Happy New Year from Eye On Williamson.Â Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2007.
Keeping An Eye On Williamson County, Texas
Happy New Year from Eye On Williamson.Â Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2007.
Check out this article from the Startlegram, New poll detects a change in the political climate in the Capitol.
The earth shook in Austin this week, and not only because two of our Republican neighbors decided to try to bring down the overbearing West Texas tyranny in the Texas House.
Early tremors had already jolted House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland, now rejected by two of his lieutenants and challenged from inside his own party.
Then came The Poll.
Texas Democrats have pulled even with Republicans, and the state is now about half red, half blue. At least, that’s according to 1,053 Texans surveyed by an independent Democratic pollster.
The poll’s news announcement focused on one specific response: By 46 percent to 35 percent, respondents said Democrats “care” more about “people like me.” That’s a reversal from two years ago.
But most eyes went immediately to the bottom line of the poll, conducted in early December by Austin-based Montgomery & Associates:
Asked which political party they lean toward, 45 percent chose Democrat.
Only 43 percent chose Republican. If you figure in the poll’s margin of error, that’s a tie.
Two years ago, in the same Democratic poll, Republicans led by 55 percent to 34 percent.
Pollster Jeff Montgomery returned a phone call Friday from San Antonio, on his way to a bipartisan college football weekend watching the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl.
The poll doesn’t mean Democrats are about to take back the Capitol, he said. He surveyed 1,053 adults, not specifically voters.
“Clearly, Texas is still a Republican state,” he said. “But this is the first time people have even shown much interest in calling themselves Democrats.”
If Craddick was already on his way out — and it’s beginning to look that way — the poll certainly helped Plano investor Brian McCall and Waxahachie lawyer Jim Pitts give him a shove. Republicans are slipping in the Texas House under Craddick’s leadership, and McCall and Pitts suggest choosing another speaker Jan. 9.
“There is an attitude change nationally that is affecting Texas,” said Cal Jillson, the Southern Methodist University political science professor who correctly foresaw a Republican sweep of state offices in the November elections and also the Democratic gains in the Texas House.
“People are increasingly concerned with the results they see from the Republican majority,” he said. “In Austin, those numbers are playing themselves out in the hanging of Tom Craddick. Republicans have begun to panic that the unease in the public is going to be taken out of their hide.”
As the pollster says this is not a poll of registred voters and doesn’t translate to Democrats winning anything in the next election. Now read this:
Jillson said the Democrats’ success came because voters are unhappy with President Bush, Congress and Washington.
But they’re not all that happy with Austin, and particularly not with the Texas House.
“People are looking at [Gov.] Rick Perry” — re-elected despite drawing only 39 percent of the vote — “and even more starkly at Craddick, and they’re saying, ‘I don’t see problem-solving. I see a fairly mean-spirited partisanship.'”
Jillson compared Craddick to the deposed U.S. House majority leader, also from Texas: “He’s a two-bit Tom DeLay.”
Again this does not automatically translate to a Democratic victory in the future but what is does mean is that Democratic candidates will, once again, get a serious look as an alternative to the current “mean spirited partisanship” being put forth by the Texas GOP. This shows there’s a big opportunity for Democrats in the next election cycle.
Challenger says he has House votes to replace Craddick as speaker. Including another good quote form Craddick’s boy Bill Miller:
Austin consultant Bill Miller, allied with Craddick, dismissed McCall’s assessment, noting that McCall has yet to name supporters.
“He’s just yanking you guys,” Miller said.
It’s not just on the horserace but has some good stuff on the Central Texas reps. This part form Dawna Dukes was good – had they been reading BOR? She’s out there on an island in Travis County.
McCall said he has concentrated on wooing Republicans since his Thompson-driven surge of Democratic support. Democrats newly on his side include Reps. Elliott Naishtat and Eddie Rodriguez and Rep.-elect Valinda Bolton, all of Austin.
Democratic Rep. Donna Howard of Austin hasn’t committed to any hopeful. Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, said he’s not ready to disclose a favorite.
Rep. Dawnna Dukes appears to be alone in the soon-to-be entirely Democratic Travis County delegation in pledging to Craddick.
“The choice is between two Republicans,” Dukes said Friday. “If I flip-flopped from one Republican candidate in this race to another Republican, what value would that have, other than for someone to say you’re weak and don’t stand up for your beliefs?”
Dukes stressed Craddick’s past decision giving her a leadership role on the House Appropriations Committee, where she has focused on health and human services.
Craddick, she said, “is going to win the race. I need to position myself to best serve my constituency again.”
What I’m coming to realize with these Craddick Dems is that unless they’re promised their current position by the new Speaker, which legally can’t be done, they have nothing to gain by switching sides at this point.
There’s also this part where it’s purported that Senfronia Thompson was a stalking horse for McCall:
Thompson said more than 60 members pledged to her candidacy by Christmas, yet she realized that additional support from Republicans would not fall her way.
She disputed Republican suggestions that she’s always been a stalking horse for McCall or other GOP challengers to Craddick.
“I was a sincere candidate,” Thompson, a member since 1973, said. “You know for a fact yourself, they were too darn scared to come out against that man. Why would I be a stalking horse for somebody scared to come out? I have never been a stalking horse.”
She said she folded after talking to McCall on the importance of bipartisanship and letting members represent constituents without fear of reprisal from the speaker or high-powered lobbyists.
“There comes a time when you have to look at what is important,” Thompson said. “Is the person important or the state of Texas? The state is more important than an individual member.”
I find the stalking horse argument laughable. Could be another desperate act by the Craddick camp. Who’s yanking whom?Â Or just dirty politics by the Pitts camp.Â They’re the ones calling McCall the Democrats candidate after all.Â That last paragraph I couldn’t agree with more. This is about doing what’s best for Texas.
It’s a good read at BOR, Democratic Fallout from Speakerâ€™s Race?, the comments too. It’s about which Dems could draw primary challenges in ’08 and about their future for statewide office if they continue to support Craddick.
Startlegram has a nice wrap-up of yesterday’s events.
Sal tells us that Pitts may be anti-TTC as opposed to Craddick.
Texas Politics is reporting that:
“I am supporting Brian McCall and I have asked that those supporting me throw their support behind Brian,” Thompson said, adding that she had some 60 pledges.
And also that it’s a close race:
According to Roy Fletcher, a consultant for McCall, the Plano Republican has secured pledge cards from 73 members, including 17 Republicans and 56 Democrats. Craddick maintains the backing of 72 members, including 13 Democrats and 59 Republicans, Fletcher said Thursday morning.
[UPDATE]: Burka tells us all he’s heard here.
[UPDATE]: Oh yeah, Talton pledges to McCall and Jim Pitts enters the race. More from the HChron:
Republican Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said in an interview today that he, too, is challenging Speaker Tom Craddick.
“I told Speaker Craddick that I didnt think he could get the numbers that he needed (to be re-elected as head of the House). I dont think Brian (McCall) is getting the numbers. And I’ve got a consensus group that has asked me to run,” Pitts said in an interview minutes after he mailed his paperwork for the race.
Ohh, this is getting better by the minute.
Gardner Selby’s latest, a year-end wrap-up, Who wudda thunk DeLay out, Democrats in?, is a lot of that “what a long strange trip it’s been” kinda blather. One thing that caught my eye and I’m not sure how important it was for Lamar Smith’s reelection, John Carter used it too, is what’s mentioned in this paragraph:
That U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, would invite Texas swing voters to quiz him via conference call. Eight calls, lasting up to 90 minutes, reached thousands of voters without anyone turning talk-radio ballistic, Smith’s camp said. The unusual outreach was encouraged by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
A “tele-town hall” is what they’re called. I know in CD-31 Carter was calling Democrats because I heard about it from others and I was called several times too. The ability to have a “pseudo town hall”, all the while having someone giving the congressman the right talking point in his ear while on the phone. Especially for one who’s not very good at thinking on their feet. I’d expect much more of this in districts where incumbents feel afraid to debate. Sneaky.
Anybody actually participate in one of these this election cycle? I was never home when these calls came.
From the AAS, Speaker’s race like no other
In Central Texas, Democrats Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs, Dawnna Dukes of Austin and Robby Cook of Eagle Lake are pledged to Craddick on the list. Republicans Mike Krusee of Williamson County and Dan Gattis of Georgetown also support Craddick.
They have the most to lose if McCall â€” or someone else â€” defeats Craddick.
“It’s hard to imagine Central Texas doing better under a new speaker,” said Krusee, citing committee assignments: Krusee as chairman of transportation, Dukes on appropriations, Rose on higher education and Cook on land and resource management.
Rose has been adroit enough to oppose Craddick at times (he fled to Oklahoma with other House Democrats in 2003 to block a vote over congressional redistricting) while finding ways to work with him.”I pledged to Speaker Craddick months ago, and I’m going to stay true to my word,” Rose said. “I find him fair.”
Krusee and Gattis are no surprise, of course. Fair? Really?
This great post at Musings has the skinny, Two Craddick Democrats Fall In Line – With Craddick:
Two Democratic House Committee Chairs are on record in the Houston Chronicle today as supporting Craddick for another term as Speaker of the Texas House. Remember the list of Democratic Chairs I discussed earlier that required watching as the vote for speaker neared? A refresher:
The hard-core Craddick Democrats (and their Committee chair assignment) include:
Robert Puente (San Antonio, Chair Natural Resources)
Kino Flores (Pharr, Chair Licensing)
Norma Chavez (El Paso, Chair Border and International Affairs)
Helen Giddings (Dallas, Chair Business and Industries)
Harold Dutton (Houston, Chair Juvenile Justice)
Kevin Bailey (Houston, Chair General Investigations)
Sylvester Turner (Speaker Pro Tem; Appropriations Committee)
These Democrats owe their legislative power to Craddick and they are on record as doing Craddick’s bidding even when it goes against the interests of their districts. Apparently, Craddick is working down the list in order, strong-arming them to go on record a supporting him in the Speaker’s race. This from the Chronicle:
Here’s what they had to say in the HCrhon:
Sticking with Craddick, for example, are Democratic Reps. Robert Puente of San Antonio and Ismael “Kino” Flores of Palmview, who chair, respectively, the committees on Natural Resources and Licensing & Administrative Procedures.
Flores said Craddick’s reputation for strong-arm tactics could be undeserved, but he wasn’t about to test it.
“If you don’t put him in a corner and if you don’t punch him, he’ll work with you,” Flores said. “Now, has anyone opposed him and survived? I don’t know. If you’re asking me if I’m going to take that chance, (the answer is) no.”
That can be said about anyone can’t it? If you’re nice to him, he’s nice to you. It’s time for these representatives to put aside what’s best for them and do what’s best for Texas, we need a new Speaker. It would also help if Senfronia Thompson would throw her support toward McCall:
Houston Democratic Rep. Garnet Coleman, a staunch ally of Thompson, said he’d vote for McCall if Thompson throws her support to him.
“I’m pledged to Senfronia, Ms. Thompson. I stick to that pledge. But what’s important here is that even though Brian (McCall) is conservative and a lot more conservative than I am, he’ll be fair as a speaker.”
And this from an AAS article earlier in the week:
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said Sunday that he has pledged to support Thompson when the balloting occurs.
“My first obligation is going to be try to support the Democratic candidate,” he said. “If we’re released from our pledges, that’s a different story.”
Rodriguez said McCall is “a really genuine guy.”
“He’s fair,” Rodriguez said. “That’s important. I don’t think we’ve had that fairness the last couple sessions.”
I’m sure there will be much, much more on this is the days to come.
This article, Shortened sentences concern DA, police, has several problems. The least of which seems like it was fed to them by the Williamson County DA and the Taylor police chief. The offender they highlight in this article about early release is a repeat drug offender and, as best I can tell from the article, NOT a violent offender.
Antwon Sanford, 40, of Taylor was arrested by Taylor police on Dec. 15, 2003 in Robinson Park and charged with possession of cocaine. According to Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, the arrest was part of a federal Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force investigation after several people reported the park as an â€œopen-airâ€ drug market. In addition to Sanford, the investigation yielded more than 10 arrests on drug dealing and possession charges.
Bradley said Sanford was on parole after being sentenced to 60 years in prison at the time of his arrest in Robinson Park.
â€œIt makes you wonder why was he out to begin with?â€ Bradley said. He said he has seen the number of repeat offenders released on parole rise dramatically during the past year.
According to arrest records, Sanford had previously been arrested and convicted four times; three of those arrests occurred after he was paroled following a prior conviction.
â€œWe have to challenge our statewide officials to focus on the importance of long-term confinement as a proper and effective method for punishing repeat criminals and thereby preventing new crimes,â€ Bradley said. â€œTaylor suffers just as much as any other city in the county when you put drug offenders back on the street.â€
Bradley said he has met with several state legislators across Texas in an effort to garner more legislative support to build new prisons in the state.
Bradley is right, it does make one wonder why he was out. But building more prisons and abetting the “prison industrial complex” – like the T. Don Hutto Residential Facility – is not the answer either. When jails fill up, non-violent offenders, mostly drug possession cases, are released and the violent offenders are kept behind bars. That’s preferable. I’d much rather have the guy busted with a couple of joints back out on the streets and make sure the child predator is still behind bars.
Another thing this article also goes to show is how bad our criminal justice system does at rehabilitating people, if that’s what it’s supposed to do, these days. The man in this article has been in and out of prison many times and there was no mention of whether any kind of drug rehab or counseling was ever tried as a solution to help end his addiction. It would seem to me if someone keeps getting busted for a non-violent drug possession crime it would be best to try and keep that person from wanting to possess those drugs again. We all know that prison/jail is nowhere to try and stop using drugs.
At the end the Taylor Chief tries to say that in the end he will get blamed for this just like local cops did in the early 80’s. There were some rough economic times in the ’80’s that helped cause much of that crime, maybe like the economy today, at least for those that aren’t in the top 1%.
More prisons is not the answer. You can read Grits For Breakfast for much more on this topic.
There’s a lot being written on the blogs right now about the Speaker’s race.
This BOR diary
and this AAS editorial
The bottom line is that what’s best for the Democrats in Texas is for Craddick to stay, what’s best for Texas is for a new Speaker to be elected. Like was written here before no matter how much I’d like what’s best for Democrats, what’s best for Texas must come first. Craddick must go.