Connect with us

Elections 2018

In Texas, “Rainbow Wave” Outpaces the Blue One

Fourteen of 35 LGBTQ candidates won their races Tuesday night, and activists say the 2018 election will carve a path for a future “rainbow wave” in Texas.

Published

on

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Fourteen of the 35 gay, bisexual and transgender candidates who ran for office in Texas during the midterms claimed victory Tuesday night — a 40 percent success rate in deep-red Texas — and national and state activists say they’re confident this election cycle carved a path for a future “rainbow wave” in Texas.

The historic number of Texas candidates who ran for offices from governor down to city council positions joined a record-shattering rank of more than 400 LGBTQ individuals on national midterm ballots this year.

“It shows that politics are changing and that more LGBTQ people feel comfortable to step out and run openly,” said Sean Meloy, political director at Victory Fund, a Washington D.C.-based LGBTQ group that fundraised for several Texas races.

LGBTQ candidates had plenty of fuel to inspire their campaigns and galvanize supporters, from Texas’ controversial “bathroom bill” to the Trump administration’s plans to eliminate “transgender” from legal terms.

Julie Johnson, a lesbian candidate from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, defeated Republican incumbent Matt Rinaldi of Irving; LGBTQ candidate Jessica González ran uncontested for a Dallas-area seat after defeating state Rep. Roberto Alonzo in the Democratic primary; and Erin Zwiener, a bisexual House candidate, won a Central Texas seat by defeating Republican Ken Strange. They will more than double the number of openly LGBTQ women in the Texas House of Representatives.

In Harris County, five LGBTQ judicial candidates defeated Republican incumbents Tuesday. Jason Cox, Jerry Simoneaux, Shannon Baldwin, James Kovach and Beau Miller will join the three openly gay judges in Houston. Charles Spain, a gay man, also won a seat on the 14th Court of Appeals over Republican incumbent Marc Brown.

“I think we are on a new path,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, an Austin-based LGBTQ nonprofit. “[One] that demonstrates equality is a mainstream value and that extremists who seek to oppose equality are not in the mainstream.”

Perhaps the most recognizable LGBTQ candidate in Texas, Lupe Valdez, garnered national attention as the first openly gay candidate and first Latina to win a major party nomination in a Texas gubernatorial race. Valdez, a Democrat and former Dallas County sheriff, lost to Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott by 13 points on Tuesday.

Valdez talked frequently about her race, gender, sexuality and socioeconomic background during the election.

“I’m Hispanic, female, lesbian, Democrat,” Valdez said in an interview with the Tribune in May. “Diversity is what made this country strong. Diversity is what will make Texas strong.”

In Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones — a former Air Force intelligence officer, Iraq War veteran and lesbian candidate — fought incumbent U.S. Congressman Will Hurd to a virtual tie. Hurd remained less than a percentage point ahead of Ortiz Jones on Wednesday morning and the race is still too close to call.

Meloy, whose Victory Fund organization contributed nearly $9,000 to Ortiz Jones’ campaign and raised more than $53,000 on her behalf, said Ortiz Jones’ run represents a historic moment that gives hope to those fighting for equality.

“I think it represents not only her perseverance but that a queer woman of color who is also a veteran should not be underestimated,” Meloy said.

Below is the complete list of winning candidates (candidates with an asterisk won re-election).

  • Erin Zwiener, Texas House, District 45
  • Celia Israel, Texas House, District 50*
  • Mary González, Texas House District 75*
  • Jessica González, Texas House, District 104
  • Julie Johnson, Texas House, District 115
  • Charles Spain, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 4
  • Shannon Baldwin, Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law No. 4
  • Jerry Simoneaux, Harris County Probate Court-at-Law No. 1
  • Jason Cox, Harris County Probate Court-at-Law No. 3
  • James Kovach, Harris County Civil Court-at-Law No. 2
  • Rosie Gonzalez, Bexar County Court-at-Law No. 13
  • Tonya Parker, 116th Judicial District, Harris County*
  • Beau Miller, 190th Judicial District, Harris County
  • Sara Martinez, Dallas County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, Place 1*

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

Elections 2018

Texas’ Largest Counties Have Doubled Voter Turnout So Far Compared to 2014

Soon, more Texans will have voted early in 2018 than in all of 2014’s early voting period, according to data from the secretary of state’s office.

Published

on

Long lines for the start of early voting snaked around the parking at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center near downtown Houston on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Photo credit: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

*Correction appended.

Early Friday morning at a Fiesta Mart in Austin, voters dodged hurried grocery shoppers and their shopping carts and rushed to line up to vote in a tucked-away cove of the store. By mid-morning, the line to vote stretched past the nearby ice machine and into the butter and milk section several feet away. 

Susan Gredler, the early voting deputy at Fiesta Mart, said she has seen “huge” numbers of people – about 900 per day – at her polling place all week since early voting began on Monday. At times, she said the line has wound around the inside perimeter of the store and past the meat section in the back. 

“We’ve been really worried they’re waiting too long,” said Gredler. “But nobody’s really been discontented to the point that they want to leave.” 

The bustling scene at Fiesta Mart is a common one. Voters across the state have come out in massive numbers during the first five days of early voting, and soon, more Texans will have voted early in 2018 than in all of 2014’s early voting period, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. 

The state’s five largest counties have all nearly doubled the turnout compared to the same point in 2014. By the time the polls closed Thursday, 13.2 percent of registered voters in Harris County, the state’s largest county, had voted, compared to 6.4 percent at the same time in 2014. That number comes close to the 16.4 percent voter turnout seen at the end of the fourth day of early voting in 2016, a presidential year. 

The story is similar in Dallas County, which recorded a voter turnout of 16.9 percent at the end of Thursday, compared to 5.9 percent at the same point in 2014, and in Tarrant County, which recorded a voter turnout of 16 percent at the end of Thursday, compared to 7.3 percent at the same point in 2014. 

In Travis County, where the Austin Fiesta Mart polling location is, Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant reported on Facebook that as of 4 p.m. Friday, 22 percent of registered voters had cast their vote. The number hovered around 7 percent at the same point back in 2014. 

“After just five days of early voting, the 2018 voter turnout will likely have passed the entire Early Vote turnout for the 2010 and 2014 elections,” Elfant wrote. 

Some counties — like El Paso, Williamson and Cameron — have already surpassed the overall voter turnout during the entire two-week early voting period in 2014. Overall, by the time the polls closed on Thursday, 16.3 percent of the 12.3 million registered voters in the 30 counties with the most registered voters had cast ballots. 

“It’s pretty remarkable to double or triple voter turnout,” said Renée Cross, the senior director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. 

While she said the popular Senate race pitting U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz explains some of the increase in voter turnout, she said “it’s got to be more than the Senate race.” 

“It’s also national politics,” Cross said. “People on one side are driven to the polls because they want to vote against the party of Trump, and, on the other side, people are energized to vote because of the [Supreme Court Justice Brett] Kavanaugh nomination hearings.” 

Cross said it’s been a “very long time” since Texas voters from both political parties have been as energized as they are. 

Many early voters who lined up on the black-and-white checkerboard floor of the Fiesta Mart, near the constant beeping of checkout counters, said they were focused on both local races and national races. 

“We’re all voting in the Senate race,” said Robby Earle, a 26-year-old law student who was asked by election officials to zip up his burnt yellow hoodie to cover up his “Beto” t-shirt underneath. “But we’re also sending a message two years after 2016 that the current Congress is not getting a seal of approval.” 

Norris Ferguson, 68, a retiree proudly waving around her “I voted” sticker, said she is “fed up” with elected officials in Washington. 

“We can’t take it anymore,” Ferguson said. “We need to do something.” 

Ferguson, along with scores of early voters at the Fiesta Mart, said she had heard reports of massive voter turnout earlier in the week and wanted to avoid those long lines as well as lines on Nov. 6, Election Day. 

Mark Jones, a fellow in political science at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the long lines at polling places are “notable,” but he said that “almost any voter turnout should be above 2014.” 

Jones also said it is too early to draw conclusions about whether strong early voting turnout will mean strong overall turnout. Early voting could be “cannibalizing Election Day turnout, ” he said. 

“More and more people are voting early,” said Jones, who estimates that between 60 and 75 percent of registered voters will cast their vote before Election Day. “People have gotten used to it, and campaigns have been encouraging it.” 

He noted that a greater proportion of voters this year will be under the age of 35. 

“Beto O’Rourke has spent quite a bit of money and time targeting millennials and post-millennials with the correct belief that they support him more than any other age group,” Jones said. 

Cross said grassroots groups across the state have also been aggressively targeting young voters. In Travis County, 39 percent of registered voters this year are younger than 35, according to the county’s voter registration data. That’s up from 33 percent of registered voters in 2014. But high voter registration numbers do not always translate into high voter turnout, Cross said. 

Kelsey Scarborough, a 27-year-old who works in the tech industry, said Friday at the Fiesta Mart polling location that she had never voted in an early election before. She said her sister and her friend convinced her to vote. 

“I’m not actually really involved in politics,” Scarborough said. “But the people around you help you get to the polls.” 

Early voting runs until Nov. 2. 

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Renée Cross’ title. She is the senior director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs. 

Disclosure: The University of Houston and Rice University have been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Continue Reading

Elections 2018

Lupe Valdez Becomes First Openly Gay & First Latina to Win a Major Party Nomination for Texas Governor

Published

on

[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-flag” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#000000″]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]

After a tight race throughout much of the evening Tuesday, Lupe Valdez pulled ahead late to comfortably defeat Andrew White in the Democratic runoff for governor, according to unofficial returns. 

Valdez goes into the November general election as the first openly lesbian and first Latina candidate to win a major party gubernatorial nomination in Texas. She told cheering supporters in Dallas that she’s not deterred by conventional wisdom that she faces long odds against Gov. Greg Abbott, a well-funded incumbent. 

“Please tell me when I didn’t have an uphill battle,” she said. 

Valdez, 70, also said she’s tired of politicians not looking out for everyday people. 

“Let me find a path for you,” she said. “Let me find a path for your health care. Let me find a path for your living wage.” 

It was a closer race than expected, with Valdez ahead of White by just over 5 percentage points as the final precincts were coming in. By 10 p.m., White had called Valdez and conceded the race. 

“Tonight was a tough, tough night, but I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many people around this state,” White told reporters at the Harris County Democratic Party headquarters in his hometown of Houston. “I wouldn’t trade this for the world.” 

White pledged his full support to Valdez and said he is “ready to help in any way I can to give Greg Abbott an early retirement party.” 

Valdez rode a strong showing in Dallas County, where she had served as sheriff, and neighboring Tarrant County. She also won big in populous border counties like El Paso, Hidalgo and Webb. 

White, the son of late Gov. Mark White, saw a big boost from his home county of Harris, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Valdez. 

Valdez’s supporters said her campaign style of focusing on kitchen table issues resonated with voters, even though White had more campaign cash throughout the year. They also said her professional career as a federal agent and previous political experience in Dallas County made a difference. 

“I’ve always been a fan of how she represented herself and held her own in the community,” said supporter Brandon Vance. 

The victory by Valdez is an important sign of change, another supporter said. 

“The country’s changing, we’ve just got to pull them out of the darkness,” said Paul Aguon of Carrollton, adding that he and his husband Mark Patterson supported Valdez for sheriff when she first ran in 2004 — back when Dallas County was a Republican stronghold. 

“I never projected she’d be governor,” Patterson said. 

To become governor she’ll have to topple Abbott, who boasts high approval ratings and a $41 million war chest. Abbott’s campaign wasted no time attacking Valdez, releasing a video Tuesday night that recapped some of her stumbles during the nominating contest. Among them: Her backtracking on whether she’d be open to raising taxes as governor.  

“Lupe Valdez’s inability to articulate a clear vision for Texas, coupled with her lack of leadership in Dallas County, proves that she is wrong for Texas,” Abbott spokesman Alejandro Treviño said in a statement. “As she continues in her struggle to give definitive answers on questions like whether or not she would raise taxes on Texans, Governor Abbott will be crisscrossing the state articulating his message of economic freedom and individual liberty.” 

Valdez said she’s confident that she’ll have an easier time raising money now that she has the nomination. 

“He may have all that money, but we’ve got the grassroots,” she said. “For sure, no one is going to buy this election.” 

Valdez finished ahead of White in the March primary, getting 43 percent of the vote to White’s 27 percent, as both emerged from a crowded field that included seven little-known candidates.  

The runoff period was highlighted by White’s weeks-long push for a debate with Valdez, which she ultimately agreed to earlier this month after a tumultuous stretch that saw her lose an endorsement to White from a group of young Hispanic activists. At the debate, they clashed over long-simmering issues in the race: Valdez’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities as sheriff, White’s personal opposition to abortion and whether Democrats should nominate a self-styled “moderate” in White. 

With the nomination in hand, Valdez will also be up against recent Texas history: The state’s voters have not elected a Democrat to statewide office in more than two decades.  

Aguon said he still believes Valdez has a shot at toppling Abbott. 

“I hope so,” he said with a sigh. “We held our breath for same-sex marriage and look what happened: We saw it in our lifetime.” 

Valdez painted the GOP-controlled state government as one that cares more about special interests than the needs of their constituents. She also said the Republican Party, which is heavily dominated by white men, is out of touch with the changing demographics of the second most populous state in the U.S. 

“There’s a change coming in Texas and a lot of people are ready for it,” she said. 

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

[gdlr_space height=”20px”]
[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-camera” type=”color-background” background=”#999999″ color=”#ffffff”]Top image: Lupe Valdez gives her victory speech after defeating Andrew White in the Democratic runoff for governor on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. / photo credit: Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson / The Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]

Continue Reading

Elections 2018

How “Bathroom Bill” Pushed GOP PAC to Spend Millions on Moderates in Texas

Published

on

[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-flag” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#000000″]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]

In September, the Texas Capitol was finally starting to calm down.

A couple of contentious legislative sessions had pitted the Legislature’s Republican centrists against hard-line conservatives, largely over measures regulating which restrooms transgender Texans could use. Members had returned to their districts, almost certain the “bathroom bill” would surface as an issue in the 2018 primaries. And House Speaker Joe Straus’ surprise retirement announcement was still weeks away.

For the Associated Republicans of Texas, it was time to go all out.

The group, founded in the 1970s to flip the Legislature red, had built a record defending Republican lawmakers aligned with the moderate wing of the party — but for years had waited to wade into re-election bids until the state’s primaries ended. Now, ART was about to pump an unprecedented amount of its money into GOP primary races for like-minded candidates — and even one challenger to an incumbent — locked in competitive intra-party battles.

“If we waited until after the primary to engage, we were limiting the effectiveness we could have,” Cyndi Taylor Krier, an ART leader and former state senator said. “If you say, ‘Well, I’m just going to wait until November,’ you’re giving them half your vote.”

With its emergence in the GOP primaries, ART is now a significant counter force to Empower Texans, a prominent Tea Party group that’s long thrown its financial weight behind hard-line conservatives running for office. ART’s increased efforts also come ahead of a pivotal vote next year in the Texas House to pick the next speaker — and the elections this year will shape the ideological profile of the lower chamber’s next leader.

So what prompted the group to end decades of tradition and step up its involvement? As Gaylord Hughey Jr., one of ART’s leaders, put it, the catalyst was the “bathroom bill.”

“We felt like we had to engage in the primaries … to invest in candidates of reason,” Hughey, an East Texas oil and gas attorney and a major GOP fundraiser, told The Texas Tribune. “There was a growing concern about the influence of Empower Texans and the ultra-conservative policies that they were pushing, which were not necessarily in the best interest of this state.”

ART has already doled out $2.3 million in advertising, donations, polling and consulting so far this election cycle — about four times the amount it spent on those same items for the 2016 primaries and runoffs, campaign finance reports show. That money has helped moderate Republicans in the House and Senate largely fend off competition from Empower-backed challenges in the March 6 primaries. And it may have a similar effect in Tuesday’s runoffs.

May 22 runoffs

With the March 6 primaries in the rear-view mirror, seven GOP primary races for the state House are set for runoffs. ART is knee-deep in all of them.

And a big chunk of the group’s funding has come from a handful of key supporters — including Straus, who has given the group $350,000 this year. John Nau, a co-chair of ART who’s also a Houston beer distributor and Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign treasurer, has donated $150,000 to the group since July. And two El Paso businessmen — ART board member Woody Hunt and Paul Foster, vice chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents — have also dumped in $450,000 and $250,000 since July, respectively.

The Empower Texans PAC, plump with donations from Midland oilman Tim Dunn, has also dumped tons of money into races this election cycle — around $3.5 million for advertising, donations, polling and consulting.

In the open-seat race for House District 13, a rural district east of Austin, ART has given former Grimes County Judge Ben Leman over $100,000 in in-kind contributions via digital and radio advertising and direct mail, campaign finance reports show. Leman’s opponent, Bellville businesswoman Jill Wolfskill, has criticized ART as a “liberal Austin group.” She’s received $50,000 in support from Empower Texans PAC.

In another open race, House District 8, ART shelled out around $181,000 in in-kind contributions to Cody Harris, a Palestine businessman who faces Thomas McNutt, whose family owns the Corsicana staple Collin Street Bakery, in the runoff for House District 8. Empower Texans’ PAC has spent over $300,000 on McNutt.

The HD-8 seat is highly coveted for both sides of the party — state Rep. Byron Cook, the retiring Corsicana Republican who has represented the district since 2003, was one of the House leaders most closely tied to the death of bathroom bill legislation.

ART has also spent nearly $125,000 on state Rep. Scott Cosper, a Killeen Republican who’s in a primary runoff in his bid for a second term. Cosper, asked about the help ART has given him this cycle, told the Tribune in April that it was a gesture to show their “appreciation and commitment to bring back a member that represents Texas well.”

The group has also made some last-minute contributions to candidates in the other House GOP runoffs, including Steve Allison, who is running for the San Antonio-based seat Straus is vacating.

“The establishment strikes back”

ART first dabbled in primary politics during the 2016 election cycle — a decision the group in part made, as Krier, one of ART’s leaders recalled, to combat special interest groups within the “far right part of the party” that were funding aggressive campaigns against Republican incumbents.

“This is the establishment strikes back,” said Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute. “Movement conservatives have gone all out against centrist conservatives in House and Senate races … slowly eroding the ranks of the establishment.”

This cycle, the group had an impressive number of wins on March 6 — but also a couple of sizable losses. State Rep. Cindy Burkett, a Sunnyvale Republican who received almost $180,000 in in-kind contributions this year from ART, came up short in her bid to oust state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood. Others backed by ART in their re-election bids, such as state Rep. Wayne Faircloth, R-Galveston, and state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, were defeated by challenges running to their right.

Yet Hughey, the oil and gas attorney, said ART’s efforts this cycle have produced more incoming House members that fit the group’s description of helping elect “reasoned, conservative leadership” to the state Legislature.

“Without the financial resources and other resources that ART provided, the makeup of the Texas Legislature would have been far different than what is likely to be the case come January,” Hughey said. “That, in turn, I think is going to impact who the next speaker is, and we’ll also have a more balanced Legislature as a result of ART’s involvement.”

Disclosure:  John Nau, Woody Hunt, Paul Foster, the University of Texas System and Rice University have been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

[gdlr_space height=”20px”]
[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-camera” type=”color-background” background=”#999999″ color=”#ffffff”]Top image: Lupe Valdez gives her victory speech after defeating Andrew White in the Democratic runoff for governor on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. / photo credit: Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson / The Texas Tribune[/gdlr_notification]

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

© 2009-2018 therepubliq.com. PlanetChase. All right reserved.