still Be Reelected Posted: 02/21/2014 12:36 pm EST Updated: 02/21/2014 2:59 pm EST

US Olympian Returns From Sochi and Turns to Politics

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Tea Party Candidates Close Out Rough Week

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Chris Christie Rejects White House Dinner Invite

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The Dramatic Moment When a Woman Pulled Over to Give Her Nephew CPR

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Texas Senate Holds Hearing To Congratulate Itself On Women's Health 'Achievements' Posted: 02/20/2014 2:46 pm EST Updated: 02/20/2014 3:59 pm EST Laura Bassett Become a fan

Candidates for TX Board of Education do not believe state should be involved in education By Scott Kaufman Thursday, February 20, 2014 10:51 EST

Candidates for TX Board of Education do not believe state should be involved in education (via Raw Story )

At least two of the Republican candidates running for the Texas State Board of Education indicated in a conservative voter’s guide that they don’t believe the Texas State Board of Education should have any authority over how children are educated…

Sarah WolfeFebruary 18, 2014 16:21 Add Sarah Wolfe to your circles A depressed Chinese man tried to feed himself to zoo tigers (VIDEO) Workers at the Chengdu Zoo in Sichuan province were able to save the man from almost certain death.

South Carolina white supremacist pastor charged with sexually abusing little girl By David Edwards Thursday, February 20, 2014 9:17 EST

United Nations Urges Countries To Remove ‘Unnecessary’ Restrictions On Abortion BY TARA CULP-RESSLER ON FEBRUARY 19, 2014 AT 4:01 PM

A Symposium on Demographic Change See event details → Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:30am EST — Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:30pm EST

Ted Cruz: American Energy Renaissance A

Arizona Senate Actually does it.. 'Turn Gays Away' Passes WED FEB 19, 2014 AT 05:17 PM PST

The Brief: Another O'Keefe Video Drops on BGTX Activity by John Reynolds Feb. 20, 2014

The Brief: Another O'Keefe Video Drops on BGTX Activity

The Big Conversation

Conservative activist James O'Keefe has released another covert video of Battleground Texas volunteers. In this one, a voter registration coordinator collects phone numbers as part of the registration process, something that the office of Secretary of State Nandita Berry tells the Tribune's Alana Rocha and Jay Root could be a "potential level of offense."

"Whether Battleground did anything wrong in the process comes down to how the law is interpreted," wrote Rocha and Root. "Section 13.004 of the Texas Election Code says, in part, that county registration officials may not 'transcribe, copy or otherwise record a telephone number furnished on a registration application.'”

Opinion was split among authorities queried by the reporters. A Berry spokesman suggested that Battleground Texas' volunteer deputy registrars would have the same liability that applies to county officials. That view was not shared by election law expert Buck Wood, who said the statutory language makes it clear that these volunteer registrars are not county officials.

A representative from Attorney General Greg Abbott's office did not have immediate comment but "said it would check into the matter," according to Rocha and Root.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate Health and Human Services Committee meets in the Capitol Extension to take up interim charges on Child Protective Services and Women's Health (agenda).

•    Pre-primary financial reports for federal candidates are due. Covers fundraising activity from Jan. 1 through Feb. 12.

•    Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst casts his vote at a South Austin H-E-B and will take questions from the media afterward. Lite guv candidate Jerry Patterson is in Tyler, and lite guv candidate Todd Staples is in Amarillo.

Today in the Trib

Unusually Cold Winter Takes a Toll on Homeless Texans: "The number of homeless people in Texas has declined in recent years. But this unusually cold winter has driven people into shelters across the state."

Standing Out a Challenge in Race for Stockman Seat: "In the 12-way Republican primary for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, the candidates are running more against President Obama than against one another."

CSCOPE, Algebra II Emerge as Issues in SBOE Primaries: "How the Texas State Board of Education has handled its purview over curriculum standards has cropped up in three primary races that will likely determine who will join the board in January."


Sarah Palin backs Greg Abbott, Katrina Pierson in Texas, Politico

Wendy Davis fundraising off Ted Nugent, Politico

Immigrant worker allegations roil lieutenant governor race, Houston Chronicle

Big Oil, Bad Air: Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas, Center for Public Integrity

John Cornyn is crushing the Tea Party in Texas, Slate

Texas Gov. Rick Perry to return to Iowa next week, Quad-City Times

Quote to Note

"Family violence is so, so overrated."

— Democratic Harris County DA candidate Lloyd Oliver, who is campaigning to reduce prosecutions of domestic violence cases

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Texas Tribune Festival On the Road at the University of Texas El Paso for a daylong symposium on demographic change, 2/27

•    Live Post-Primary Election TribCast at the Austin Club, 3/5

•    A Conversation With Sen. Wendy Davis, 2014 Democratic Candidate for Governor, at Stateside at the Paramount, 3/6

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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