Saturday, June 7, 2008

Democratic convention adjourned

Having completed all required business, the 2008 Texas State Democratic Convention adjourned at 12:07 a.m., Sunday, June 8.

National delegate slate approved

The convention has approved the Texas slate to the Democratic National Convention. The vote on the at-large portion of that slate was about two-thirds in favor, one-third against.

Fireworks break out late night over national convention delegates

A lot of Democratic state convention attendees are disappointed they don't get to go to Denver to be a national delegate. Several of them are trying to get the at-large slate voted down. Their main argument is that the demographics of the list do not comply with the demographic representation goals adopted as a part of the state's delegate selection plan. The convention debated whether to adopt the slate recommended by the nominations committee. This is now going to a roll call vote of the convention delegates (and it's 11:25 p.m.) This is the latest I've seen a party convention go in either party in the ten years I've been covering Texas politics.

Terri Hodge calls for clean government

Talk about ironies. Rep. Terri Hodge (D-Dallas), who was the subject of a federal indictment last year relating to misconduct in office, took to the microphone accusing the Democratic convention of conducting its business in private. She said the Obama campaign was holding a caucus in private to determine the delegates to the Democratic National Convention behind closed doors. She asked the convention chairman whether this is in compliance with the rules of the Democratic Party and the Texas Open Meetings Act. (I guess she missed all the kum-bay-yah lectures coming from the podium Friday evening).

The Texas Chairman of the Obama Campaign, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, told reporters that the at-large slate was considered and approved in a public meeting that complied with the rules of the party. He also said he understands the frustration of the many good people who were not able to be selected as national delegates.

Now I think I've seen it all. Terri Hodge trying to lecture anyone on clean government ...

Democratic convention goes into overtime

The Democratic State Convention has gone into overtime. Most of the time, the party conventions adjourn by 7. It's 9:30 p.m. central time and the only press people still present in the press room are myself and the Austin American-Statesman's W. Gardner Selby. All business of the party has been completed except the naming of the at-large delegates to the Democratic National Convention. In some ways, the Democrats have a nice problem to have. There are so many people who want delegate slots that they are having trouble picking which ones to send. I've heard there is a rules challenge pending at the nominations committee. Once the at-large delegates are ratified, all business of the convention will have been completed, and the convention can be adjourned.

Party platform adopted

The convention has adopted the nearly 40-page Texas Democratic Party platform that platform committee chairman Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston described as "beliefs that are shaped by Democratic values." The following are highlights on which LSR will expound later this week.

The platform proclaims that all Texans should have access to a "quality public education, from childhood through college." It also states that tuition should be affordable, calling for repeal of tuition deregulation and a lowering of tuition in the state. It also calls for the federal government to fully fund No Child Left Behind. The platform also supports the top-ten percent rule, which guarantees high school students in the top ten percent of their graduating class admission to the state-run higher education institution of their choice.

It also goes after the "unscrupulous homebuilders" by calling for a "reshaping of the Texas Residential Construction Commission to include homeowner representation and empowering it with the authority to take meaningful actoin on their behalf."

The platform also calls for universal health care, the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program, education and services for HIV and STDs, state funding for stem cell research, preservation of "choice" and the encouragement of "family planning."

Greenhouse gases must be reduced, the platform says. It calls for alternative energy includingsolar, thermal and wind. Coleman said that the environment "is as important as anything."

In criminal justice, the platform calls for further reforms of the Texas Youth Commission, aswell as work on the incarceration rate in the state, which is the second highest among the 50 states. It also calls for a moratorium on the death penalty and the development of the "Innocence Project" which deals with cases of alleged wrongful convictions.

The platform also takes shots at the Trans-Texas Corridor -- at least Gov. Rick Perry's vision thereof. "Eminent domain should not work against our people," Coleman said. He went on to say that Perry's vision of the TTC would benefit corporations and be "no benefit" to Texans. The platform places more emphasis on eminent domain issues and curtailing abuses of it than in years past.

And of course, the platform denounces photo ID to vote or other voter ID measures. It also calls for an end to the "Iraq occupation" as Coleman described it. It also calls for a "new G.I. bill" to address veterans' affairs. Several speakers at the convention have argued that the government needs to provide returning veterans more resources to reenter society.

The platform was adopted with few if any audible nays from the audience.

Precinct conventions in Spanish?

The Democratic Party has amended its rules in a way that may require precinct conventions be conducted in Spanish. Specifically, the convention required in presidential years that proceedings at precinct conventions be conducted in English and, upon request of any participant, any language in which the U.S. Department of Justice has required ballots be printed. In other words, if there are ballots in Spanish (which the voting rights act sometimes requires), then any participant can request that the precinct convention be conducted in Spanish. I wonder how the Republicans would react to this rule change and whether it gets mentioned in their platform.

Where's the fire

We've seen a lot of things at party conventions before, but this is the first time we've seen the convention hall evacuated. In the middle of the debate over the "Texas Two-Step" (see below), the fire alarm sounded, and convention delegates were instructed to evacuate the building. A smoke detector was apparently set off in the kitchen. The Austin Fire Department checked it out, and gave the all clear. Then delegates finished voting on the two-step.

Fight breaks out over caucus system

A fight has broken-out on the convention floor over the current system where delegates to the Democratic national convention are allocated to the presidential candidates based both on the primary and on the results of the caucuses, as expresed by the convention delegates. Chairman Boyd Richie has created a commission led by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) to hold hearings across the state and make recommendations to the party on how to reform its National Delegate Selection Plan. More than 30 percent of the delegates to the convention signed a petition requesting a vote on the matter. West made a motion to table consideration of the caucus system until after his commission has finished its work. The motion to table is succeeding easily. The issue came up again when the party rules were considered. Again, the motion was tabled easily.


In an earlier post we wrote that Eddie Lucio III was appointed chairman of the special committee on the National Delegate Selection Process (the one looking at the "Texas Two-Step Process"). The actual chairman is Sen. Royce West of Dallas. We regret the error.

Richie easily holds onto chair

The final numbers:

Boyd Richie got 4,823.9 votes, for 63.24 percent.
Roy Laverne Brooks got 1,283.9 votes, for 16.83 percent.
David Van Os got 1,520.2 votes, for 19.93 percent.

Richie thanked the crowd and vowed to "turn Texas blue" in November.

Candidates vie for chair of TDP

Three candidates - David Van Os, vice chair Roy Laverne Brooks and current chairman Boyd Richie - just threw their hats in the ring to be the next chair of the Texas Democratic Party.

Van Os, an attorney, gave a fiery speech emphasizing an intention to campaign in all 254 Texas counties and put the state in play for the presidential election. He referred to President George W. Bush and company as a "gang of criminals," and referred to John McCain as "McBush."

"I want to win those five seats too" (needed in the Texas House to regain a Democratic majority), Van Os told the crowd, but also said he wants to "shoot for the stars" and make as many gains as possible for the party in Texas in November. "It's not good enough to say we're just gonna win a few more seats," he said.

The speech of Roy Laverne Brooks, a long time member of the Texas Democratic Black Coalition, was subdued and brief by comparison, emphasizing that "we can do it together."

Richie's strategy during his years as chairman, with which Van Os has openly taken issue, has been to target a handful of vulnerable Republican seats during each election cycle. Tha strategy has led to the gradual dwindling of the Republican majority in the Texas House since 2003.

"We have found our voice, our confidence is back," he said.

He highlighted the goals of winning back the majority in the House, "turning Harris County blue," giving "John Cornyn a pink slip" presumably by electing Rick Noriega to the U.S. Senate, and finally electing Barack Obama president.

"Let's get out there and kick a little Republican rump," he concluded.

Democrats have contested chairman's race

Texas Democrats will have a contested race for party chairman. Current chairman Boyd Richie will face current vice chair Roy Laverne Brooks and David Van Os. There will be a roll call vote by Senate District. Also, there will be a roll call vote on one of the Democratic National Committee slots between Sue Lovell and Roslyn Shorter

Ray puts quite a spin on Attorney General's "settlement"

Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Galena Park) is speaking about what he views as the evils of requiring prospective voters to show identification before voting. He was introduced by Willie Ray, the plaintiff in the Texas Democratic Party's lawsuit trying to stop Attorney General Greg Abbott's crackdown on voter fraud.

Ray claimed that the Democratic Party "won" her lawsuit, and Abbott settled. Here's what really happened.
* A federal judge in East Texas appointed by Bill Clinton tried to enter an injunction. That injunction was set aside by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled against the party twice.
* The Democratic Party did not get any concessions out of Abbott. The state did not pay attorneys fees, which are normally awarded in civil rights cases. The plaintiffs dismissed with prejudice their lawsuit.
* Abbott did not make any concessions about what cases he will and will not prosecute. What really happened is Abbott read into the record the current Attorney General's policy, which guides the office's attorneys on which cases the office will and will not prosecute. In fact, the statement itself said that it is not intended to limit the discretion of the office.

Railroad Commission nominee Thompson takes shot at oil and gas industry

The Democratic Nominee for the Texas Railroad Commission Mark Thompson took a shot at the state's oil and gas industry during his speech from the podium. "Under the leadership of Republican Michael Williams, the Railroad Commission has allowed the oil and gas industry to exploit the people of Texas and damage the environment," Thompson said. He then followed that up with a litany of pipeline accidents and other environmental decisions he disagrees with.

Obama wins Texas Democrat delegation

Barack Obama has won the Texas Democratic Delegation to the Democratic National Convention in spite of trailing three points in the primary election on March 4.

How did he pull it off? From the looks of things, Obama's people read the rules and learned how to two-step. Here are the numbers.

Texas has 228 total delegates. Thirty-five of those are superdelegates who can vote for whomever they please. That leaves 193 total pledged non-super delegates. That in turn is broken down to three different subcategories. The first is delegates from the primary elections - 126. The Party Leaders and Elected Officials ("PLEO" delegates) - 25. Finally at large - 42. The latter two categories are allocated to presidential candidates based on a presidential preference poll of Texas State Democratic Convention delegates.

Hillary won ONE of those subcategories - the primary delegates, 65 to Obama's 61. But the PLEO delegates went to Obama 14 to 11, and the At Large delegates went to him 24 to 18. So of the 193 non-super delegates, 99 went to Obama and 94 to Clinton.

So the upshot: even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in Texas 50.8 to Obama's 47.4, Obama won because his people learned to two-step. As a result Obama got the majority of pledge delegates.

There were 7,239 total delegate votes cast at the convention's preference poll. Of those, 3,088 went to Hillary Clinton (42.7 percent). Barack Obama got 4,144 (57.3). Seven are still undecided, but that hardly seems to throw the finale into question.

We interrupt these messages from the Democratic convention for this brief GOP announcement

It appears the Republicans will have a contested chairman's race on their hands and one that could get quite ugly. Paul Perry, a Republican activist from Ellis County has announced for GOP chairman against the incumbent Tina Benkiser. "My intention as chairman of the Republican Party of Texas is to make the will of the grassroots known to our officeholders and to assist in strengthening the Republican Party in a manner that will make the grassroots proud," he said. "I want to set a high standard for following the rule of the Republican Party and for operating as transparently as possible." The Republican base is frustrated with a party whose elected officials have, in the view of much of its base, have abandoned the principles of the party. The Trans-Texas Corridor has infuriated rural Republicans, and Perry plans on making that an issue in the Chairman's race. The theme of a party that has lost its way is one that resonates among GOP partisans (just look at Dan Patrick's victory in Senate District 7). That said, current Chairman Tina Benkiser was front-and-center in criticizing leadership's later aborted attempt to use expanded gambling to pay for school finance, and she criticized Gov. Rick Perry when he tried to mandate that sixth grade girls get a vaccination for the sexually-transmitted human papiloma virus (HPV) unless parents opt out. More recently, she has called for tougher restrictions on the state's use of eminent domain to force private land owners to sell to the governor. Fasten your safety belts.

Clinton concedes

At the Texas Democratic Convention, the convention was interrupted to her a taped feed of Hillary Clinton's convention speech. Hillary Clinton has now officially conceded and has announced that she is suspending her campaign. She called on her supporters to work hard to elect Barack Obama. Just about every single speaker from the podium at the convention is going on and on and on about the importance of unity and not dividing the party. In fact, the calls for unity are so frequent that it almost makes it seems like there are still fires of disunity smoldering that the party leadership is determined to put out.

Friday, June 6, 2008

And now a word from the convention sponsors ...

One of the big myths about politics is that the business community is conservative. Not true. Large corporations are self-interested, which is fine but certainly not the same thing as conservative. They'll take (and seek) government contracts, subsidies, guaranteed rates of return and other such goodies. For that reason, a lot of major corporations play both sides of the fence, and some actually favor Democrats.
Anheuser Busch is one of the most visible corporate sponsors at the convention (see booth picture at right. Another extremely visible company is Energy Future Holdings, the holding company formerly known as TXU. It's three subsidiaries TXU Energy (the retailer), Oncor (the wires company), and Luminant (the generation company) all have booths. I wonder if we'll see any reference in the platform to the way that House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam killed Senate Bill 482, a retail electric competition bill a lot of lobbyists for a certain large electric company were paid not to like, in the last two days of the 2007 Legislative Session. Hmmm. I'm not holding my breath. (Speaking of utilities, CenterPoint Energy, the wires company serving Houston, is also a sponsor.)
All sides of the telco wars are major sponsors. Verizon has a booth. A.T.&T. and Time Warner Cable are both sponsors of the convention. The BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad are both co-sponsors. Southwest Airlines has an ad in the program and is a sponsor. Chesapeake Energy and Atmos Energy and the Texas Association of Realtors and Microsoft are also sponsors, as is the Texas Association of Manufactured Homes. The Texas Hosptial Association had a booth and sponsored the convention, but many, many Democrats are strong proponents of providing more state funds for health care, so it's not surprising to see THA working with both parties.
By the way, I'll be taking attendance at the Republican convention to see which companies sponsored both conventions, and which ones sponsored only one ...

Presidential preference poll delayed

The Democratic Party was expected to announced the results of its presidential preference poll today. But convention chairman Kirk Watson told the convention that there are so many delegates the count cannot be completed, and the result will be announced tomorrow morning. Some of the delegates are privately suspicious something questionable is occurring, but I've also learned that sometimes the public explanation can be taken at face value. Remember about one-third of the national delegates are bound to vote based on the presidential delegate preference poll. We'll see if the theme of unity -- expressed throughout the convention -- will continue through the convention.

Democrats adopt credentials report, permanent chair without controversy

Many Austin observers questions whether there would be a knock-down, drag out fight over credentials at today's Democratic State Convention. The reason for this suspicion is that, unlike the Republicans who allocate national convention delegates to presidential candidates solely on the basis of the primary results, Democrats allocate about one-third of the national convention delegates to the presidential candidate preferences of state convention delegates. (This is why both presidential candidates emphasized to their supporters the importance of attending both the caucuses and voting in the primary.) That's why the credentials process mattered, because the presidential preferences of the delegates determine how some of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention have to vote.

But the fight never materialized. Permanent (and temporary) credentials chairman David Escamilla said that only a couple of issues before the committee were not decided by unanimous agreement, including support from both the Obama and Clinton campaigns. The convention unanimously adopted the credentials report and elected Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) as the permanent chair of the convention.

After winning election, Watson announced the chairmen of the other committees. The party committess matter because they usually draft important documents like the platform and rules that are often either completely or largely adopted by the convention. The committees mostly meet tomorrow at 8 a.m. and then present their report to the convention during the afternoon.

Committee chairs:

Rules: Molly Beth Malcolm (former Chair Texas Democratic Pary)

Resolutions: Dennis Teel

Nominations of party officers: Rose Salas

Platform: Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)

Delegates at-large: Jan Soifer

Special Committee on Delegate Selection: Eddie Lucio III (convenes at 1 p.m. for testimony on the delegate selection process) The special committee will take public testimony at the Austin Hilton on whether the Democrats should continue to allocate delegates on the basis of both the caucus (convention delegate preference and the primary).

Virgina Gov. Tim Kaine talks for Obama

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine spoke on behalf of Barack Obama following the Texas House parade. He started off the speech by monologuing at length in Spanish, commending Obama for "walking with the people."

Kaine told the crowd that Obama "wanted to be here" but needed to take the weekend off to spend with his family after a long fought primary with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Kaine went on to tell the crowd that the election bore the highest stakes he had ever seen. He said a John McCain presidency would amount to a third Bush term, as McCain stands with Bush on the Iraq War, economic policies, and health care.

The confidence of the Democrats shown as well in his speech, as he told the Texas crowd of Democrat gains being made in Virginia. He predicted that the traditionally red state would see a second Senate seat won by a Democrat, for example.

Democratic House candidates project optimism

The past two cycles, even at Democratic conventions, there wasn't much serious talk of a Democratic majority in the House. This convention was different. When the current Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives, several of them -- even the ones who aren't always the hard-core partisans -- were talking of retaking the House. Several current representatives asked the crowd to give us "just five more colleagues" (the number needed for a majority.) Many Austin observers are still skeptical that a numeric majority will happen. But after 2006, the possibility is taken seriously. Republican activists can't take this election for granted, because Democrats are hungry and confident.

Noreiga lambastes Cornyn

In his speech to the state convention today, U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega blasted U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. There were few new policy proposals, but here are the key issues that Noriega used to attack Cornyn:
* Voting against the bill expanding the Children's Health Insurance Bill to the upper middle class and adults
* Not voting to allow drugs to be imported to Canada
* Voting for individually-directed investment accounts for social security, which Noriega characterized as privatization
* Not voting for a higher minimum wage
* Voting to build a wall along the border. He characterized Cornyn's opposition to illegal immigation as promoting "fear and intolerance," though Noriega did call for tougher action against employers who exploit illegal labor

Noreiga called for pulling troops out of Iraq "as quickly and safely as possible."

House Democrats parade the stage

"Healing" is a big theme tonight.

Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville), a Clinton supporter, affirmed his support of the Hillary Clinton to kick off the parade of House Democrats on the stage at the state Democrat Convention.

Shouts of "Yes we can" erupted in the audience.

Jim Dunnam cracked that "for purposes of this convention, Speaker Tom Craddick is not recognized."

A parade of other House Democrats (from the looks of things, almost all of them) took the stage to announce support for Barack Obama and exhort the attendees "take back the House."

Rep. Scott Hochberg from Houston said "I see Democrats as far as I can see, and it looks great." Hochberg and Rep. Jessica Farrar among others told the audience that they only need "five more seats" to win a majority. A surprisingly unambitious vision.

Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, head of the House Democrat caucus, rapped up the House parade by holding a mock moment of silence for Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, Karl Rove, and "thank God, George Bush."

Chelsea Clinton speaks

Chelsea Clinton just confirmed that her mother Hillary Clinton will announce tomorrow that she intends tosupport Sen. Barack Obama for President, and will confirm her commitment to electing Democrats to the White House.

Competing shouts of “HILL-A-RY” and “O-BA-MA” briefly erupted following the former first daughters remarks.

Rifle Association gets warm reception at Democratic convention

Many of my friends are surprised to know that, in Texas, there is a strong bi-partisan constituency for gun rights. The Texas State Rifle Association has had a booth at both parties' conventions for as long as I can remember. This morning, the Democratic Gun Owners' caucus held a meeting, and the room was overflowing. Congressional candidate Larry Joe Doherty spoke. (The Gun Owners' caucus is not formally affiliated with TSRA.) Former House Speaker Pete Laney has long been a friend of the Second Amendment, and the Texas State Rifle Association took out a full-page ad in the convention program. The ad lists Democratic senators and representatives who achieved A ratings from the TSRA. Three Democratic Senators received A ratings (Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (A+) of McAllen, Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, and John Whitmire of Houston. Twenty-five House Democrats received A ratings (more than one-third of the caucus) and five received A+ ratings from TSRA. The A+ rated House Democrats are Stephen Frost of New Boston, Mark Homer of Paris, Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville, Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs, and David Farabee of Wichita Falls.

The lay of the land

This year's Texas Democratic State Convention is being held at the Austin Convention Center downtown. The building is rectangular. The main convention hall is Exhibit Halls 2, 3, and 4 on the West end of the building. The exhibit hall is on the North end of the building, and the Hillary Clinton campaign has a huge tent just across the street from the exhibit hall. The convention facility is rectangular and long. The stage has two screens on either sides, with banners for the convention sponsors. The press area is to the convention chairman's right (just under the Hillary Clinton banner). There is a big banner for Barack Obama to the chairman's left. The theme of this year's convention is "Moving Texas Forward" and the logo is the same as last years. A banner with the convention logo appears behind the Chairman' podium.

Why Noreiga's press conference came hours before his speech

Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate Rick Noriega held his press availability at 1 p.m. today. His speech will be after 6 p.m. For those not used to dealing with the press: here's why. The daily newspapers have deadlines that are usually around the close of business. Also, there are several TV cameras and satellite trucks present today. By holding his press availability in the early afternoon, Noreiga gets in tomorrow's papers and on the 6 p.m. newscasts. I've been to past years' conventions -- in both parties -- where I heard great speeches or saw news break, and it didn't make the papers or the evening newscasts because it occurred after deadline. The papers will hold the morning edition up if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama came to speak, but most editors probably wouldn't hold up production for other speakers. Other campaign press aides should take note: reporters can't print stuff if they get it after deadline.

Noreiga objects to overuse of eminent domain

Rep. Rick Noreiga (D-Houston), candidate for U.S. Senate, held a news conference at 1 p.m. today. Most of the news conference was the usual niceties. Noreiga is excited by the enthusiasm that he sees from Democrats; he believes the voters are ready for change; and he's excited to be on the same ticket with Barack Obama and believes that the South Texas voters who backed Hillary Clinton will also turn out for Obama. That said, I asked Obama whether the Trans-Texas Corridor will be an issue in his race (and mentioned U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's very public dust-up with Gov. Rick Perry on that issue). "More than anything else on that issue that is important to Texans is the government's seizure of property," Noreiga said, agreeing with the proposition that it will be an issue in his race.

In addition to transportation, Noreiga repeated his endorsement of the Warner-Lieberman climate change bill and slammed U.S. Sen. John Cornyn for not endorsing it.

One rather amusing exchange occurred between the Houston Chronicle's Rick Casey and Noriega. During the press conference, Noriega was asked about his fundraising. He noted that he is not getting money from drug companies and their PACs. So Casey asked Noreiga, if elected, would he take that money. Noreiga wouldn't answer Casey's question, saying he "would cross that bridge when he comes to it."

Turner calls for end to tuition deregulation

While this wasn't formally a convention event, it involved Democrats and is worth discussing, none the less.

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) held a news conference at the Capitol this morning to call for repeal of tuition deregulation, a law that allows university regents to hike tuition without first obtaining the approval of the Texas Legislature. Most of the attendees at the press conference were "Craddick D's," Democrats who are part of Speaker Tom Craddick's leadership team. Speakers at the press conference included Reps. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio), Tracy King (D-Batesville), Helen Giddings (D-Dallas), and Rep.-elect Al Edwards (D-Houston). Some non-Craddick D's speakers included Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) and Reps. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont), and Ellen Cohen (D-Houston). Turner announced that he would file a bill to repeal tuition deregulation in the upcoming legislative session. McClendon called tuition deregulation a "disaster" and said she supports full repeal and urged university administrators to make a better case before the Legislature for full funding.

Here was my question to Turner was how does he plan to get his bill passed, given that Speaker Tom Craddick, Gov. Rick Perry, and House Higher Education chair Geanie Morrison all have enthusiastically supported the law in the past. In response, McClendon suggested that Texans call their legislators and that will impact the process.

Chelsea Clinton confirmed for Democratic convention

The Democratic Party has officially confirmed that Chelsea Clinton has confirmed as a speaker for the Texas Democratic Convention. Clinton will represent her mother, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and she will be followed by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's representative, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. Therefore, here are the main events for the day: at 3 p.m. Senate District caucuses will meet. At 6 p.m. the general session will convene. Rep. Rick Noriega (D-Houston), the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, will be the first big-name speaker. Later in the evening Chelsea Clinton will speak followed by Kaine.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Now that the press has decided that Barack Obama has clinched the nomination, the brass at the Democratic party is working overtime to promote "party unity." Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) -- an Obama supporter -- and Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) a Clinton supporter issued a joint appeal for party unity. Meanwhile, other Democrats decided to host a "unity pub crawl" this evening. Obama's headquarters is at the ClubDeVille on Red River, while the Hillary Clinton folk are hanging out at Bull McCabe's Irish Pub. It should be interesting to see if Peace and Harmony indeed break out at tomorrow's convention, and also how many delegates show up to convention with a hangover...

What are the GOP rules critics trying to accomplish?

One thing I'd love to see in the comments section to this blog: an explanation of exactly what the GOP rules critics are trying to accomplish. (See my post below for a basic explanation of this issue.) When Tom Pauken took over the Texas GOP from the establishment, I understood his purpose. The party apparatus was supposed to represent the grassroots of the party and serve as a counter-balance to the Bush-Rove machine that really doesn't care about principle and never has.

That said, throughout this election cycle, the Ron Paul Revolution folks are making a splash. What's the end game? Do they want to affect the state platform (and to what end)? Do they want their people on the State Republican Executive Committee, and what would they do when there?

I know many Republicans -- and not just the Ron Paul faction -- are fed up with elected officials who have abandoned principle and want to get the GOP away from special interests and the culture of Washington DC and back to its ideological roots. But how does one get from A to B. Now that's a fascinating question.

Texas GOP convention: Let's get ready to rummmmble

The Democrats may be trying to come together as a party (we'll see if that happens later this weekend), but never-fear, we can always count on Texas Republicans to produce some good political theater. Every presidential year, a handful of delegates stage a fight over the rules and procedures of the Texas GOP. They question whether the leadership is playing fair and stage a fight on the convention floor.

It is clear that there will likely be a floor fight at the GOP convention over the election of a permanent chairman. The permanent chairman interprets the rules from the podium and has a variety of procedural powers, including the all-important decision of whom to recognize to speak.

This cycle, the courts are getting involved. Gary Polland, a solid conservative and former chairman of the Harris County GOP, is representing a group of concerned GOP delegates and has succeeded in procuring a temporary restraining order directing the GOP to follow state law (which the party argues it always does anyway) requiring election of the permanent chairman before transacting any business. The Houston Chronicle even wrote a story on the court case.

Some interpret this as a fight between the Ron Paul faction of the party and the leadership. While some of the upset Republicans are, in fact, Ron Paul-backers, this fight goes beyond that issue, and has occurred at past conventions. Long-time party activist Robert X. Johnson has frequently taken the party brass to task in the past over the technicalities of party rules. Those critical of the party leadership have even set up a website to express their concerns. Should be fun to watch.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama not coming to Texas Democratic convention

Well, it looks like Sen. Barack Obama won't be able to make it to the Texas Democratic Convention. But he is sending Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a national co-chair of the campaign, to speak on his behalf. “I look forward to traveling to Texas this weekend and seeing firsthand the grassroots movement for change that has inspired men and women of all ages all across the Lone Star State to get involved in the political process,” said Kaine. “It is time for all of us to come together and focus our efforts on winning in November. Voters in Texas and across the country have the opportunity to unite behind Senator Obama and his vision for bringing people together and his effort to move this country forward.” Kaine is estimated to speak at the Friday evening session. No official word yet on what the Hillary Clinton campaign will do.

Obama's decision is fascinating, considering that the convention will actually award delegates to the Democratic National Convention. This is a critical difference between the GOP and Democratic state convention. All GOP delegates must vote based on the results of the primary. About one-third of the Texas Democratic delegates, however, are either superdelegates (and can vote for whom they please) or are pledged based on the presidential preferences expressed by state convention delegates on the sign-in sheets at the beginning of the convention. In addition to delegates pledged via sign-in sheets, the convention will also elect the Texas delegation to the Democratic National Committee, all of whom are superdelegates. In short, the Texas Democratic Convention matters in the presidential race. I guess Obama believes the press headlines that he's clinched the nomination.

Even though Obama himself will not be attending the convention in person, some tribute is in order for his campaign staff. The national media, last February, had assumed Hillary Clinton would win Texas in a runaway. Obama's people read the rules. They noticed that the Democratic Party's rules award high numbers of delegates to parts of the state where they are strong (Austin, Houston, Dallas), whereas the parts of the state where Clinton ran strong (South and rural Texas) had fewer delegates. Thus, even though Clinton numerically won the popular vote, Obama -- by running a smart and aggressive campaign here -- achieved near parity in the delegate count.