Archive for March, 2012

Romney takes the lead in new Texas poll

Mitt Romney is now the top choice for Texas Republicans, bypassing Rick Santorum by two points in a recent Rasmussen Reports poll. Romney’s 32 percent, and Santorum’s 30 percent in the survey are within the margin of error, putting the two in a statistical dead heat. Texas Congressman Ron Paul is in the single digits–and in fourth place–in his home state with nine percent. He’s behind Newt Gingrich who is at 19 percent.

Just last month, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed Santorum as the clear choice among Texas Republicans. Then, Santorum was polling at 45 percent, 20 points ahead of the other GOP candidates.

This is Rasmussen Report’s first look at Texas. They called 750 likely Republican Primary voters. The margin of error is +/-4.

DOJ Voter ID rejection draws mixed reaction

The Justice Department has denied pre-clearance for Texas’ Voter Identification law. The department says the law doesn’t stand up to the Voting Rights Act; meaning the state failed to prove the law has neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect.

The legislation was one of Gov. Rick Perry’s emergency items last legislative session. Democrats had argued that the law discriminated against minorities. Texas Democratic Party Spokeswoman Rebecca Acuna released this statement following the DOJ rejection:

“We’re pleased the DOJ slapped down the Republican voter-suppression legislation. This unnecessary law would have trampled on the constitutional right to cast a ballot for hundreds of thousands of Texans. It’s time the Attorney General moves forward and stops working to disenfranchise Texans. Republicans have wasted enough taxpayer dollars defending this voter suppression legislation.”

Linda Chavez with the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens says the DOJ’s decision cited the exact points she had argued when Texas lawmakers were drafting the law last year. One of those points is the added expense of obtaining another form of identification.

“If there’s no need, why go through the expense? It runs about $22,” Chavez said. “Twenty-two dollars can buy medications, put food on the table and that’s more important to a Hispanic family.”

Here’s the official response from the Texas ACLU:

Letter from the Dept. of Justice’s Civil Rights Division:

To view a copy of the letter sent by the Department of Justice, click here

“We are pleased that the Justice Department recognized the discriminatory nature of the Texas Photo Voter ID Law. The data clearly shows that Hispanic voters are more likely to lack the necessary documentation to vote, and this law has been characterized as a return to Jim Crow. This unconstitutional measure would have deprived the poor, the handicapped, the elderly, and many people of color of their right to vote. But, because it was written to particularly target Hispanics, this Juan Crow version is particularly malicious. We applaud the Justice Department for stepping in to ensure that the democratic process and the right to vote for all eligible voters is protected in Texas.”

Republicans are still fighting to get the law on the books. Attorney General Greg Abbott has already filed a lawsuit. There’s a status conference hearing in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. Rep. Patricia Harless, who was the House sponsor of the legislation, released this statement:

"I am disappointed that the Department of Justice did not approve our photo voter ID law." Harless added, "I am confident Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s legal action will result in full implementation of the photo voter ID law, ensuring that our elections are conducted fairly and without fraud."

Both Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst issued similar statements, saying that the law is accommodating, offering free ID to those in need.

Perry accuses DOJ of ‘federal overreach’

Governor Rick Perry issued this statement, in response to a Department of Justice decision to reject Texas’ Voter Identification law.

“Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters. The DOJ has no valid reason for rejecting this important law, which requires nothing more extensive than the type of photo identification necessary to receive a library card or board an airplane. Their denial is yet another example of the Obama Administration’s continuing and pervasive federal overreach.”

Gov. Perry denies Gingrich running mate rumors

Gov. Rick Perry might be back on the ballot in November. Fox News is reporting Newt Gingrich’s campaign is discussing a possible Gingrich-Perry ticket. According to Fox, the ticket would be announced before the Republican National Convention in August. Perry endorsed Gingrich after dropping out of the race in January.

Gov. Perry released a statement today, saying, "Gov. Perry thinks Newt Gingrich is the strongest conservative to debate and defeat President Obama and truly overhaul Washington. The speculation is humbling, but premature."

Leading into the Alabama and Mississippi primaries Tuesday, Gingrich could be looking for a boost. Polls in both states show a very tight race between Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. The three are in a virtual tie with Texas Congressman Ron Paul in the single digits.

Ronnie McDonald files for CD-27

Former Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald took advantage of the extended candidate filing period to get in the race for the 27th Congressional district. He formally filed Friday.

McDonald, who is a Democrat, served as Bastrop County Judge for 13 years. He became well known to people outside of Bastrop, when he delivered daily briefings during the Bastrop wildfires.

McDonald resigned from that post Monday. At that time, he said he was eyeing either a run for US Congress or a seat in the State House.

Friday is the deadline for candidates to file for the May 29 primary election. The filing period re-opened Monday, so candidates could react to new interim redistricting maps issued by a federal court in San Antonio.

Some candidates were waiting to file until the district lines were set. Others had to change districts based on changes to the maps.

Redistricting claims congressional candidate

Changes in the interim redistricting maps are forcing at least one candidate out of the CD-10 race. Dan Grant, the only democrat in the race, announced today that he is withdrawing from the race. He says he was gerrymandered out, and cited changes made to the map by a San Antonio district court.

In a statement, Grant said said:

"In the latest version of Congressional maps the 10th District has been redrawn to solidly protect Congressman McCaul. This latest iteration of CD-10 is the same as in the illegal map drafted by the Republican-controlled state legislature last year whose primary goal was to disenfranchise minority voters, dilute Democratic voting strength, and protect Republican incumbents.

I will continue to do all that I can to support the principles of our campaign: real representation for all Americans, a government that is focused on the people and not on personal politics, and working for the future of our great country. The support that our campaign received shows that all Texans are hungry for these principles, and I’ll continue to work for them."

DC court reconsiders ‘Doggett District’

The court in Washington DC, charged with pre-clearing the redistricting maps Texas lawmakers drew during the last legislative session, is asking for further explanation on the so-called "Doggett District."

The Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force (TLRTF) is arguing that U.S. Congressional District 25 is not a coalition district and therefore not protected under the Voting Rights Act.

A coalition district happens when more than one group of racial minorities or language minorities exist in an area and come together to elect a candidate of the coalition’s choice.

TLRTF wants the DC District Court court to see that CD 25 is an "Anglo majority district in which Anglo voters dominate the Democratic Party."

It has until March 13 to submit further documentation in support of that claim. That date is leading some in the know to believe the DC court will issue its ruling on the maps a couple of days later.

Lead League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) prosecutor on the redistricting case, Luis Vera, Jr., is among those who think the DC court will act within the next week. If that happens and the judges rule CD 25 is in fact protected and should go back to its bench mark boundaries (the pre-redistricting or base map version), everything else would shift as a result.

Vera said TLRTF is the lone actor in making this claim on CD 25; adding that LULAC believes CD 25 should be protected for its minority population make up as a coalition district.

That would mean the current interim maps federal judges in San Antonio issued last month would likely change and push back the primary election date once again. Right now, the parties are planning for a May 29th election.

County officials from across the state have testified in court they would need as many as 10 weeks from when the final maps come out to properly prepare for an election.

So coming out of Super Tuesday, it looked like Texas could be a tie-breaking state with 155 delegates up for grabs. Though if the primary happens say, after June 5, the date of California’s election -a state with even more delegates, 172- the Lone Star State’s role in determining the GOP presidential nominee would be further diminished.

Party switch could give GOP more house seats

Democratic state Representative J.M. Lozano is trading his blue, for some red. The Rep. from the Gulf Coast is expected to announce his switch to the Republican party, Thursday.

Lozano had originally filed for reelection as a Democrat. However, due to redistricting, the filing period is now back open, and he will be able to change his affiliation. Spokesman Craig Murphy said Lozano was inspired to switch, in part, to a conversation he had with former President George W. Bush’s nephew, George P. Bush.

The move gives Republicans 102 of the 150 House seats. Of course, those numbers will change based on the 2012 election. No matter the result in November, however, Lozano’s decision is expected to make waves, since the district traditionally favors Democrats.

This week on Capital Tonight: The State of Water

The record setting drought and continuing water crisis will be high on the agenda when the State Legislature convenes in 2013.

Last year, the drought cost the state more than $5 billion dollars, and there’s little hope that the coming year will be much better. Lake levels remain well below normal. There’s concern the aquifers can’t keep up with a constantly growing population. A state Supreme Court ruling has turned groundwater rights laws on their heads. Already, we have seen water shortages in Central Texas communities, and rice farmers downstream have been cut off for the first time ever.

So how dire is the situation? What are the options? Should lawmakers be doing more? What can you do to help?

We’ll spend a full hour Thursday, exploring those questions. Our guests include Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. We’ll also hear from water and drought experts; including Ken Kramer from the Lone Star Sierra Club and conservationist Andy Sansom.

We also want to make sure we’re asking all the questions you want answered. That’s why we’re opening up the phone and Facebook lines. Starting at 6:45, you can call in to talk to our panel of experts, and they’ll answer your questions live. Just dial (512) 531-8898. If you can’t call in, feel free to post your question on our Facebook page, or leave a comment right here on the blog.

John Cornyn’s having a bad week

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, had the "worst week in Washington," according to Chris Cillizza and the Washington Post. Cillizza says Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has been riding high since 2010. He was in charge of his party’s Senate campaign operation when Republicans gained six seats that year.

But, the honeymoon ended this week with the news that Sen. Olympia Snow, R-Maine, would retire. The worst part about her retirement: she, according to Cillizza, would have been a shoo-in win for Republicans, as she is "the most popular elected official in the state." Snow decided not to run for a fourth term because she said she did not like how polarized Washington has become.

The Post also cites the decision by former senator Bob Kerrey to run again in Nebraska. Cillizza calls Kerrey "the only Democrat with a fighting chance of winning in the ruby-red Cornhusker State."

Since John Cornyn is in charge of electing enough Republicans to take control of the U.S. Senate, Snow and Kerrey made that job difficult this week. That’s why this was a bad week for the Texas Senator.