I didn’t pay very much attention to the Texas Democratic Party Convention in Dallas this past week. But from what I did see it appeared the convention went very well. Via Kuff, Convention Coverage.
I’m not up in Dallas, though several of my blogging colleagues are. So far the reports I’ve heard are positive – lots of energy and excitement. One person even compared it to 2008, which is music to the ear. Obviously, the folks who take the time to go to a party convention aren’t the ones that need to be inspired to go vote, but they are the ones that will be doing a lot of the work to inspire others, so the more enthusiastic they are, the better.
As I said on Friday, the best thing you can do is work to help get the message out and get the voters to the polls. The next best thing you can do is pitch in financially. Democrats have done phenomenally well in grassroots small-dollar fundraising of late, which is both great and necessary since the other guys have a lot more megalomaniac billionaires on their side.
One of the most expected, and glaring, differences between Democrats and the GOP to come out of the convention was the differences in the party platforms. Huge differences on the issues of immigration, LGBT rights, and women’s issues($). It summarizes some of the other differences very well.
Whatever else, the two documents offer a clear sense of where each party’s head is at and the stark ideological differences between
what is now a very liberal Democratic Party and a very conservative Republican Party in Texas.
The Democrats call for investing more in education. The Republicans call for “reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions.”
Republicans want to repeal Obamacare. Democrats want to keep it and go beyond it to “Medicare for all.”
Republicans want to reverse Roe v. Wade and enact a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of the unborn. Democrats say the decision about an abortion should be left to a woman, her family, her physician, her conscience and her God without political interference.
Republicans want to privatize Social Security. Democrats don’t.
Republicans want to repeal the Voting Rights Act. Democrats want to restore the act’s section that required Texas to get federal approval before making changes in voting laws.
Republicans want to end in-state tuition for what they called “illegal immigrants.” Democrats want to keep it, and e beneficiaries “Texas undocumented students.”
Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte shared the spotlight at the Texas Democratic Party convention on Friday night, promising to change the direction of the state, ripping their Republican opponents and imploring Democrats to break the GOP’s two-decade grip on state government.
Davis attacked her Republican opponent, matching his attacks at the GOP convention in Fort Worth earlier this month, and talked fighting insiders in Austin.
“I’m running because there’s a moderate majority that’s being ignored — commonsense, practical, hardworking Texans whose voices are being drowned out by insiders in Greg Abbott’s party, and it needs to stop,” she said.
Davis spoke about her background, her kids and her grandmother, all as a way of establishing her Texas roots and values.
She talked about what she would do if elected, promising full-day pre-K “for every eligible child,” less testing in public schools, less state interference with teaching, more affordable and accessible college. She also implied she would end property tax exemptions for country clubs as part of property tax reform, and end a sales tax discount for big retailers who pay on time.
She took some swipes at her opponent, too.
“Unlike Greg Abbott, I’m not afraid to share the stage with my party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, my colleague, mi hermana, Leticia Van de Putte,” she said. When the audience hooted, she cautioned them: “Now you guys don’t clap too much or Greg Abbott will sue you.”
The insider slam on Abbott was woven into Davis’ nine pages of prepared remarks. “You see, Mr. Abbott cut his teeth politically as part of the good old boys’ network that’s had their hands on the reins for decades,” she said. “He’s been in their service and their debt since he ran for office, and as a judge and a lawyer, he’s spent his career defending insiders, protecting insiders, stacking the deck for insiders and making hardworking Texans pay the price.”
Davis said Abbott accepts large contributions from payday lenders “and then clears the way for them to charge unlimited interest rates and fees.” She blasted him for taking contributions from law firms that handle bond deals approved by the office of the attorney general, and for saying state law does not require chemical companies to reveal what they are storing in Texas communities.
“He isn’t working for you; he’s just another insider, working for insiders,” she said.
Van de Putte, who spoke immediately before Davis, promised not to back down from the fight against Dan Patrick, her opponent for lieutenant governor. She said she would instead fight to “put Texas first.”
When she ran for student council president in junior high, she said, she was told she could not run because she was a girl.
“Well I did, and I won,” she said.
She said that lesson remains relevant now. “I need to run, not just because I am a girl, but because I want the responsibility. Because I know what needs to get done. And I know I’m the right person for the job.”
“I ain’t in it for the show,” she said. “I ain’t no pushover. I ain’t no East Coast liberal. I ain’t no West Coast Democrat. This grandma’s name is Leticia San Miguel Van de Putte from the barrio, and I am a Tejana.”
She spent a large portion of her address criticizing Patrick’s Senate voting record — sometimes, she noted, he was voting alone — against investments in roads and water as well as in favor of more than $5 billion in cuts to public schools in 2011.
“Patrick offers a vision of Texas with less opportunity than the generations that came before us,” Van de Putte said. “He would be the first politician to leave Texas with less for our children.”
It’s evident that the case has been made very well for the need for change in Texas. Now what’s needed is the work to be done to register new voters and get them to the polls in November. And that appears to be happening as well.
At its workshop Saturday, Battleground Texas trained delegates how to persuade undecided voters using techniques and approaches honed in President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential race.
“These messages were actually tested, not just something that somebody thought sounds good,” said Laura Derrick, Battleground’s special projects manager who helped Obama win Ohio. “They did focus groups. They did message testing.”
For example, volunteers are encouraged to use the term “hard working” instead of “middle class,” which suggests economic division among some voters. The Battleground model developed for Texas found that voters respond particularly to someone who will “fight for them” and oppose Abbott if they see him as “an insider” — both phrases that Davis repeatedly used in her speech to the convention
“We didn’t have this before in Texas — now we do,” Derrick said.
Jeremy Bird, a founder of Battleground Texas whose Chicago-based consulting firm also works for Ready for Hillary, said part of the task of building a sustainable voter base is dealing with barriers against voting, especially among Hispanics who don’t vote in numbers reflecting their population.
“When you look at voting history in Texas and you look at the cultural barriers of several cycles of low voter turnout, we have to break that down,” Bird said. “We have to give people a clear articulation of why their vote matters and the difference between the two parties.
Rojas, the Dallas delegate, said he’s impressed with Battleground Texas’ focus on building a structure to win elections.
“They’re not saying, ‘Well, we’re definitely going to win this time.’ We’re building for 2016,” he said. “Every team we build for Battleground right now is for November, but also for the future.”
Zac Petkanas, a spokesman for the Davis campaign, says there’s no conflict between those focused on winning this year and those engaged in building for the future.
“The way to build infrastructure in 2016 and 2018 is to win in 2014,” he said. “Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t have the credibility of someone running for dog catcher.”
I think that last point is particularly poignant. Slater tries to make the fact that because Texas Democrats now have many more people involved with registering, identifying and mobilizing voters, that’s somehow a bad thing. I’m not buying that at all, this is all good news.
There might be a moment’s angry pleasure in pledging your vote to “none of the above.” There’s not much joy, though, in feeling abandoned.
And nobody feels it more keenly right now than so-called moderate Republicans, who have been shoved clean out of the GOP tent by the pure-D looniness of the ascendant uber-right.
Well, it’s not a surprise. The internecine war within the Republican ranks has been predicted for a while now.
Some people, of course, might profess not to care about Republican politics. If they care about the society they live in, they should.
Anti-government extremists aren’t just bellowing on the radio anymore: They are being elected to govern. What their brand of government is going to look like, I cannot really say, but I have a kind of jittery feeling about it.
This sentiment is coming to you not only from hectoring media robots (me), but from Republicans who say they have been disenfranchised without much warning. These include business-oriented fiscal conservatives, social libertarians who favor personal responsibility and privacy, even some of the early tea party adherents who embraced the goals of smaller government and a lower tax burden.
I’ve been fielding comments and messages from these folks for a while now. A year or so ago, it was Republican women alarmed at restrictions on reproductive rights and privacy. Now, with the right-wing race to crazy in full stampede, I hear from respected veteran legislators ousted in primary upsets by opportunistic ideologues. Or people who understand religious liberty is not limited to one theological flavor. Or people who support gun rights, but who also grasp that unlimited firepower for everybody, everywhere, the more the better, is not a sane policy.
A couple of weeks back, I got a fresh flurry of laments from the Lost Tribe of Moderate Republicans, appalled by a Texas GOP platform that endorsed discredited, homophobic “reparation therapy” that’s supposed to turn gay people straight.
This wasn’t necessarily the line-in-the-sand issue for most of the people I heard from, but more evidence of an abrupt takeover of the party by extremists who seem opposed to everybody and everything.
“The party which I once believed stood for opportunity for all left me,” one man wrote.
A retired gentleman told me he is contemplating voting — with distaste — for Democrats for the first time in his life. Says another: “Am I going to have to go to the dark side this November in order to make my distaste for the party known?”
But, as much as blue-state operatives might welcome this prospect, other conservatives say they can’t make that leap. They are left, they say, with no candidate, no party, nobody to vote for — and nobody to represent their philosophy.
Whether these former Republicans vote for Democrats (much preferred), or don’t vote at all, that’s a win for Democrats. The more former reliable GOP voters change their voting habits the better things will get for Democrats.
What all of this shows is that things are already changing. Whether Wendy Davis will win in November is still up in the air, but she’s saying all the right things.
“We’re going to have the resources that we need, and we are going to be competitive not only on television, but I can assure you this — there’s no way he can match us on the ground. We’ve already got 18,000 people volunteering on the ground for us in this campaign, and it’s only June,” Davis said. “And as we get closer and closer to the election, I expect that that number will increase dramatically.”
While trailing in the polls, Davis repeated what her campaign has said – that traditional polls aren’t reaching the people who normally wouldn’t vote but whom she is working to motivate.
“We are reaching out to so many people who have stayed home in gubernatorial election years,” she said. “I see them fired up, I see them enthusiastic and most importantly, I see belief. And in these elections, belief is half the battle.”
Things are shaping up better then they have in some time for Texas Democrats in 2014.
Austin is the ninth stop on a 14-city tour that Brown, alternating with Alex Steele, the lead field organizer, are conducting across the state. An earlier meeting last month in Austin drew a crowd of 300 but that was more a pep rally. This was a little bit more nuts and bolts – “how do we get from here to there.”
Battleground Texas is the brainchild of former Obama campaign organizers. They are not the first or only people attempting to do what they are doing, but their arrival has had an energizing effect, drawing national attention, which can lead to national money, and bringing with them the secret organizational sauce that worked for the Obama campaign.
“What was the secret to the Obama campaign? We talked to voters, neighbors talked to neighbors,” said Brown. “That is 100 percent how we won the election.”
Old-school organizing would pay 250 field organizers to each knock on 50 doors a day – for a grand total of 12,500 doors knocked. The Obama campaign, instead, had those 250 field organizers each create five neighborhood teams, which would each recruit eight volunteers, who would each knock on 50 doors in a day, for a grand total of 500,000 doors knocked.
“It is unbelievably exponential and I know some of you think that’s impossible, but I will tell you, that it is not because I’ve seen it,” said Brown, who was the field organizer for Obama in Ohio in 2012, where she said, each of the last four weekends of the campaign, “we talked to the margin of victory,”
It’s the way the Obama campaign drove up turnout in North Carolina and made it a battleground state.
Brown refuses to be sucked into an expectations game.
“Republicans are saying right now, if we don’t win the governor’s race in 2014 this whole thing is a bust, and take the wind out of our sails. l know this is a long-term effort. I know it’s going to take time.”
If it doesn’t yield a statewide win in 2014, “that’s OK.” If Democrats don’t carry Texas in 2016, “that’s totally OK too.”
“If 2020 is the year we turn this state blue, that’s OK with me.”
All that said, “I’d like to do well in 2014, and convince somebody” – a quality candidate – “we’re here for them,” and to get the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee to seriously contest Texas.
The emotional high point of the meeting came when Brown completed her presentation and asked for questions and comments and called on a burly man with a brush cut, who proceeded to thunder, “I’ll just say that your chart says, have excitement and energy. I have no energy. I have no excitement. But I see this like a Medieval battle. I don’t care if I don’t get the governorship. I’m going to form a shield wall with my clipboard, I’m going to register people and I’m going to push that red wall back. I am powered by disgust and determination.”
“I detect a little excitement,” said Brown.
“I”ll be out here there registering voters in 102 degree weather with a jug of water and I won’t care,” said the man, an East Austin artist by the name of Arthur Schoenig.
The most hopeful sign to me about this effort is that they seem to understand that this must be a years-long battle that will take several election cycles. And they seem to understand that it all starts with registering more voters and then getting them to the polls on election day. All good signs. Be sure and go to their web site and sign up for email updates, if you haven’t done so already.
Former Obama campaign operatives are relocating in Texas as part of a group that plans to use the tools of Barack Obama’s reelection nationally to make Texas a competitive state in future presidential races. Texas is a prime piece of electoral property with 38 electoral votes. The state has been solidly Republican for 20 years. But a growing Hispanic population should help Democrats. Organizers of “Battleground Texas” say they’ll focus on identifying voters, getting them registered and turning them out to vote on Election Day. We wrote about the “Battleground Texas” in January.
What’s new is an announcement today that Jenn Brown, the Obama campaign field director in Ohio, will be executive director. And Christina Gomez, a former digital strategist for the Democratic National Committee, will direct high-tech and social media efforts. The on-line plan, so successful in Obama’s national campaign, will be a key part of the group’s strategy. Brown and Gomez will join political consultant and former Obama field director Jeremy Bird in Austin. “We know part of the problem is too few Texans are participating in the democratic process — so we’re bringing some of the best talent and strategies in politics to the Lone Star State to help expand the electorate by registering more voters and by mobilizing Texans.”
They’re saying the right things, in particular that this will be a years long struggle. So check them out and I wish them luck and will help in anyway that I can.
[Report from Larry Yawn who was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from SD 5 and Williamson County]
It is amazing what a full night’s sleep can do for you!
On Friday, the SD5 delegation to the National Democratic Convention returned to Texas, very tired and very EXCITED. Several of us got off the plane and headed straight to the grand opening of the Williamson County Democratic Party headquarters in Georgetown.
We were tired, but driving up to a crowd of 100+ local Democrats with candidate signs all over the place woke us up. It was like being in Charlotte and having all our local friends there as well. And, it underscored that everything we had been doing and discussing at the national convention would only bear fruit if we expanded our efforts, and the energy of the convention, to our local campaigns.
Remember, President Obama said that the change that we voted for in 2008 was not about him, it is about us. We are the Democrats who will sustain the progress and ensure our future. He knows that his re-election is central to moving forward, but he also knows that he needs support from all levels of elected officials.
He must have a strong Senate to advocate legislation which implements the vision. He needs Paul Sadler in the U.S. Senate.
He must have elected officials at the state and county level who “stand up and speak out” to protect our vision of public education, fair local justice, and the general welfare. He needs Matt Stillwell in the Texas House, Ken Crain as District Attorney, and Diane Henson, Karen Watkins, Andy Hathcock, and Byron Case in the justice system.
The convention showed the nation that Democrats are their neighbors, that Democrats are committed to a strong future for our nation where “we are all in this together,” that Democrats understand the values which built our nation and are committed to them, and that Democrats will protect and promote the general welfare of our nation. Our convention was a stark contrast to the Republican convention because Democrats have no time to waste trying to rewrite history; Democrats are writing history. Facts are facts, and they speak loudly. Know the facts, and “stand up and speak out.”
Every one of the candidates mentioned above were at last night’s office opening. They were fired up and ready to go. Your SD5 delegates are fired up and ready to go. What we do with the next 58 days determines the country which we will have. This is too important an election to sit back and stay silent. Now is the time to “stand up and speak out.”
There’s no argument about where Democrats rank politically in Texas.
They’re at rock bottom.
As more than 7,000 delegates gathered for the state party convention, their strong words about Republican radicalism and Rick Perry are tempered by the obvious question: When will Democrats be competitive again outside a few blue counties?
Nobody seems to know.
“We’re going to have a breakthrough sooner than people think,” predicted state Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas.
Outgoing Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie said it would take “building day by day” to regain a foothold in statewide offices.
The Republican state convention this year is showcasing a party united against President Barack Obama, but facing family divisions between establishment leaders and tea party enthusiasts looking for anti-government warriors.
The divide was exposed when Gov. Rick Perry was booed Thursday for praising Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is battling tea party-backed Ted Cruz for the party’s nod for U.S. Senate.
It was further highlighted when U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, scheduled to speak about “Uniting Republicans and Balancing the Federal Budget,” made it clear he is not looking for unity at any cost.
“If you bring people together for the wrong ideas, what good is it? You have to bring people together for the right ideas,” Paul told an enthusiastic crowd that more than once broke into chants of “President Paul!”
Nearly 300 miles to the southeast, Democrats at the George R. Brown Convention Center spent Friday attending caucus gatherings and tending to party business, but many kept an ear half-cocked to what was happening in Cow Town. To those of a certain age, it brought back memories of their party struggles during the so-called McGovern era, when true believers worked to purge the party of its moderate elements.
“The problem for Republicans, the challenge for them is that they are losing control over their own folks,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said. “They have no control over their party right now. They have no control over their base.”
Although Castro professed to prefer “level-headedness all around” among elected officials of all stripes, he maintained that Republicans were leaving their constituents behind – to Democrats’ benefit.
“They’re leaving everyone behind,” he said. “They’re leaving the business community behind, that knows you have to invest in brain power to be a competitive 21st-century Texas. … And, of course, they’re leaving women behind and Hispanics behind and everyone else. It’s not a question of wishing them to be more extreme; we wish for the exact opposite. It’s a comment on the consequence of what they’re doing that I don’t believe they fully realize.”
But make no mistake these fights are not over. Republicans clearly understand that their hold on power in Texas depends largely on keeping certain voters out of polling places. They will cross any moral line and spend any amount of resources to accomplish their goal and we have to be just as determined to stop them.
And stopping them will never be easy. You have got to give them credit they’re a disaster at governing but boy can they politic.
Over 85% of our national debt and 100% of our state shortfall have been created under “conservative” Republicans. They’ve bailed out Wall Street, sold out Main Street and created the greatest income disparity between their rich handlers and working families since the industrial revolution. Their economic policies have virtually bankrupted both the state and the nation, destroyed generations of earnings and threatened the economic security of our families. They have done all this while claiming to be the party of fiscal responsibility and they have largely gotten away with it. How? Fear!!
They have successfully played on peoples’ fears of things different from themselves. They’ve turned working families against each other; public against private; White against Black against Brown; straight against gay; Protestant against Catholic against Jew against Muslim against, against, against.
They didn’t originate suspicion but they’ve done an excellent job of exploiting it. They’ve made us quite comfortable with our prejudices.
As we are acutely aware, Republicans continue to use code words and symbols that demonize, scapegoat and stereotype minorities in Texas. It’s as despicable as their voter suppression schemes.
They know where to dig up the old fears and hatreds embedded in so many Texans. This prejudice is an infection of the soul and our opponents are able and willing to inflame it.
And like the brothers, Parker championed education as a value that should be embraced by all Texans.
“We need to talk about the fact that education is a fundamental right, that we expect education to be funded, that we can’t expect our kids just to educate themselves,” she aid.
She said the Republican Party is “riven” by the Tea Party and other factions, making it less attractive to some of its members. She predicted Democrats will return to statewide office in Texas within “the next two or three” election cycles and said it could happen faster if the Republicans stick with what they’re doing now.
Parker discounted talk that the Democrats, despite their inability to win a statewide race since 1994, are out of the running now.
“I’ve now been elected citywide eight times in the city of Houston and every time, I was ‘doomed to failure.’ If you don’t run, you don’t win,” she said.
The Castros previewed themes from the speeches they plan to deliver Friday evening.
“In my introduction tonight I make an allusion to in many ways I think the Republican Party today is a sad answer to Langston Hughes’ question: ‘What happens to a dream deferred?’” Rep. Castro said. “A lot of dreams in Texas are drying up.”
Rep. Castro also weighed in on Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, a fellow San Antonio legislator, who is facing opposition in his own party.
“Joe, if it were up to him, I think would have a more moderate Texas,” he said. “But he’s presiding over a Republican Party that is very extreme today, and if he’s going to stay Speaker, he’s going to have to curry favor with them.”
Mayor Castro took a shot at U.S. Senate candidate and Tea Party darling Ted Cruz to illustrate his assertion that the GOP has become too extreme for Texans.
“Moderate is a four letter word,” he said. “To be moderate in the Republican Party is to be a pariah.”
The members of the Texas Democratic Party Executive Committee held an emergency meeting this evening and approved their Delegate Selection Plan for 2012. The famous “Texas Two-Step” hybrid primary/caucus process for selecting our delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be set aside this year, and temporarily replaced with a two-tiered convention (caucus).
The first series of conventions will be held April 21, 2012, at a location and time to be announced by each county political party. All voters who affiliate with a political party, generally by signing an Oath, are eligible to attend the county conventions. The convention delegates will debate and adopt a slate of delegates who will represent the county at the State Democratic Convention, to be held June 8-9, in Houston. According to the Delegate Selection Plan, Williamson County will be able to send 124 delegates and 124 alternates to the state convention. (Two ex-officio delegates will join the delegation, making the total voting strength of Williamson County at the State Convention 126.)
Up to 7,021 delegates will be credentialed at the State Democratic Convention. They will adopt a slate of 288 delegates and 22 alternates who will attend the Democratic National Convention, to be held September 3-6, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Senatorial District 5, which includes Williamson County, will meet in a separate caucus at the state convention to select six national delegates. These six delegates will be apportioned according to the aggregation of the poll of Presidential preference taken at the district’s 10 county conventions. The Delegate Selection Plan calls for a Presidential candidate to meet a 15% minimum in order to receive delegates.
The move today by the state Democratic party is a response to a San Antonio federal court order issued yesterday. In that order, a three-judge panel provided for state political parties to make adjustments to their rules so that state conventions can be held in June, independent of results of primaries whose results won’t be available in time.
The court yesterday also issued maps to be used for the 2012 elections in State Representative, State Senatorial and United States Congressional districts. Those maps hew closely to the lines drawn by the 82nd Legislature, and which have thus far been unable to earn pre-clearance from the United States Department of Justice, as required under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Rather than submit the maps to the Department of Justice, the State of Texas asked a D. C. circuit court for pre-clearance. A trial was held in January and February, but the court has not issued a ruling. A ruling has become increasingly unlikely in time to allow the state parties to hold their conventions in June, necessitating tonight’s action.
The size of venue required for state conventions limits the locations where they can be held, and makes the cost of moving unrealistic. Therefore, the San Antonio court has allowed the state parties to draw up plans that will allow them to select their national delegations without the results of a Presidential Primary to determine the Presidential preferences of their delegates. Instead, state parties will use a poll of convention attendees to determine the apportionment.
Credentials for attendance to the Democratic state convention will be issued to delegates elected at county and senatorial district conventions to be held April 21, 2012. Counties entirely contained within a single Senatorial District will convene a single County Convention. Counties containing parts of more than one Senatorial district (i.e., Atascosa, Bexar, Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Fort Bend, Galveston, Guadalupe, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Tarrant, Taylor, and Travis) will have a a Senatorial Convention for each portion of a Senatorial District within the county. Sometimes all the Senatorial District conventions within a county are held at one location, or they may be held separately.
Voters who want to attend a party’s County or Senatorial District conventions must be registered to vote in the County and reside in the District. They must affiliate with one political party, either by signing a candidate petition for a place on that party’s primary ballot, or providing an Oath of Affiliation to the County Chair.
The time and location of the County and Senatorial District conventions will be announced by each county party’s executive committee in the coming weeks. Notices will be posted in public spaces and in local media. Committees will be appointed to prepare for the convention, processing Credentials, accepting proposed Resolutions and Rules changes, and handling other logistical details. Funding for the county/SD conventions is provided entirely by the County political parties and their donors.
On April 21, when voters arrive at their convention, they will prove that they are registered to vote and reside within the county/district. They will sign an Oath of Affiliation that declares their party preference for 2012. A record of those oaths is provided to the county’s chief elections officer, where it will be recorded in the voter roll for any subsequent primary or primary runoff elections. A person who attempts to affiliate with more than one party, or who votes in a party’s primary or runoff election to which they are unaffiliated, will have violated Texas Election Code, and could be subject to prosecution under state law.
Once signed in, the county/SD convention attendee becomes a full voting delegate, and joins other delegates from their voting precinct. Last summer, Williamson County approved a new precinct map whose lines will correspond with the court-ordered maps. This plan divides Williamson into 88 voting precincts. Because this map has not been pre-cleared by Justice, it may be necessary for another court order to make it (or some other map) temporarily effective; however, in lieu of that, the county parties may have to revert to the 2010 map which divided Williamson into 102 precincts. Some of those lines may not match up with State House districts; however, that won’t impact the county convention. The precinct map will be used to divide the county convention attendees into groups. Those groups will have an opportunity to select one of their own to join the state delegation.
Voters would have received their voter registration cards in January, had an enacted map obtained pre-clearance in time. The cards sent to voters in January 2010 have expired, but the county retains your active voter registration. Those who were legally registered last year, remain registered so long as their residence or other legal information has not changed. Citizens 18 years or older who are eligible to vote may newly register or update their existing registration information until March 22, 2012.
In addition to other court actions, the fate of the newly enacted SB14 (VoterID Law) remains uncertain. Rather than take the new law to Justice for VRA pre-clearance, the State of Texas asked a circuit court in New Orleans to grant pre-clearance. When judges requested it, the State provided a list of 650,000 registered voters who would become ineligible to vote under SB14 because they lack the specific photo identification cards prescribed by the new law. The Circuit Court then asked the State to break down the list by race to determine whether the law has the effect of discriminating against a racial minority, providing a January deadline for response. When the State of Texas failed to respond before the deadline, the circuit court extended the deadline an additional 60 days.
If the State responds to the court’s request, pre-clearance would be granted if the data show that the effect of SB14 is not discriminatory. Because SB14 remains in legal limbo, existing Texas Election Code will determine how voters will identify themselves at the county and senatorial district conventions.
But because voters will presumably lack a valid voter registration card, they will be required to present some other form of identification to prove their voter registration status and residency. Those forms of identification include Texas Drivers License, utility bills, student IDs, Veterans Benefits cards, etc.
As stated in a recent Williamson County Democratic Party press release:
Democrats understand that to protect our democracy and empower our children for the future we must have a well educated citizenry. A good education truly is the best investment in the future we can make. Democrats will not stand idly by while Republicans demonize teachers. Everyone knows that teachers work long hours for modest pay, we should be working with them to prepare students, our children, for life and future success.
Public education has long been on the Republican Party’s wish list of things to cut . In Texas, the structural deficit created by Governor Rick Perry’s property tax scheme set the stage for this attack on public education. Texas Monthly senior political editor Paul Burka said, “Our state leaders have known about this since 2006 when they paid no heed to the comptroller’s fiscal note.” 
Experts are now saying that the current GOP budget proposals will damage public education in Texas so much that, “by 2040 three out of every 10 Texas workers will not have a high school diploma.” Steve Murdock, U.S. Census Bureau director for the in the Bush administration agrees, “We are lagging now and to fail to educate this population is a formula for long-term disaster for Texas…. The thing that is most important for us to recognize is that what we do today with these young people will determine the future for all of us.”
Here in Williamson County there will be some truly devastating cuts    which will not only cost jobs, but will increase teacher/student ratios, reduce educational resources, and jeopardize the over all quality of our children’s education.
“Democrats in Williamson County emphatically support teachers,” said Williamson County Democratic Party Chair Brian Hamon. “Our future is in their hands. Parents understand that professional educators directly impact our children’s prosperity. All taxpayers in communities near good schools enjoy higher property values and access to better jobs. When we invest in education, everyone benefits.”
The education forum was hosted by the West Williamson County Democrats and featured Diana Maldonado, former state representative for District 52 and former president of the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees; Will Streit, president of Leander ISD Board of Trustees; Larry Yawn, who was former Gov. Mark White’s education director and former president of the Texas State Teachers Association; and Jerry Don Landers, retired elementary school principal of Spicewood Springs Elementary School. While the panelists and attendees had specific concerns to bring to the table and didn’t all share the same political ideology, they all participated in the forum first and foremost to speak for the students, who will be the most affected by budget cuts, they said.
Maldonado kicked off the forum by reporting Texas lawmakers are expected to cut $10 billion in school funding to balance an estimated $27 billion budget shortfall. Ever since hearing of the potential drastic cuts, Texas school districts have been discussing and making difficult decisions about how to cut from their district budgets with the least possible detriment to students, she said.
Round Rock ISD is preparing to cut $60 million from its $345 million 2011-12 budget while Hutto ISD board members decided to close Veterans Hills Elementary School as part of a plan to cut more than $4 million from the district’s budget. Leander ISD has delayed the opening of its newest elementary and middle school until fall 2012 to save the district about $1.26 million from its budget. Georgetown ISD officials recently decided to cut 142 positions — 61 teachers, 11 administrators and 70 non-teachers — by the end of the school year to save the district an estimated $6.5 million in the upcoming school year.
As schools close and teachers are given the pink slip, classes will inevitably become overcrowded, which will affect the quality of education for children, Maldonado continued.
Small class sizes give students and their parents a sense of “family” within the school district, she explained. That sense of familiarity will be lost if classes and schools become overcrowded.
Representatives from throughout the county’s school districts are already sharing their concerns and ideas with legislators, but even more powerful than the words of school officials are the words of parents, she and the other panelists agreed.
“That’s what it’s going to take for legislators to see the impact these budget cuts will have,” she said.
Yawn said the idea of overcrowded classes is especially difficult for him to imagine. While working as Mark White’s education director, White played a role in getting House Bill 72 passed which advocated appropriate class sizes, provided a pay raise for teachers, revamped the system of public school finance to funnel more money to property-poor school districts, and took many other steps aimed at improving the academic achievement of students.
“It has withstood every legislative session since 1985,” Yawn explained. The proposed cuts could affect about 1.3 million retired educators, he explained. That means one in every 20 Texans is enrolled in the Texas Teacher Retirement System. “Approximately 80 percent of these former educators were prevented from participating in Social Security so the state program that they paid into throughout their careers is their only source of retirement income,” Karen Kaye Carter, spokeswoman for the West Williamson County Democrats, chimed in.
“It was during the [Great Depression of the 1920s] that the Texas Legislature established a retirement fund for teachers, so why is it that now we can’t afford it?” Yawn asked rhetorically.
Along the same lines, Landers expressed his main concern.
“Are they trying to get rid of the public school all together?” he asked rhetorically. “Less and less money causes more and more problems.”
Landers first entered the education scene as a kindergarten teacher before the current class-size regulations were in place. He said he noticed the improved quality of education and attention paid to each student when class size regulations were enforced. He couldn’t imagine teachers having to learn to monitor and teach significantly larger classes today amid so many other changes.
Streit shared the school board perspective at the forum.
“Usually we focus on education; this year it’s been all about the budget,” Streit said in regards to the board’s meeting topics. Streit said Leander ISD may have to cut $19 million to 29 million from its $230 million budget for the upcoming school year. However, the board could be expected to cut as much as $37 million to $61 million from its budget. The exact number is unknown right now but the district is discussing budget cuts with the community and its staff and expects to make decisions by April 7, which is when teachers must be notified of whether or not their contracts will continue into the 2011-12 school year.
It’s good to see there a some people showing leadership on the funding crisis facing Williamson County school districts.
Texas is in debt! Legislators have proposed cuts of 15 billion dollars, 5 billion from the state’ education budget. They have stated they will not touch the rainy day fund.
But messages are confusing. We hear conflicting assessments about how critical the situation really is. We don’t know if there is anything we can do to help.
COME TO A PUBLIC, ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION ABOUT THE SCHOOL BUDGET CUTS IN WILLIAMSON COUNTY.
WHAT: PUBLIC ROUND TABLE: The Effects of the State Budget on WilCo Schools.
What impact will state budget cuts as they are now proposed have on the
school districts, teachers, students, and even retired teachers?
WHEN: Saturday, March 5, 1:30-3:00 WHERE: Moody’s Restaurant, 309 N Highway 183, Leander, TX 78641
Diana Maldonado. Texas State House of Representatives, 2009-2011.
Former president, Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees. B.A. in Business and Management, St. Edwards University: New School.
Will Streit. President, Leander ISD Board of Trustees, Current.
Project Manager, IBM. B.A. in Political Science, History, and Urban Planning; competed Education Studies Program to earn teaching credentials, University of California, San Diego. M.B.A. from Duke University.
Larry Yawn. Retired Educator. Education Director for Governor Mark White.
Former President of the Texas State Teachers Association. B.A. in Political Science, University of Texas. M.Ed. in Counseling and Guidance, North Texas University.
Jerry Don Landers. Retired Elementary Principal, Round Rock ISD.
Principal of Spicewood Springs Elementary School for 26 years, 38 years in education. B.M. in Music Education, Texas Tech University. M.Ed. in Elementary Education, Texas Tech University.
Every school district in Williamson County is facing disastrous choices.
Will classes will be larger, programs cut, teachers fired, schools closed?
Come, hear from experts about the extent of the problem. Learn what you can do.
Wilco Democrats Happy Hour Thursday, February 24, 2011, 06:00pm
Join the Williamson County Democratic Party (WCDP) for a special Happy Hour in Florence, Texas. Starting at 6 p.m., meet to celebrate friendship, democracy and great barbeque at The Flamin Grill, located at 212 E Main St., in Florence, Texas. So, come hoist a glass as they plan for the future of Williamson County. For more information, visit our website at www.wilcodemocrats.com, or contact Rachael at firstname.lastname@example.org.