Beto O’Rourke Will Run Against Ted Cruz in Texas 2018 Senate Race

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will announce on Friday plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. From the Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat and ex-punk rocker who pulled a stunning upset to win his House seat six years ago, plans to declare his candidacy on Friday for the Senate seat held by Ted Cruz, according to Democratic sources in Texas.

O’Rourke’s fledgling campaign has scheduled an announcement on Friday in El Paso, his hometown. He has traveled heavily in Texas over the last three months making contacts, barely concealing his political plans.

“I’m very moved to do it,” O’Rourke, 44, said in an interview earlier this month, adding that he had reached the “emotional decision” about his candidacy.

Campaign aides declined to confirm that he will enter the 2018 Senate race.

The article also points out that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) is still thinking about whether or not to get in this race, though the article notes that Castro has climbed the ladder in the Democratic House caucus farther and faster than O’Rourke, implying that Castro would have more to lose if his Senate run fell short. Most of the Texas Democrats I’ve spoken to in the past several weeks and months mentioned Castro as a probable candidate for 2018 and possibly their best (albeit longshot) chance at unseating Ted Cruz.

Federal Court Strikes Down Racially Drawn Texas Congressional Maps

The Republican-controlled Texas state legislature racially gerrymandered a handful of congressional districts in order to diminish the electoral influence of the state’s minority populations, according to a San Antonio federal court ruling issued late on Friday night.  The two-judge majority wrote in their opinion, “This Court finds that map drawers acted with an impermissible intent to dilute minority voting strength or otherwise violated the Fourteenth Amendment and that Plaintiffs are still being harmed by the lines drawn as the direct product of these violations.” The ruling was the culmination of a long redistricting case pitting state Democrats, minority groups, and the Obama Justice Department against the Texas Republican leadership and legislature over the course of six years.

A potential consequence of this ruling is whether the state of Texas will once again have to seek federal approval before changing voting laws, a practice known as preclearance. The practice applied to Texas and several other Southern states with a history of racial discrimination, though that changed as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The state is likely to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The new ruling mentions the 23rd, 26th, 27th and 35th congressional districts.  The 23rd district covers much of West Texas and the Mexican border across to San Antonio, and is currently represented by Rep. Will Hurd. The 26th district covers a suburban area north of Dallas/Fort Worth and is represented by Rep. Michael Burgess. The 27th district covers part of the Texas coast on the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the outskirts to the southwest of the capital city of Austin, and is currently represented by Rep. Blake Farenthold. The 35th district covers a stretch between San Antonio and Austin, and is represented by Rep. Lou Doggett.  Doggett is the only Democrat representing the four districts named in the ruling.  Hurd has been identified by both parties as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the 2018 election. He narrowly won a rematch with his Democratic predecessor by one point, in a district with a 68 percent Hispanic population that Hillary Clinton won by 3 in the presidential election. The court ordered the Texas legislature to redraw lines for the 23rd, 27th and 35th districts.

This is the latest in a series of legal rulings against congressional redistricting in the aftermath of the 2010 census.  Other courts have ruled against Republican gerrymandered maps in Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“This Texas ruling is another major legal victory for fairer maps in America,” National Democratic Redistricting Committee General Counsel Marc Elias said in a statement. “Yet again, courts have sent a clear message that unconstitutional racial gerrymandering and violations of the Voting Rights Act will not stand in the United States of America. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee will act quickly on a proactive legal strategy that will build upon these recent victories.”

Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Jessica Post said, “Texas Republicans illegally diluted the voices of Hispanic voters, and this ruling is an important step towards giving all Texans fair representation.”

“The Texas congressional map engineered by Republican legislators diminished the voices of specific groups of voters just to protect GOP power. This court decision, along with recent rulings in Virginia, Alabama, and Wisconsin, mark important progress in the fight to protect and enfranchise all voters and are blows against the artificial Republican majorities the GOP created at minority voters’ expense.”

“The federal court further confirmed what we’ve known all along:  Texas intentionally discriminated to disenfranchise Latino and African American voters.  This is unacceptable and that is why I led the effort at the Justice Department to challenge these maps.  But our work here is far from over,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

“Republicans have ensured that the dark days of discrimination in Texas continue to loom, but the sun will soon shine. In time, justice prevails,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said.

No statements on the court ruling have been released by the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, the Republican National Committee, or the Texas Republican Party.

UPDATE: Read this analysis of the case from Election Law Blog’s Rick Hasen. He calls the ruling “a major victory for voting rights plaintiffs,” and notes there is a real question of whether or not Texas will be subject to Section 5 preclearance for as long as ten years.

Joaquin Castro Considering Run Against Ted Cruz in 2018

Congressman Joaquin Castro may be planning a Senate run for next year, according to his brother, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro:

Democrats have a difficult map in 2018, playing defense in 25 seats, compared to the GOP’s 7. In addition to that, Democrats haven’t won a statewide office in Texas since 1994, but depending on the political and economic dynamics of the country in 18 months, and the fact that Senator Ted Cruz has burned a lot of bridges even within his own party, this could be a long shot pickup opportunity for Senate Democrats in 2018.

DNC Candidates Join Airport Protest

HOUSTON – “Sign me up for the Resistance,” South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg told an auditorium full of Democratic Party insiders and activists on Saturday afternoon. Several hours later, he and three other candidates running for leadership positions in the Democratic National Committee were in the middle of a protest at George Bush Intercontinental Airport to protest the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration and refugee resettlement.

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DNC chair candidates Tom Perez, Pete Buttigieg and Jaime Harrison speak to protestors outside Terminal E at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. (Photo credit: David de Sola)

They joined a crowd of approximately one hundred people that had gathered outside Terminal E, the international arrivals terminal, joining similar protests that broke out at airports across the country.  As was the case at other protests, according to Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti, a group of local lawyers was present. They had gathered there to offer potential legal assistance to travelers who might be affected by the executive order. Though the crowd at Houston wasn’t as big as other airports, the city itself is the fourth biggest destination in the world for refugee resettlement, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Protestors chanting "No Ban! No Wall!" #iah

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Also on the scene were former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, as well as Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Maria Elena Durazo. Buttigieg, Perez and Harrison are candidates running to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Durazo is running for reelection to her current post.  All four were in Houston on Saturday for a regional forum sponsored by the DNC for candidates running for leadership positions ahead of the party’s election scheduled to take place at the end of February.

“I think it’s great that we have the organization and infrastructure, the activity and activism, and the heart and soul to stand up to what Donald Trump is doing,” Durazo said in an interview. “We have never seen this many protests, this many demonstrations in the numbers, in the consecutive days of activity, from Saturday the Women’s March, to Philadelphia, to tonight. It’s unfortunate that the reasons are Donald Trump is signing these executive orders and because he’s so hell-bent on violating our constitutional rights.”

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DNC Vice Chair Maria Elena Durazo speaks to protestors outside Terminal E at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. (Photo credit: David de Sola)

Tom Perez took advantage of his fluency in Spanish and addressed protestors and local media in both languages. “Somos los Estados Unidos, no somos los Estados Divididos.” We are the United States, not the Divided States. It is worth noting one dynamic from the election which probably played a part in Saturday’s protests: the urban-rural split between liberals and conservatives. Because liberals tend to concentrate in large cities, many of which have international airports, that is probably one reason why these protests were able to organize and mobilize so quickly, even in a historically conservative state like Texas.

“We knew this would be a day of reckoning when Donald Trump assumed the Oval Office,” he told protestors. “We didn’t know it would come this fast. Lady Liberty has taken a few body punches, but the American people will fight back.”

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Photo credit: David de Sola

Harrison cited the famous quote by Pastor Martin Niemöller, as well as a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham City Jail: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the actions and words of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

“We are that shining beacon on a hill,” Harrison said during an interview. “We will get back to that point once [Donald Trump] is no longer president.”

“Resistance is not futile, resistance is necessary. We cannot allow this man to destroy this great nation, to destroy the reputation that it’s had for generations.”

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Pete Buttigieg and Jaime Harrison join the crowds protesting the Trump administration’s executive order. (Photo credit: David de Sola)

Buttigieg, who at one point acted as an Arabic-English interpreter for a newly arrived family and the crowd gathered outside the terminal, said during an interview, “Every time there’s another outrage, there’s going to have to be another response.”

“We have to make sure it’s not just reactive to what they do. We got to make sure that we’re building a proactive agenda around freedom, around fairness, around protecting families, and around our future.”

Scene at #iah tonight… protestors against Trump executive order.

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DNC Forum Houston Liveblog – Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
(D) Texas

We are Ann Richards… We are Barbara Jordan. We are Lloyd Bentsen
We are Democrats in Texas

I call to order recognition at JFK Airport, an Iraqi interpreter who was coming to get a liver for family.  Someone decided to alter the values of America

Who are you? You are a social democratic engineer

The man who sits in high place wants to deny the DNA evidence that freed the Central Park Five.

Urges people to call their senators to vote no on Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

DNC Forum Houston Liveblog – Gilberto Hinojosa

Gilberto Hinojosa
Chairman, Texas Democratic Party

Trump is a minority president, not in way most of us use word minority.
Trump is a minority president because majority of people in this country didn’t vote for the SOB.

In Texas, we did a lot better than in a long time. First time in 20 years we came within single digits in a presidential election.
In Harris County, we won every countywide position by 2,000 votes.
In 2016, you kicked ass! 165k margin.
In 2020, margin will be 400k.

Change view of Democratic Party. Texas can be a blue state.
Donald Trump will help us build a wall – a blue wall.

 

DNC Chair Candidates Meet in Texas

The Texas Democratic Party held its quarterly meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee in Austin yesterday, and invited the candidates for DNC chairman to address the organization.  I was traveling all day so I was not able to monitor it and live-blog or tweet it like the Ohio event a few days earlier, but TDP uploaded the video of the event to Facebook.  I should point out that this is Sally Boynton Brown’s first event since declaring her candidacy 24 hours earlier, so this is the first time Democrats are hearing from her directly. Here are a few real-time tweets from people who were there:

 

UPDATE: Texas State Democratic Executive Committee member Josh Greene sent the link to this edited video of the five candidates’ speeches that has been uploaded to YouTube.