Must Read Texas – September 16, 2013

Excerpts from the daily news mailing:

This Week’s Big Questions; Biden Elevates Cruz;
Julian Castro Visits Iowa; Mackowiak & Stanford on Wendy
Good morning from Austin.
Here’s the brief:THIS WEEK’S 5 BIG QUESTIONS1) Does the one-year continuing resolution, which Defunds Obamacare, pass the U.S. House with more than 250 votes?
2) How many more House retirements do we have this week?
3) Do we see any signs about whether State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) will run for Governor?
4) Do we learn of any likely statewide Democratic candidates if Wendy runs?
5) How does Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) do in Maryland this week?BIDEN ELEVATES CRUZ

Yesterday Vice President Joe Biden headlined one of the top annual Democratic political events, the Harkin Fish Fry in Indianola, IA, hosted by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), and he elevated U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during his remarks.

Here are the first three paragraphs of Dave Boyer’s national report for The Washington Times from Indianola:

On a trip to another state crucial for 2016, Vice President Joseph R. Biden told Iowans on Sunday that a new generation of Republican leaders threatens to unravel the gains of the Obama administration.

He compared Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a rising star of the Republican Party, to the tail end of a dog.

“Unless we can begin to break down the majority in the House of Representatives, everything you have fought for for the last six years and beyond is in jeopardy,” Mr. Biden told a crowd of Democratic activists, elected officials and donors in Des Moines. “This is now a party where the tail is wagging the dog, where Ted Cruz is running the show, a freshman, in terms of the ideas of the party.


The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs explains the political importance of the Harkin Fish Fry.

The other featured speaker at the event was Mayor Julian Castro (D-San Antonio), who burst onto the national political scene last year giving the keynote at the Democratic National Convention.
Full video of Mayor Castro’s speech is here (begins at 1:11:20 mark).

Here is the full report from SAEN’s Josh Baugh, from Indianola, IA:

On the stage of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry, an important annual tradition in Democratic politics here, the rally’s namesake characterized San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and Vice President Joe Biden as the epitome of the national party’s diversity and path to the future.

“Mayor Castro is young, charismatic — one of our bright stars with new ideas, new energy, broadening the constituency of our party,” Harkin told the crowd of about 1,300. “Vice President Biden … embodies the enormous experience and wisdom and sound judgment of our party, which we need in these perilous times. We need both — the new and the seasoned. And this is a great strength that we have as Democrats.”

Harkin’s first steak fry was in 1972 — two years before Castro was born. The mayor and his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, will celebrate their 39th birthdays Monday in San Antonio.

Over the weekend, Julián Castro attended several events connected to the Steak Fry, including one meant to energize the Latino wing of the Iowa Democratic Party. On Sunday at the Warren County Fair Grounds, Castro was greeted with a warm and
enthusiastic welcome.

Castro’s speech touched on some of the themes of his 2012 address, including the American dream and his family history.

The mayor stayed clear of divisive political statements, even at this dyed-in-the-wool Democratic event. He told the crowd that he disagreed with the Republican philosophy that the United States would be better off if everyone would just go at it alone and the government would stay out of the way.

“I believe in a different blueprint. I believe in the blueprint of Roosevelt investing in the GI Bill so that millions of Americans could get a great higher education. I believe in the blueprint of Johnson shepherding Medicare through Congress so that millions and millions of senior citizens could get the health care they needed. And I believe in the blueprint of President Obama and Vice President Biden extending health care to all Americans in the United States,” Castro said. “And I know that this is the blueprint because it’s worked like this: In the United States, we have always had a basic bargain. We expect you and your family to work hard, but when you do, we reward that hard work with opportunity.”

Castro said he was speaking from experience. He and his twin were accepted to Stanford University in April 1992. The cost for one of them to attend exceeded their single mother’s entire annual salary.

The only reason they made it through college is because they worked hard and used federal grants and loans.

“I invested in myself, but fundamentally, I reached my dream because you invested in me, because the American people invested in me,” he said. “That is America. That’s what’s great about this nation. That is the blueprint for success in this 21st century.”

A black helicopter circled overhead before the mayor and Biden arrived, and the crowd and media went through significant security checks to enter the event.

The amount of security became a punch line. In introducing Castro, Harkin apologized for the heightened level of precaution: the Secret Service’s sweeps, the event staff’s double-checking of tickets. He joked that he’d heard Donald Trump was in the parking lot checking birth certificates, too.

Earlier in the day, Castro told a Des Moines television station that he probably would never run for president. He continues to say he plans on being mayor as long as the voters will elect him. In his third two-year term as mayor now, Castro would have a final mayoral election in 2015.

There are expectations that he’ll run for governor in 2018 and that his brother might challenge Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Houston, in the same election.

Retiring from the Senate, Harkin delivered the red-meat political speech that kept the crowd laughingSunday.

By the way, he told them, there’s never actually had been a steak fried at the annual gathering.

“I don’t know where the heck that name ever came from,” he said. “The Steak Fry always marks the changes between the seasons.”

The 2013 summer in Iowa was a scary one, Harkin said.

“There was an attack on the butter cow (a life-size sculpture made from butter at the state fair) — isn’t anything sacred anymore?” he said. “Over the summer, we’ve endured visits by Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Gov. ‘Oops’ Perry is on his way. All I can say, folks, is the clown car is filling up pretty rapidly early in the season.”

Before the speechifying began, folks milled about, talking politics and eating steaks and barbecue — and drinking beer. That’s always been the theme of the event, said  Ruth Harkin, the senator’s wife.

The Steak Fry has become the stage where presidential hopefuls go. But Castro has insisted that he’s not running for anything. He routinely waves off speculation that he could be picked as a running mate by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she becomes the Democratic nominee.

Harkin, though, pointed out that Castro stood Sunday on the same stage as then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2006. Two years before, Obama had presented the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

Harkin noted Castro’s ascent onto the national political stage marked by his historic keynote address last year, making him the first Latino ever to give a keynote speech at the convention.

Castro told the Iowans on Sunday that as he flew into Des Moines the day before, he looked out across the farmland and thought of his grandmother, who used to pick crops.

“I thought about how proud she would have been that she had been picking crops and her grandson would be here where you guys pick a president of the United States,” Castro said. “That is the American dream.”

After Castro concluded his speech, Harkin and the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to the Castro brothers. Among those in the crowd were some of the people who helped get the Castros first elected to office in the early 2000s.

Biden finished the day with a wide-ranging speech that heaped admiration on Harkin, noted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and mentioned the turmoil in Syria.

During his 35-minute address, Biden often referred to Castro as “the mayor” but never called him by his name. Biden is reportedly weighing whether to seek the presidential nomination to succeed Obama in the midst of a national effort to draft Hillary Clinton for the position. Castro is staying out of the issue and concluded his speech by looking forward to the November 2016 election of “the Democratic nominee.”

If there is any tension between Biden and Castro, it wasn’t evident Sunday. The two appeared quite friendly as others spoke at the lectern. When Biden took the microphone, he joked that it was Castro’s presence that had summoned the scores of media that packed into the event.

“I know the mayor will find this as a shock, but it’s amazing that when you come to speak at the Steak Fry, people take notice,” he said. “You’ve attracted the entire national press corps here.”


MRT co-founder Jason Stanford and I have opposing columns in this morning’s AAS.
Here are the full columns:

Even if Davis loses, she wins

By Jason Stanford

If she runs for governor as expected, Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis faces a popular, well-funded opponent, an obscure path to victory, and a donor and activist corps beat down after almost two decades of losing. To make things even worse, she just buried her dad. Who among us could help Davis battle through her grief? Who could help her see how she can’t lose even if she will likely not beat Attorney General Greg Abbott?

There is really only one man: coach Eric Taylor.

He’s a fictional character from “Friday Night Lights,” a television show that went off the air years ago. But he knows something about finding victory amid an existential crisis. He knows what it’s like for ambition and loss to coexist in your head, and he knows the way forward.

“Close that door. Listen to me. I said you need to strive to be better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the try. “

Working harder than feels possible now could change the national chessboard. Republicans are dying to take back the U.S. Senate and defend vulnerable governors. Every out-of-state dollar coming into Texas to beat Davis is a dollar not handing the Senate to Mitch McConnell. The same goes for in-state Republican money. If Texas Republicans have to fight for Texas, Texas is no longer a campaign-cash ATM for national GOP races. That’s not just a win. It’s a game-changer.

“Don’t just stand by and watch it happen.”

Demographics is not destiny. Democracy is destiny. It’s time to show progress on Election Day. Not losing badly would be a win. Gov. Rick Perry’s three election victories have come with margins of 13 percentage points in 2010, 10 percentage points in 2006, and 18 percentage points in 2002. Losing by single digits would show progress. Losing by less than five would show that Texas has become a swing state.

“A few will never give up on you. When you go back out on the field, those are the people I want in your minds. Those are the people I want in your hearts.”

Davis has a rare opportunity to start her first statewide campaign as the most popular politician in Texas. Her campaign can accelerate the grassroots change Battleground Texas is working toward by recruiting volunteers, registering voters and adding to the donor base. Run smartly, a Davis gubernatorial campaign could leave Texas without a Gov. Davis but with the statewide campaign infrastructure we’ve lacked since Ann Richards lost.

“We will all at some time in our lives fall. Life is so very fragile, we are all vulnerable and we will all at some point in our lives … fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts, that what we have is special, that it can be taken from us and that when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”

Texas Democrats are not a resilient bunch. The 2002 elections left our donor corps feeling betrayed and hopeless. The same thing happened to our activist base when our beloved country somehow got it into its head to re-elect George W. Bush. We got so close to winning back the statehouse, only to fall into the irrelevance of a super-minority.

But that ain’t nothing compared to losing your daddy. The pain Davis feels is the hurt of country songs and childhood fears. We feel her pain, and if she can put herself together and take on this fight, she will have taught Texas Democrats something about toughness we haven’t seen since a divorced alcoholic whupped all manner of gentlemen to take the Governor’s Mansion.

“Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He is going to fight, and he is going to lose. But what makes him a man is at the midst of that battle, he does not lose himself. This game is not over, this battle is not over.”

If only Coach Taylor were real. If he taught us one thing, it was that fighting the good fight with clear eyes and a full heart is the only way you can’t possibly lose.

“What the hell? You want a hug or something? Get out of here.”

Stanford is a Democratic political consultant who blogs at and on Twitter @jasstanford.

Davis leading contender for sacrificial lamb

By Matt Mackowiak

I don’t know state Sen. Wendy Davis . She has overcome a lot in her life, and she is to be commended for it.

But I do know that candidates who take many months to decide whether they will run for an office usually find a reason not to run. Motivated candidates say yes quickly.

Let me begin by admitting the undebatable: her decision timeline of Labor Day was delayed by the untimely passing of her father. Texans across our state wished the family the best during a tough time.

The Fort Worth Democrat said she would delay her announcement until late September.

Her closing keynote at the Texas Tribune Festival on the weekend of Sept. 27-29 seems a very real possibility.

But I come back to something Davis told San Antonio Express-News Austin bureau chief Peggy Fikac, in a piece that ran Sept. 1: “Before I look people in the eye and say, ‘Will you spend time volunteering for me, will you dedicate resources to me,’ I want to make sure that I’m asking them to do something that I can tell them, with conviction, I believe we can accomplish.”

Asked about the effect a losing race would have on her own political future, she said, “I won’t do it if I think I’m going to lose.”

Politicians can tell a lot of lies, but human nature makes it hard to ask someone for money if lying is required to convince them you can win. Not all donors will need that assurance. Some want to see her make a point. Some want to see her fight for their issues. Some want to use her to raise money and organize.

But win?


Not going to happen in 2014 in Texas.

I’ve seen no one who is both financially independent and credible say she can win the Texas governor’s race in 2014.

So I turn back to, what is taking so long?

Due diligence is required. She did national fundraising (it was important to strike while the iron was hot, especially if she chose not to run for governor), she met with activists, operatives and major donors, all while making the rounds on the national media. She met with the Democratic Governors Association. Polling has been run. Budgets have been drafted, off $20 million low end and $40 million high end, if reports are accurate.

Politically speaking, Davis has two major problems: 1) she was able to sell herself as a moderate in her two successful state senate campaigns, and that is now gone as she either chose to or allowed herself to become a single-issue politician (late-term abortions/women’s health); and 2) Texas is reliably red and will be in 2014.

Texas will not always be red, and I am sure Battleground Texas is working hard to meet their goals. But I have never believed their goal was 2014. Even a significant investment in 2016 by national Democrats is highly unlikely. Their ultimate goal is to elect twin brothers Julian and Joaquín Castro — the former the mayor of San Antonio and the latter a member of the U.S. House — to governor and U.S. Senate in 2018.

So Davis can help them in the interim, by raising money, increasing attention and preparing the ground for 2018. In 2014 she cannot win more than 45 percent, in my view.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is a strong, well-funded, organized gubernatorial candidate who understands the majority of the Texas electorate. His views represent the majority on most issues. This is not in dispute.

If Davis runs, it will be an interesting campaign, but she will wake up every day exhausted, frustrated, doubtful, and her motivation to win will be hard to maintain as it becomes unquestionably clear she cannot succeed.

Does anyone who is advising her to run pay a price if she loses? No one pays a price like she does. She’s a losing candidate. She loses her state Senate seat. She loses her power and influence. She’ll need a job. She’ll need health insurance.

These are very real considerations. I suspect they are hers.

I am in the minority here, but I believe she will choose not to run for governor.

I hope she does run. I like it when Democrats who cannot win run for office.

Mackowiak is an Austin- and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.

– SAEN’s David Saleh Rauf reports that civil rights groups who sued to block the state’s 2011 redistricting maps may be due $6 million from the state for reimbursed legal fees.
– The DMN editorial board 
urges new Texas Supreme Court chief justice Nathan Hecht to show “independence.”

2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– TM’s Paul Burka notes the lack of racial diversity in the likely GOP statewide ticket in 2014.
– In a Chron op ed, Institute for Policy Innovation president Tom Giovanetti 
makes the free market caseagainst Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R-TX) opposition to the American Airlines-U.S. Airways merger.

Other stories of interest:
– AAS’ Ralph Haurwitz reports (behind paywall) that Texas A&M University raised a record $740 million for the 12 month period ending Aug. 31 (UT raised $00 million during the same period.)



DMN ($): Born in Canada, Ted Cruz became a citizen of that country, as well as U.S. (8/19/13 1:43am) – See more at:

AP: Lackland touts changes in wake of sex scandal (9/16/13 1:49am)

AP: Census to release Texas health insurance stats (9/16/13 1:47am)

AP: More Texas children dying while in foster care (9/16/13 1:47am)

DMN ($): Evolution at center of new Texas education board debate over science textbooks and e-books (9/16/13 1:35am)

CHRON ($): Medical giants seal rift over money (9/16/13 1:30am)

SAEN: Castro returns to national stage (9/16/13 12:54am)

SAEN: Rights groups seeking millions in fees (9/16/13 12:47am)

AAS ($): UT impeachment inquiry shaping up as battle of lawyers (9/16/13 12:31am)

AAS ($): A&M raises a record $740.6 million in donations (9/16/13 12:29am)

WASH TIMES: Biden roasts rising Republicans at Iowa steak fry (9/15/13 11:09pm)

DMN ($): It may cost state $200,000 in legal fees to impeach University of Texas regent (9/15/13 11:01pm)

TT: In State Records, Little Evidence to Back Abortion Law (9/15/13 10:56pm)

VIDEO: U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on “Fox NewsSunday” (9/15/13 9:25pm)

VIDEO: Mayor Julian Castro (D-SA) addresses the Harkin Steak Fry (9/15/13 9:23pm) (begins 1:11:20 mark)


BURKA BLOG: The White Republican ticket (9/16/13 1:44am)

BURKA BLOG: Smitherman’s “independent Texas” (9/16/13 1:42am)

DMN: New chief justice should show independence (9/16/13 1:38am)

DMN: After 10 years, progress at the Latino Cultural Center (9/16/13 1:38am)

CHRON: Zebra watch (9/16/13 1:24am)

BLOGS (from the left)

PROGRESS TEXAS: Ted Cruz praises racist Jesse Helms (9/16/13 2:13am)

BLOGS (from the right)

EMPOWER TEXANS: Taxpayers bamboozled over bonds (9/16/13 2:12am)

Author: Must Read Texas

Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) & Jason Stanford @MustReadTexas