Must Read Texas – November 18, 2013

Dewhurst Releases 60 Second Statewide TV Ad;
YCT Cancels Mock “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” Event After Pressure;
VP Biden Tours Port of Houston, Touts Panama Canal Expansion;
TW on Land Commissioner as Launching Pad;
Mackowiak and Stanford on Voter ID Law’s Impact
*****
Good morning from Austin.

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Here’s the brief:

DEWHURST RELEASES 60 SECOND STATEWIDE TV AD

This morning the reelection campaign of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-TX) released a new, 60 second, statewide TV ad, “Texas Works.”
Here is the ad.

UNDER PRESSURE YCT CANCELS MOCK ‘CATCH AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT’ EVENT

TT’s Julian Aguilar updates with the news this morning:

Updated, Nov. 19, 8:30am:

The UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas has canceled a mock immigration sting on campus scheduled for Wednesday. YCT campus chairman Lorenzo Garcia said in a statement that organizers feared UT officials would retaliate against them.

Garcia also cited safety concerns, but conceded that the event, where students were to be rewarded with $25 gift cards for “catching” undocumented immigrants, was “over the top.” He nonetheless took issue with the backlash he received on Monday and said he hoped the controversy would stir debate on the issue of immigration.

“I have been called an ‘Uncle Tom.’ I have received emails and comments via social media filled with obscenity,” Garcia said in the statement. “The reactions of some who claim that YCT is creating a demeaning or degrading environment on campus have been truly disgraceful.”

Garcia also took a swipe at the university, saying he thought it a place where “students could express their opinions — whether or not they were popular.”

Updated, 3:30pm: 

UT President Bill Powers, in an emailed statement, called on YCT to “find more productive and respectful ways” to participate in a discussion about immigration questions on campus.

“The proposed YCT even is completely out of line with the values we espouse at The University of Texas at Austin,” he said.

Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, UT’s vice president for diversity and community engagement, said the YCT members would be “willfully ignoring the honor code and contributing to the degradation of our campus culture,” if they carry out their plan for the “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event.

“The university honor code entreats students to abide by the core values of the university, one of which is freedom, but two others of which are individual opportunity and responsibility,” Vincent said a prepared statement.
Updated, 3:15 p.m.: 

In an email, Attorney General Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaigned distanced itself from the event, saying that it had no affiliation with the “repugnant effort.”

“Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama Administration are not a joking matter,” the campaign wrote. “Conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals, who shenanigans at the Texas Capitol this summer, including chants of ‘hail Satan’ during Senator Davis’ filibuster to allow abortions after five months, did nothing sidetrack the Texas Legislature.”

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said in an emailed statement that events like the YCT’s game show that the Republican Party is “fostering disturbing division” in Texas.

“Not only have all 4 GOP candidates for Lieutenant Governor vowed to repeal the Texas DREAM Act, but Greg Abbott, the top GOP gubernatorial candidate, has stated that he would change the law, yet refuses to give specifics,” Castro wrote. “These anti-immigrant ‘games’ are out of step with Texas’ values and have been for generations.”

Original Story:

The same conservative student group that held an affirmative action bake sale at the University of Texas at Austin this fall is hosting another controversial event — this time, a mock immigration sting.

On Wednesday, the campus chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas will offer students $25 gift cards if they can “catch” an undocumented immigrant — a group of volunteers wearing “illegal immigrant” labels.

Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of UT’s YCT chapter, said Wednesday’s event is not intended to instill anger or promote prejudice, but instead to educate college students about a serious issue.

It’s intended to “spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration and how if affects our everyday lives,” he said in a statement.

But Garcia’s own affiliations have raised eyebrows among Texas Democrats. He was formerly a paid field representative for GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.

Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch confirmed that Garcia used to hold that post but left the team six to eight weeks ago. Garcia said that despite social media profiles to the contrary, he’s no longer working with Abbott.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa was quick to pounce on the connection, though, calling it an “incredible shame.”

“Greg Abbott owes Texas DREAM Act scholars an apology, and he must come out and immediately denounce Wednesday’s event,” he said. “This style of hatred and fear is not the type of leadership Texas deserves.”

Gregory Vincent, UT-Austin’s vice president for diversity and community engagement, called YCT’s plans “inflammatory and demeaning.” While permitted under First Amendment rights, he said, the event runs counter to the university’s honor code.

“Once again in trying to be provocative, the YCT is contributing to an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff by sending the message that certain students do not belong on our campus,” he said in a statement. “Some UT-Austin students are undocumented, and under Dream Act legislation signed into law in 2001, these students are entitled to attend state universities. They are part of a growing diverse population on campus and in the state of Texas — a population that plays increasingly larger roles in our intellectual, economic, political and cultural communities.”

YCT bills itself as a nonpartisan youth organization whose legislative priorities include eliminating a state law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates if they graduate from a Texas high school.

In September, the group hosted a bake sale to protest affirmative action in which students were charged different prices for baked goods depending on their race.

“No one really knew what was going on and many people didn’t really know that race was a factor for UT admissions and other institutions throughout the country,” Garcia said of the September bake sale. “As a result of that bake sale a lot of people learned about [affirmative action].”

He added that YCT hasn’t determined how many gift cards will be awarded in the mock sting or how much money the group will spend on the event.

“The main point of it is to really look into the policy of illegal immigration … and that the laws on the books right now aren’t being enforced to the maximum capacity that we feel they could be,” he said.

** Here’s the full letter from the YCT UT chairman.

VP BIDEN TOURS PORT OF HOUSTON, TOUTS PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION

Chron’s Kiah Collier reports:

The Port of Houston got a big boost on Monday from Vice President Joe Biden, who, as part of a broad call to invest in all U.S. ports to create jobs, promised to help secure funding and permits for dredging.

Biden said the administration is proposing a $50 billion investment package to upgrade the nation’s ports and other transportation infrastructure, including railroads and bridges. Such an investment would help create 650,000 jobs, the vice president said.

Biden’s Houston visit is the final leg of a tour of American ports to highlight the expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate larger ships. The vice president next will head to Panama for an update on the massive expansion project.

The Panama Canal project will double the shipping capacity of the canal system that has been limited by the locks’ inability to accommodate ships wider than 110 feet and longer than 1,050 feet.

The Panama Canal expansion will drastically change U.S. commerce, bringing five times as many exports through the Port of Houston by the year 2035.

“Imagine how many jobs that means,” he said.

Biden’s visit to Houston is part of a wider administration effort to expand seaport operations across the United States that account for nearly 80 percent of the volume of U.S. international trade, supporting more than 13 million U.S. jobs.

TW ON THE POLITICAL VALUE OF THE LAND COMMISSIONER OFFICE

TW’s Julian Aguilar reports:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst did it, Garry Mauro tried and couldn’t, and now former state Sen. Jerry Patterson is trying.

The theory that being elected Texas land commissioner can serve as a launching pad toward higher profile and more powerful positions has gained traction again after George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the grandson and nephew to the 41st and 43rd presidents, respectively, decided to run for the position earlier this year.

That came after Patterson, who has been in that post since 2003, decided to challenge Dewhurst for presiding officer of the Texas Senate.

The only Democrat eyeing the post so far is former El Paso Mayor John Cook, who presided over that city’s council in its weak-mayor system from 2005 to 2013. But despite having eight years of experience in that post to Bush’s zero days in public office, Cook is considered an underdog for the statewide post.

Bush has already been called “47” in some circles because of his famous surname. His mother is Mexican, a plus in a state with a growing Hispanic population being heavily courted by the state’s GOP. And at 37, he has time to learn. He’s also particularly adept at raising money — he had more than $4 million as of last summer — and he’s a Navy veteran.

But Bush is content to not look too far ahead, according to people who know him and his politics.

“George P.’s commitment level to this particular office has been really complete and unwavering,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak.

Analysts say the position isn’t as well-defined as agriculture commissioner or comptroller, whose responsibilities are better known. The land commissioner’s office manages revenue for public schools that is earned from the sale, lease or use of the state’s public lands; is charged with various environmental protections; and oversees a host of veterans’ affairs and energy issues.

It’s also less volatile. Polarizing issues like immigration, abortion and ethics aren’t common points of contention on the trail. That could allow Bush, should he win his current bid and decide to seek another office, to gain favor among moderate voters less focused on those red-meat issues. But Mackowiak said that’s not the reason Bush chose this race.

“He may be tagged as a young man in a hurry, but I am not concerned at all he has some grand or specific timeline,” he said.

That could also be due to timing. If the Republicans keep their stronghold on statewide offices, Mackowiak said, it’s unlikely an interparty battle would emerge in four — or possibly eight — years.

Richard D. Pineda, the associate director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, said Cook’s aspirations may be due, in part, to a desire to add to a legacy.

“I think what he wants to do is bigger position, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be statewide,” he said. “But I think that for somebody that has done what he’s done and for somebody at his age, I think you start to look for legacy projects and you look for things where your imprint is going to be much larger and something that people can point back to.”

Being from far West Texas, Pineda added, is a hurdle for Cook, who is also a veteran.

“His base of support is obviously El Paso County, and in El Paso County, you’re not going to get a lot of people who understand the significance of that role,” he said. “I think what all these things end up highlighting is the lack of El Paso’s political capital on the state landscape, and ultimately that to me is the issue.”

MACKOWIAK AND STANFORD AAS COLUMNS ON VOTER ID

MRT co-founder Jason Stanford and I had opposing columns in Monday’s AAS on Voter ID and how the state’s new law impacted the recent statewide election.

Here’s my full piece (behind paywall):

The right to vote is one of the most cherished rights of all American citizens. And although many Americans choose not to exercise that right, for more than a century our forefathers fought and died for the right to vote, a right that was once too narrowly available to many of our American citizens.

Understand this: Republicans want more legal votes, not less. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying.

But the promised “voter disenfranchisement era” in Texas politics has now come and gone, never having really materialized.

As it turns out, asking a voter to prove their identity is common sense, not difficult, and only inconveniences a very small percentage of the Texas population.

Can we be honest here?

Texas Democrats spent months scaring voters about voter ID.

Why?

Not because the law would make it harder for legal voters to cast their ballot.

Instead, it was because it would make it harder for illegal voters to cast their ballot.

How do you measure this?

The last off-year, constitutional amendment election in Texas was in 2011. Turnout nearly doubled, from 690,000 in 2011 to just under 1.1 million in 2013, the first statewide election that was conducted under the new voter ID law. Vote turnout grew from 5.3 percent to 8 percent.

Read that slowly: Under the repressive, racist, unnecessary, mean-spirited, anti-American voter ID law, turnout nearly doubled.

Democrats said Hispanics would be disproportionally affected.

Hidalgo County, in South Texas, which has a 90 percent Hispanic population, quadrupled its vote from 2011 to 2013. Turnout also grew in Cameron County, which is about 85 percent Hispanic.

These massive voter turnout increases demolish the “vote suppression” arguments that Democrats consistently made.

No matter — Democrats are willfully ignoring this empirical data and instead tirelessly pushing frivolous lawsuits intended to stop Texas’ voter ID law. I strongly suspect that the Texas law will be upheld. Indiana’s voter ID law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it is the law on which the Texas law was based.

Remember the oft-cited injustice from this recent election of asking a voter to sign an affidavit swearing they are who they say they are? Guess what. You already had to do that. Any time you vote, you have to sign a sheet next to your name. This was nothing new.

But what about high-profile cases of voters being forced to cast provisional ballots, as the two likely major party nominees for governor had to do because of minor discrepancies between the name on the voter rolls and the name on their identification?

It seems to me that in order to ensure that votes are legally cast, we should require voters to have the same name on both documents.

If Texas does not ask voters to prove their identity, how can we know they are voting legally?

Voter ID is supported by a large majority of voters. A 2012 University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll found it had 66 percent support.

Voter ID prevents illegal voters from casting a ballot. The state is offering identification free of charge if you are one of the rare individuals who can survive in modern society without a photo ID.

Do Democrats want to remove identification requirements from applying for government benefits? Should pharmacies not require IDs? Bars? Convenience stores? Airports?

There was no voter suppression.

Voter turnout was up.

The purpose of vociferous Democratic opposition to voter ID is now clearly about only one thing: protecting illegal voting.

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 to a governor and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country

Here’s Jason’s full piece:

Congratulations, Texas Republicans! Thanks to you, Texas is winning the war on unicorns. And thanks to the voter ID law you pushed to protect the integrity of our voting process, no longer will Texans quake in fear of the thing that never happens from happening. But mainly, I’m glad about the unicorns.

Whether voter ID worked in our constitutional amendment elections earlier this month depends on whether you remember why we imagined we needed the law in the first place. The standard by which we judge how well voter ID worked isn’t whether Texans were unduly inconvenienced by needing to get proper ID before voting. They were, but that’s not the point. The real test of voter ID is whether we caught anyone trying to vote under false pretenses, because that’s what Republicans put on the label when they sold it to us.

The fact that we caught no one trying to lie their way into a voting booth should surprise no one. After all, there’s been only one case of voter impersonation in Texas since 2000. One. As Ed Sills recently wrote, “Scofflaws looking to impersonate a voter to cast an illegal ballot may outnumber our state’s unicorn population, but not by much.”

Texas Republicans have been very careful to say we need voter ID to protect the voting process, albeit from statistically nonexistent threats. Republican officials in Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina have been less circumspect about why their states have passed voter ID. It’s pretty simple: to suppress the votes of blacks so Republicans have a better chance at winning.

The Texas secretary of state has reported that 603,892 to 795,955 legally registered (and disproportionately Hispanic) voters lack the government ID required to vote. Some people had to pay $22 to get a certified birth certificate required to get ID in order to vote, which is what Attorney General Eric Holder was talking about when he called voter ID a “poll tax.” That’s wrong, unconstitutional and grounds for a Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed in a federal court in Corpus Christi on Nov. 5.

One of the plaintiffs is Eulalio Mendez Jr., an 82-year-old resident of Willacy County who didn’t have the photo identification necessary to get the certified birth certificate needed to get the photo ID needed to vote. Even if he did, there’s nowhere in Willacy County to get an ID card, and he doesn’t have transportation to get to the DPS office in Cameron County. And even if he had the car, the gas, the physical ability to drive, and the proper documentation, he really can’t afford the $22. A unicorn ate his ballot.

The lesson way too many people are drawing from this is that voter ID didn’t suppress the vote because turnout rose over the last constitutional election. This makes as much sense as saying terrorists didn’t take over my plane because I was forced to take off my shoes.

Moreover, it blurs the line that voter ID crossed. If the law prevented even one vote — such as Eulalio Mendez Jr.’s — then it’s wrong. Our rights don’t all even out in the end. Everyone gets a vote. Full stop.

Besides, “we didn’t manage to totally screw up your democracy” should not be the standard to which we hold Texas Republicans, not least because they might meet it.

To be sure, Republicans could claim that the voter ID law is popular. That’s nifty, but irrelevant. Voting is my right as determined by the Constitution, not a popularity contest. Not long ago, the poll tax was popular, at least among those allowed to vote.

Republicans can’t show us a single person who attempted to impersonate a voter at the polls, probably because anyone smart enough to want to cast an illegal ballot has figured out that you don’t need a photo ID to vote by mail. If you wanted to stop fraud, you’d look at mail-in ballots. If you wanted to stop Hispanics from voting, you’d pass voter ID.

All Republicans have as proof of their success is the absence of what they never proved was there to begin with, but then again we didn’t have any unicorn attacks this month. By Republican logic, we’re winning the war on unicorns. Finally, we’ve found something they’re good at.

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

TPPF’s MARIO LOYOLA APPOINTED VISITING FELLOW AT NYU SCHOOL OF LAW

Congrats to my friend Mario Loyola.
The announcement.

#txlege
– TM’s Paul Burka notes that two Democratic candidates will strongly challenge Republican state House incumbents.

2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– TM’s Paul Burka asks, “Where’s Wendy?”
– FWST’s Anna Tinsley reports (behind paywall) on last night’s GOP Lt. Gov. candidate forum.
– Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) has called a Jan. 28 special election for HD-50, the seat previously held by State Rep. Mark Strama.  The candidates are Democrat Celia Israel (campaign website) and Republican Dr. Mike VanDeWalle (campaign website).

Other stories of interest:
– Is another high profile exoneration case coming?

Lighter clicks:
– This one is for the ladies: “Sexiest Man Alive” winners over the years. (I did not click on this)
– The U.K. Daily Mail 
united Lance Armstrong and his accuser.
– Jerry Jones 
says, “I love the pain.”

Your Daily Source of Inspiration:
– 10 Thoughts that can Super-Motivate you.

NEWS

TT: After Uproar, Mock Immigration Sting Canceled (11/19/13 10:35am)

AP: Conservative group cancels illegal immigrant game (11/19/13 10:35am)

AP: Texas rice farmers may go 3rd year without water (11/19/13 10:34am)

AP: 4 released San Antonio women to pursue exoneration (11/19/13 10:33am)

AP: Runoff Jan. 28 for Texas House special election (11/19/13 10:31am)

DMN: “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” contest at the University of Texas canceled (11/19/13 10:25am)

DMN: John Cornyn, Ted Cruz split on approach to military sexual assaults (11/19/13 10:24am)

DMN: Texas ranks among states where metro areas generate more than 90 percent of economic output (11/19/13 10:23am)

FWST ($): Pope names new bishop for Fort Worth Catholic diocese (11/19/13 10:20am)

FWST ($): Lieutenant governor candidates vie for “most conservative” tag (11/19/13 10:19pm)

CHRON ($): Aced tests likely led to HISD cheating suspicions (11/19/13 10:08am)

CHRON ($): Line painting creates divide between driver, TxDOT (11/19/13 10:07am)

CHRON: Biden tours Houston port, touts jobs from Panama Canal expansion (11/19/13 9:59am)

CHRON: Abbott campaign: A vote for Wendy Davis is a vote to expand Obamacare in Texas (11/19/13 9:57am)

CHRON: Ogg files for DA race as a Democrat (11/19/13 9:57am)

CHRON: So far, unsuccessful District D candidates prefer Provost over Boykins (11/19/13 9:55am)

CHRON: UT student group cancels ‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game’ (11/19/13 9:45am)

SAEN ($): Freedom comes to three of the ‘San Antonio 4’ (11/19/13 9:41am)

SAEN ($): Students’ immigrant roundup game is criticized (11/19/13 (9:40am)

SAEN: Rick Perry: ‘Texas wins’ (11/19/13 9:39am)

SAEN: Town’s mayor promises fight on water line to S.A. (11/19/13 9:10am)

AAS ($): Same playbook, different field in Rick Perry’s presidential warmup (11/19/13 9:06am)

AAS ($): New Austin City Council districts approved (11/19/13 9:06am)

AAS ($): UT club blasted from all sides for ‘catch an illegal immigrant’ game (11/19/13 9:04am)

AAS ($): Texas officials from both parties want to extend high-risk insurance pool (11/19/13 9:03am)

WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: Ted Cruz Says Question of Impeachment Up to House (11/19/13 8:10am)

ABC NEWS: The Tea Party’s Batman and Robin: Mike Lee on His Political Partnership With Ted Cruz (11/19/13 8:10am)

KILLEEN DAILY HERALD: Cruz proposes three amendments that impact military (11/19/13 8:08am)

TT: Dewhurst Wants Closure of High-Risk Insurance Pool Postponed (11/19/13 7:41am)

ROLL CALL: Take Five: Rep. Bill Flores (11/19/13 7:39am)

TW: This Land Is Your Land. Now What? (11/19/13 7:38am)

TT: Perry Supporter’s Firm in Negotiations for State Grant (11/19/13 7:37am)

TT: Texans Look Beneath the Surface for Water (11/19/13 7:37am)

TT / KUHF: As Drilling Proliferates, Scammers Look to Cash In (11/19/13 7:35am)

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: President Powers Responds to YCT: Immigration Event is not in Line with UT Austin Values (11/19/13 7:34am)

TT: Conservative Group to Hold Mock Immigration Sting at UT (11/18/13 2:14pm)

TT / KUT: GOP Push to Loosen Gun Laws May Rankle Law Enforcement (11/18/13 8:18am)

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