Posts Tagged ‘Texas Senate’

Tea party target Jeff Wentworth finds GOP challenger in Donna Campbell for TX Senate

Posted on: October 5th, 2011 by Patrick Michels 1 Comment

After debuting on the political stage with a spirited campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett in 2010, Donna Campbell has picked her next target: veteran Republican state Sen. Jeff Wentworth.

Already, there are plenty of contested seats in the Texas Senate, with the retirement of budget guru Steve Ogden (R-Bryan), longtime Senate Education Committee chair Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and Sen. Mike Jackson (R-La Porte). Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis is fighting back against a redrawn district that would make her especially vulnerable to a Republican challenge.

But as Texans for Financial Responsibility president Michael Quinn Sullivan wrote on his blog, the tiny-government crowd sees a big opportunity to fill the state’s upper chamber with like-minded lawmakers.

Wentworth, who pushed a bill last session that would’ve allowed handguns on college campuses, is for unrelated reasons seen as a somewhat moderate member, and, Sullivan writes, “on shaky ground with [his] primary base.”

Wentworth voted against the mandatory pre-abortion sonogram bill passed earlier this year, for one thing. That his office accidentally delivered a “Happy New Year” mailer to his constituents last month also hasn’t escaped Sullivan’s notice.

Like Campbell, tea party favorite Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) didn’t have any political experience before his first election — and while he was seen as an outlier in his freshman session, Texas Republican primary voters have shifted his way since then.

As the Texas Independent reported fall, Campbell ran a successful fundraising campaign in her attempt to unseat Doggett, and wasn’t deterred by naysayers who suggested she needed more experience in government before running.

As the Texas Independent pointed out in June, Doggett’s redrawn congressional district has set him up for a tough Democratic primary challenge, but also made it hard for Campbell, or any other Republican, to get elected there.

Instead, the emergency room doctor brought the same promises from her congressional campaign to her new bid for Austin. The Gonzales Cannon quoted Campbell on her announcement:

“Texas embodies the conservative dream in America. The voters of Senate District 25 deserve to have a Senator who accurately represents their conservative values. The call for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and unwavering family values cannot be ignored any longer.”

As the blog Burnt Orange Report also recalled, Campbell’s old campaign site included an “issues” page on God.

Pre-abortion sonogram law authors Patrick, Miller drop prospective bids for Washington

Posted on: September 7th, 2011 by Patrick Michels No Comments

Two authors of last session’s mandatory pre-abortion sonogram law, both of whom had been eyeing federal races, announced Wednesday they’ll try and take their talents back to Austin in 2013 instead.

State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) had been weighing his chances in the race for U.S. Senate, but announced today that he’d run for re-election to his current seat instead, and possibly run for lieutenant governor in 2014.

“Despite the great attraction of serving in the U.S. Senate, I believe I can best serve my conservative principles and have the most impact in the Texas Senate,” Patrick said, as the Austin American-Statesman reported.

“If you look at the race today, it is likely — especially with me out of the field — that [Lt. Gov. David] Dewhurst wins,” Patrick told the Texas Tribune today.

At a Republican gathering in Arlington last month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Patrick said he probably wouldn’t get into the race. Instead, he said, he figured Attorney General Greg Abbott would be Texas’ next governor, and he’d like to be his second in command. “I told the Attorney General, ‘I’m happy to be your copilot. As long as you believe in the things I believe, then I don’t have to be in the driver’s seat. I’m happy to push the cart,’” Patrick said, the Star-Telegram reported.

Abbott is currently appealing a judge’s order blocking one of Patrick’s signature contributions to this year’s Texas Legislature, a law requiring women seeking abortions to have a sonogram performed 24 hours beforehand.

That bill’s author in the Texas House, Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) had also been expected to run for office in Washington in 2012, but Miller announced today that he’s staying put too.

Miller had been planning a run in the re-worked Congressional District 25, currently occupied by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), but reshaped into a Republican-friendly district. “I don’t think it’s a secret my colleagues drew it for me to run in,” he told the Texas Tribune in July. The entry of former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams into that race, though, looks to have scared him off from the race.

Instead, Miller, a six-term veteran of the Texas Legislature, is likely to rejoin Patrick in Austin in 2013.

“I want to continue the fight to defend the second amendment, protect the life of the unborn, protect our family values, constrain the growth of government, and keep Texas a leader in job creation and economic growth,” Miller said today in a statement.

U.S. Rep. McCaul may still challenge Dewhurst, Cruz for Texas Senate seat

Posted on: August 24th, 2011 by Patrick Michels No Comments

A week after Roll Call named him the richest man in Congress, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, may be looking to make a run for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat in the upper chamber, according to reports from the Austin American-Statesman and the Texas Tribune.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin

“McCaul’s team has long hinted that he was interested in the Senate seat but cautioned that he was unlikely to run in the event that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst got in the race,” the Statesman reported.

Dewhurst did, indeed, jump into the race last month, making him the front-runner ahead of tea party favorite Ted Cruz, a former Texas Solicitor General.

Both quoted GOP sources close to McCaul saying he’s still considering jumping into the race for the Senate seat, though he hasn’t decided for sure. According to the Statesman:

Another source close to McCaul, however, cautioned that he is taking no concrete steps to run and is unlikely to do so.

In a statement released by his office, McCaul stopped well short of denying his interest in the race.

“My goal remains to ensure that the most qualified person represents Texas in the United States Senate,” McCaul said.

While Cruz has been scooping up endorsements and campaign contributions, both Dewhurst and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert have the personal wealth to self-finance a major campaign.

The Dallas native McCaul would be able to do the same. Roll Call put his personal worth at $294 million, at least — a huge increase thanks to transfer from his wife Linda McCaul, whose father is Clear Channel Communications CEO and founder Lowry Mays.

By Tuesday night, though, Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz let some of the air out of all that speculation, quoting “a Republican source close to McCaul” who said unlikely he’d join the race:

“He has taken no concrete steps towards a campaign for U.S. Senate,” the source said. “To my knowledge, he is not planning to take any steps towards a campaign for U.S. Senate.”

Lawsuit challenges Texas’ pre-abortion sonogram legislation

Posted on: June 13th, 2011 by Mary Tuma 1 Comment

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) announced today it has filed a class action lawsuit against Texas’ mandatory pre-abortion sonogram bill, controversial legislation that passed this session requiring women seeking abortions to undergo a sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure (with the waiting period reduced to two hours in areas more than 100 miles from an abortion provider). Doctors must also show and describe the images to the woman and play sounds of the fetal heartbeat.

BeBe Anderson, senior counsel to the pro-abortion rights group, said CRR hopes to block the Texas bill with a preliminary injunction, preventing it from going into effect.

“We filed a challenge today because this bill is incredibly intrusive; it hijacks the doctor-patient relationship and is another part of the anti-choice agenda. You expect your doctor to act in your best interest, but this bill turns the ethics around as physicians are forced to feed images, sounds and information that the state has decided a woman needs to know,” she said.

Categorized by Gov. Rick Perry as ‘emergency legislation,’ the bill was fast-tracked by the governor and is scheduled to take effect this September.

CRR argues the bill violates the First Amendment rights of both the doctor and the patient by “forcing physicians to deliver politically-motivated communications to women, regardless of their wishes.”

“This law barges in on the doctor-patient relationship” said CRR president Nancy Northup in a news release. “When you go to the doctor, you expect to be given information that is relevant to your particular medical decisions and circumstances, not to be held hostage and subjected to an anti-choice agenda.”

Additionally, CRR charges that the law discriminates against women by subjecting them to paternalistic “protections” not imposed on men and that the ultrasound requirements violate “basic principles of medical ethics and serve no medical purpose.”

As the Texas Independent previously reported, bill author state Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) said the sonogram legislation was “necessary because women seeking abortions “are under a lot of emotional stress” and many women who had abortions had “disturbed, emotional problems later in life.”

“This law is patronizing to women in Texas. It is based on outdated stereotypes that women are too immature or too incompetent to make important decisions,” Northup said. “It’s as if the politician has charged into the doctor’s office and told the woman, ‘Honey, you just don’t understand what you are doing. Let me explain it to you and tell you what to do.’”

The suit, Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.

During the March House debate, state Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) warned that of the 20 states that have passed pre-abortion sonogram legislation, only Oklahoma’s was completely mandatory and it was still bound up in court, the Texas Independent previously reported. In 2010, CRP filed a similar challenge against Oklahoma’s ultrasound law. The legislation has been blocked from enforcement until the case is resolved, CRP spokesperson Dionne Scott said.

Texas A&M students take a crack at ‘objective’ redistricting

Posted on: June 9th, 2011 by Mary Lee Grant No Comments

Students at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service have developed new congressional maps that are not based on incumbency or political partisanship — two major factors that typically drive the redistricting process.

Seven students enrolled in the Bush School’s Master of Public Service and Administration program created three scenarios for congressional district maps as a part of the program’s first Texas Legislative Capstone project, a final project for second-year students.

Their professor Ann Bowman said that often Congressional districts are not created in a fair and objective manner, because they are drawn by politicians whose careers can be determined by the layout of the district. In contrast, the A&M students’ maps didn’t take precinct voting histories into account at all.

“The students certainly offered some alternatives,” said Bowman, a political scientist who holds the Hazel Davis and Robert Kennedy Endowed Chair in Government and Public Service.

“It is tough when we have legislators drawing maps protecting incumbents. The three maps they created look very different from other maps out there.”

For years, Texas Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) has attempted to replace the lawmaker-driven redistricting process with a nonpartisan committee, with little success.

“The students said, ‘if we were to take a look at the 36 districts to represent demographics equally, what would it look like?’” Bowman said. “They came up with three options, decided which one they felt was best and really took an objective look at the political landscape.”

The 30-page report was circulated among lawmakers — although the congressional maps approved by the Texas Senate and House Redistricting Committee bear little resemblance to the students’ proposals.

“There’s a definite effort to disseminate it and get it into the hands of people who are decision makers,” Bowman explained. “Staff involved in the redistricting process saw it, and it’s definitely out there for others to see.

“The whole goal was to use something other than partisanship and incumbency,” she said. “They looked at demographic distribution, legality, since Texas is covered by the Voting Rights act, compactness, and contiguity, that is, a city shouldn’t be broken up. The final criteria was fairness. They looked at demographics so it would be likely that Latinos and African Americans could get elected.”

Students are planning on a variety of careers including law, transportation, and local government. .

Future endeavors of the Bush Texas Legislative Capstone project could include tackling budgetary issues, Bowman said, since virtually every piece of legislation was affected by budget constraints this year.

“There’s a tremendous benefit for the residents of the State of Texas for having students who are bringing new ideas, enthusiasm and talent to these public policies,” Bowman said. “We’re taking a nod from George H.W. Bush and the whole notion of public service — this is a great example of it and that’s why we’re here.”

View a copy of the report:
Texas A&M Congressional Redistricting proposal

Gov. Perry vetoes online sales tax bill

Posted on: June 1st, 2011 by Mary Tuma 1 Comment

Gov. Rick Perry recently vetoed legislation that would have made state sales tax rules more stringent for online retailers, the Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman reported. The bill, which could be revived in the ongoing special session as it is included in a fiscal matters bill, was intended to clarify what determines a business’ physical presence in the state.

Perry’s veto comes after a battle waged by Comptroller Susan Combs to appeal for $269 million in uncollected sales taxes over a four-year period from Amazon.com. Combs estimated Texas loses $600 million a year from untaxed online sales and argues that because the Internet retailer has a brick-and-mortar distribution center in Irving, it can be forced to collect sales tax. Amazon shot back in defense, the Texas Independent previously reported, saying the assessment is “without merit” and it intends to “vigorously defend” itself in the matter. Amazon eventually agreed to close the Irving location, cut 119 jobs and forgo expansion plans that it said could have produced 1,000 new jobs in Texas.

Perry disagreed with and criticized Combs for pressuring Amazon, telling a Washington newspaper, “that’s not the decision I would have made.” Perry said he vetoed state Rep. John Otto’s (R-Dayton) House Bill 2403 because he has, “serious concerns about the impact and appropriateness,” of the legislation.

“In particular, I believe this legislation risks significant unintended consequences. My strong preference is to conduct a thorough policy discussion with Texas lawmakers, consumers, retailers and technology experts — and with other states and even the federal government — about interstate commerce and the structure of state sales taxes in the 21st century,” Perry said.

“That conversation is under way, and I believe that a consensus can and should be reached that balances the competing interests, respects federalism, and is fair and equitable. I call on the Legislature to review this issue further while we reach out to our federal delegation and our friends in other states to build consensus.”

In February, the Texas Independent reported on criticisms lodged by the Seattle Times, whose offices sit near the national online retailer. An editorial called out the company for tax dodging and described its exit from Texas as a “slick strategy.”

According to the Seattle Times: “It is the Internet’s widest and deepest source of products, which makes it too big to be excused from its obligations.

“Amazon is going to lose this fight. It knows this. It is trying to drag its feet as long as it can because it is profitable to do so.

“Settle now and get it over with.”

Similar debates over Amazon and sales taxes have been or are being waged in several states, including California, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont.

Campbell’s congressional hopes could be hurt by GOP’s map targeting Doggett

Posted on: June 1st, 2011 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) might be the intended target of the redistricting map submitted by Republicans, but the proposal may also entail some collateral damage — to the congressional hopes of Doggett’s Republican opponent Dr. Donna Campbell.

Campbell, who has carried on her 2010 campaign into the 2012 election season, reported having about $60,000 in campaign cash at the end of March, according to Federal Election Commission records. An ophthalmologist, Campbell capitalized on tea party fervor to get within 8 points of Doggett on Election Day. Doggett’s 53-45 win was his smallest margin of victory since being elected to Congress in 1994.

Doggett won by 15,000 votes out of 189,000 cast, besting Campbell by 35,000 votes in Travis County (which accounted for 103,000 votes). Outside of Travis County, Campbell beat Doggett by 20,000 votes (52,000 to 32,000).

However, the GOP’s plan would remove the part of Doggett’s Congressional District 25 southeast of Austin, replacing it with real estate stretching nearly to Dallas-Fort Worth. Campbell’s hometown of Columbus straddles the proposed boundary between the new CD 27, represented by freshman U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), and CD 10, represented by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin).

In a message posted to her blog in January, Campbell said, “Whatever the new district map sorts out to be, I remain in the hunt for a seat in Congress, and with your continued help, we’ll finish what we started!”

Sen. Patrick files abortion drug bill for special session

Posted on: June 1st, 2011 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

Image by Matt MahurinSchool finance, healthcare costs and congressional redistricting — those are the items on Gov. Rick Perry’s to-do list for state lawmakers during this special session. But that hasn’t kept state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) — the author of pre-abortion sonogram legislation — from filing another abortion-related bill, this one to regulate the use of abortion drug RU-486. (more…)