Must Read Texas – September 23, 2013

This Week’s 5 Big Questions;
GQ Profile of Ted Cruz; Politico on Abbott v. Davis;
AAS Editorial Page Editor Arnold Garcia to Retire

1) Does Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): 1) somehow succeed in defunding Obamacare; 2) get hurt by the political end game; 3) win by losing among the Republican base?
2) What is the next state that Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) will target?
3) Will any Texas congressional seats be competitive in 2014, apart from Texas 23rd?
4) Do we see any further signals about State Sen. Wendy Davis’ (D-Fort Worth) upcoming political announcement on Oct. 3?
5) Do we have any more House retirements this week?


GQ’s Jason Zengerle profiles Sen. Cruz in a piece that hit the web Sunday.
He interviewed Sen. Cruz in DC (in his Senate office) and in Houston (over Tex Mex).  It’s a mostly negative piece, but worth a read for several new details about his life and service in the U.S. Senate.
Here’s the link to the full story.


Politico’s Katie Glueck reports on a potential gubernatorial match-up between Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-TX) and State Sen. Davis.
Here’s the full piece:

The Texas governor’s race is shaping up to be a bloody and expensive contest between a high-profile Democrat who fires up the party and a well-funded, well-established Republican.

Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis last week sent the clearest signal yet that she’s eyeing a gubernatorial run, telling supporters in an email blast that she will announce her next steps in early October. Attorney General Greg Abbott is the presumptive GOP nominee and, by all accounts, the clear front-runner in the race to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

“I expect it to be a bruising campaign,” said Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri. “There’s a lot of material on Wendy Davis. I expect it to be within the bounds of appropriate political discussions. She’s going to have a lot of questions to answer.”

Matt Angle, a Davis adviser, said that Republicans — who have held the governor’s mansion for nearly two decades — need to brace themselves for a real race if she runs. He contended that Abbott isn’t used to competitive contests and that his team has already blundered.

Angle pointed to Abbott recently tweeting thanks to a supporter who referred to Davis as “retard Barbie,” though he later walked that back. In another instance, Angle noted, an Abbott adviser retweeted a user who said Davis is “too stupid to be governor.”

“Early on, it doesn’t look like Abbott really has a firm grip on a statewide race,” Angle, also director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic group aiming to turn Texas blue, said. “Early on, there are unforced errors. Wendy Davis is not officially running, and she’s all in his head. Look at his consultants hurling personal insults at her; he retweeted an insult. Just the kind of errors you see made by people running for city council rather than people running for governor.”

Davis catapulted into the national spotlight this summer after mounting a lengthy filibuster that temporarily derailed a restrictive abortion bill. That effort drew attention and plaudits from national Democrats up to President Barack Obama himself, who issued a “#standwithWendy” tweet.

Since then, she has appeared in the pages of Vogue, on stage at Washington’s National Press Club and as a speaker at an EMILY’s List event. She represents a state Senate district that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and in appearances like the one at the National Press Club has sought to paint herself as a moderate.

Abbott entered the race with more than $20 million in his war chest, while Davis pulled in about $1 million in the wake of this summer’s filibuster. The attorney general is crisscrossing the state, making the conservative case against Obamacare and government regulations. He is running on a platform of “preserving Constitutional, traditional values — like faith, family and freedom for future generations,” as his campaign website proclaims.

Abbott is no stranger to running statewide campaigns — he’s in his third term as attorney general and is considered a workhorse with sterling conservative credentials. He is paralyzed from the waist down, an issue he confronted head-on in his campaign announcement speech: “Some politicians talk about having a steel spine. I actually have one,” he said — before “the whispering” about his health could start, according to one Republican strategist.

Observers say Abbott will champion the Lone Star State’s economic growth and aim to paint Davis as a liberal easily linked to Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“Since announcing for his bid for governor, General Abbott has communicated that his focus will be on the continued growth of the Texas economy to preserve its reputation as No. 1 in the nation,” Abbott spokesman Avdiel Huerta wrote in an email. “To accomplish this, he believes we need to launch a new era of education reform and expand our transportation and water infrastructure to meet the growing demands of people moving to Texas as a result of our great economic environment.”

Davis would most likely seek to challenge the idea that Texas is on the right path, focusing on education problems, high rates of uninsured people and growth in low-wage jobs. She made her national name battling abortion restrictions, and Republicans would depict her as an extremist champion of late-term abortions, but neither side expects her to build her campaign around the issue.

Harold Cook, a longtime Democratic strategist who knows Davis well, acknowledged that any Democrat running statewide faces an uphill battle in Texas. But Davis has broader appeal than most others who have tried, he said.

“If she can make inroads among suburban women and increase turnout among Democrats, I don’t know if she’ll win or not, but she’s gonna get pretty damn close,” he said.

Her support among those women helped propel her to victory in the last state Senate race. A senior national Democrat familiar with the governor’s race added that Davis would also aim to expand her base with Hispanic voters and some independents and Republicans.

“She will make the case that yet another member of the old boys’ club in Austin is not the best way to move Texas forward,” the source said. “She’s the best one to move it forward.”

But in a state Romney won by 16 percentage points and in which Republicans control more than 60 percent of statewide offices, Abbott would most likely try to tie Davis to the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

She is ranked fourth among the most liberal senators in the statehouse among those who have served two terms, according to an analysis from Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. In her first term, Davis ranked second among those most liberal but has since moved toward the center, according to Jones, who tracks ideological leanings of state legislators.

“[Among] the 31 senators, even in the most recent session, when she’s moved to the center, she’s still in the most liberal quartile,” Jones said in an interview. “If you look at the median Texas voter, she is to the left of the voter. You could make the case that Abbott is to the right of that voter.”

Angle dismissed the argument that Davis is a liberal, citing the conservative tilt of the Texas Republican senators against whom she’s measured.

“Republicans, they’re so far off the edge to the right, anyone to the left of them sits at the center or right of center,” he said. “If you have a centrist point of view in Texas, you’re to their left. It doesn’t make you a liberal.”

National Democrats would most likely play key roles in Davis’s fundraising efforts — several already feted her at a high-dollar Washington fundraiser this summer. Republicans plan to invoke some of the more polarizing Democrats on the trail should Davis run.

“Nancy Pelosi and President Obama are not good names” in Texas, Munisteri said of the state’s Republican Party. “It’s going to be easy to tie that to her.”

Democrats also aren’t dewy-eyed about how those names play in the Lone Star State. Cook, the Democratic strategist, said Davis would be well-positioned to fend off links to Obama. She’s articulate and charismatic, he said, and is likely to attract “nontraditional Democratic voters,” like women and independents. But whether that’s enough to overcome ties to Washington Democrats — and to win in deep-red Texas — remains unclear.

“[Whether] she succeeds or not is really a fair open question,” Cook said. “I don’t know and neither does anybody else.”


The AAS’ Debbie Hiott revealed the news Sunday: 38-year Austin American-Statesman veteran and editorial page editor Arnold Garcia is retiring.
Here is her full column (behind the paywall):

Departure of the dean of Texas editorial boards
Bu Debbie Hiott
Sunday, Sept. 21, 2013
Austin American-Statesman

The dean of Texas editorial boards is setting down his pen.

Arnold García has announced his retirement after 38 years at the American-Statesman — including 22 of them leading the editorial pages. Those 22 years have made him the longest-serving editorial page editor among the state’s metro papers.

It has been a distinguished tenure, and it would be difficult to overstate the impact that García, 65, has had on this paper and the community it covers.

On these pages in recent years, García and his staff have led the campaign for affordability in Central Texas government, pushing for elected officials to be more accountable not only to their agencies but also to the taxpayers and renters who pay for the operation of those agencies. He also introduced weekly Two Views columns on local issues, which allowed more people to join the debate on the editorial pages.

But García’s leadership at the Statesman extends far beyond the opinion section.

His efforts to shape the quality of coverage in the paper over the past couple of decades didn’t occur through news assignments, as he understands and believes in the separation between news content and opinions. But he has been an eager mentor to many reporters and editors in the newsroom.

García has also been an honest critic regarding mistakes we’ve made or coverage we’ve missed, all in the spirit of pushing the paper to become better. I hope that continues when he’s a reader and no longer an editor.

One of a handful of Latino editorial page editors in the country, García has been at the forefront of efforts in the newsroom to try make sure coverage of Austin truly reflects the diversity of the community in which we live. He was at the table for the creation of our Spanish language paper, ahora sí, and he has been involved more recently as we have discussed strategies to better reach Central Texas’ fastest growing demographic, Hispanic residents.

García started his career as a reporter at the San Angelo Standard Times while still a student at Angelo State University, which later named him a distinguished alumnus. When he came to the Statesman at 26, he was also an Army veteran, having served from 1969 to 1971. He left the military as a sergeant and later joined the Texas National Guard in 1980, where he served as a captain. His empathy for soldiers is strong , and some of his best columns, such as a piece on the Vietnam War published March 22, have focused on the sacrifices they have made and the issues they face.

García’s first job at the Statesman was as a courthouse reporter, but he also spent time covering state agencies, schools and more. He became an editor, including running the metro desk overseeing local coverage, before becoming a political columnist and, in 1991, editorial page editor.

And over the years García became one of the best-sourced journalists in the state. That sourcing has allowed him to break news on the editorial pages and to provide regular authoritative political insight in his columns.

He has ruffled some feathers along the way, because you can’t have strong beliefs without riling folks every now and then. And as the political climate has gotten more polarized, the pressure to see everything in black and white (or blue and red, as the case may be) has increased. Still, García counts friendships from Democrats and Republicans, enjoying the bipartisan rounds of golf and poker.

García has given us time to search for a replacement and help with the transition.

We want an editor who can serve as a moderate voice of the institution in the midst of liberal-leaning Austin and conservative-leaning Texas. We’ll be looking for someone willing to rethink our editorial coverage as we start this new chapter. And finally, we’ll need someone who shares our goal of getting more readers actively involved in our commentary in print and online, and of making sure that we emphasize balance, diversity of thought and background, and inclusion of many viewpoints.

Re-envisioning the editorial and opinion coverage is an exciting opportunity to look at things in a new way, but certainly bittersweet because of Arnold’s departure.

For the past two years, as I have grown into this job, he has been a steady ally and a steadfast sounding board. A natural-born storyteller, he has a tale to fit every occasion, and I’ll miss those parables about Texas politics or newsroom foibles. I’ll miss the excitement he still has passing along a bit of behind-the-scenes intelligence or a tip about news that was going to break. And I’ll miss his columns, which were almost always written with a dose of historical context for a present day dilemma that shed light on where an issue was headed next.

And I suspect Arnold will miss all of that, too, but I’ll save that story for him to tell before he goes. For now, I’ll just wish him the best as he crafts the tale of his next stage of life.

Personal note: I’ve known Arnold Garcia since 2007.  He has always been a fair, decent, hard working professional.  About a year ago, Arnold brought MRT co-founder Jason Stanford and I on-board at the AAS as biweekly columnists, which Jason and I have deeply enjoyed.  We both wish him the absolute best in the future.  I hope he is able to play more golf!

2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– SAEN/Chron Austin bureau chief Peggy Fikac’s weekly column centers (behind paywall) around how various constituencies are dealing with the state’s new Voter ID law.

Other stories of interest:
– AP’s Christopher Sherman reports on how immigrant deaths are burdening Brooks County, TX.
– The Amarillo Globe-News reports on concerns that a $1.6 billion transmission system to export Texas Panhandle wind power downstate will not have a sufficient number of transmission lines.

Lighter Clicks:
– Esquire Magazine has a feature on the flight from Dallas that carried President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the remains of slain President John F. Kennedy.
– Swarming bees delayed the start of an MLB game.
– The Yankees honored Mariano Rivera at a retirement ceremony, joined by Metallica, last night.
– The one bright moment from last night’s horrific Steelers game.
– Kobe Bryant may not be a Laker one year from now.

Your Daily Source of Inspiration:
– It’s great to see Cory Smith back on the basketball court.
– Nike founder Phil Knight has pledged $500 million for cancer research.


POLITICO: Ted Cruz scrambles to salvage strategy (9/23/13 4:16am)

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:

POLITICO: Wendy Davis vs. Greg Abbott in Texas: ‘Bruising’ (9/23/13 3:53am)

GLOBE-NEWS: Wind energy export system might be too small (9/23/13 3:51am)

AP: New power plant rules may have little Texas impact (9/23/13 3:49am)

AP: Rising immigration deaths put burden on Texas county (9/23/13 3:47am)

AP: Texas man hopes to bury father lost for decades (9/23/13 3:47am)

AP: Bodies Pile Up in Texas as Immigrants Adopt New Routes Over Border (9/23/13 3:45am)

GQ MAGAZINE: Ted Cruz: The Distinguished Wacko Bird from Texas (9/23/13 3:45am)

DMN ($): For granddaughter of Big Tex creator, fire took member of family (9/23/13 3:41am)

DMN ($): Reported UFO activity rose last year, with major sightings in Texas (9/23/13 3:41am)

CHRON ($): 2 local school districts balk at double-testing (9/23/13 3:37am)

SAEN ($): Victim of sex trade speaks of road back (9/23/13 3:19am)

AAS ($): Homeless advocates improve shelter, push for housing (9/23/13 3:07am)

AAS ($): Austin seeks public input before rewriting land-use rules (9/23/13 3:06am)

ELP TIMES: Reform sought in Texas ticket surcharge program (9/23/13 2:57am)

DAILY CALLER: Richard Viguerie: ‘We need a lot more Ted Cruzes’ (9/23/13 1:41am)

WASH POST: Sen. Mike Lee: There will be no shutdown (9/22/13 11:57pm)

Author: Must Read Texas

Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) & Jason Stanford @MustReadTexas