Latest Columns

Texas can do better

I’m running for governor of Texas to bring back sanity and hope. Both have gone astray under Trump-style politicians, who divide us and preach an agenda of extremism.

Texas Democrats are poised to win in 2018

There’s never a shortage of naysayers — cynics in the media, jaded pundits, Republican trolls. But now’s the time for activists, not pundits. Texas Democrats will show we have the grit to fight and win, no matter the circumstances.

Time to put a fair voter ID law in place for Texas

As the 5th Circuit has said, a voter registration card is a “more secure document,” “not as easily obtained by another person,” “nondiscriminatory” and “free of charge.” Texas leaders should return to the drawing board to develop nondiscriminatory and evenhanded procedures.

The election of Texas House speaker is NOT changing

It is only natural for Republicans to try and ensure that the next speaker has the support of the majority of members from his or her own party. I also think the next speaker should demonstrate that he or she wants the support of the majority of the fellow members of his or her own party.

The 2017 Texas House & Senate, from left to right: Post special-session edition

With candidates filing for the 2018 elections, and the Legislature apparently — finally — done for the year, I have updated my earlier ranking of members of the 2017 Texas House of Representatives and Senate. This includes votes from the regular session and from the summer special session, ranking lawmakers from most liberal to most conservative based on an analysis of 1,575 House and 1,831 Senate roll-call votes.

Suburban swingers shaking Texas marriage to the GOP?

Fantasies of widespread voter abandonment of Republicans for Democrats in the Texas suburbs remain far-fetched, but data from the last three University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls does show that suburban attitudes towards President Trump in Texas could become cause for Texas GOP concern if the party continues on its current trajectory.

Animal PAC forms after tough legislative session

Candidates will soon be filing their paperwork to run for elected office. They’ll also begin compiling endorsements to tout along the campaign trail — nods and kudos from local chambers of commerce, environmental groups and newspapers. For the first time, some will also be getting endorsements — and campaign checks — from dogs, cats, horses, pigs and other Texas animals.

Sage advice, on or off the field: Less is more

The latest victim of ill-considered speech is Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, a National Football League franchise always eager for the right kind of attention. Unfortunately, a throwaway line Mr. McNair used during a recent closed-door NFL owners meeting produced exactly the sort of recognition the team doesn’t want.

Wright is wrong about Texas: Austin is not Texas

While rural areas in Texas are more conservative than metropolitan ones, the state’s urban conurbations — San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston — are ideologically diverse, and do not particularly lean to the left or right. They are absolutely not isolated liberal islands surrounded by conservative seas. Only Austin is the outlier with its sharp left-of-center tendencies.

A speech Texas Democrats would love to hear

This proposed draft announcement speech for a 2018 Democratic candidate for governor of Texas is the kind of speech and candidate Democrats need and are hoping and looking for in 2018. As FDR once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Texas Democrats, let's not be afraid to fight for change and progress to move our state and nation forward. What do you think? Who will say it?

A bane by any other name is still a bane

If renaming Lee High School was inevitable, NEISD trustees had a golden opportunity to do so in a manner which would promote unity and, perhaps, a sense of healing. Certainly, there are countless San Antonio role models or even “ideas” that could have been selected.

The battle over bathrooms is far from over

The bathroom bill may be dead, but the struggle is far from over. The battle will now be fought from school district to school district, from city to city, and from county to county, costing the taxpayers untold amounts in staff time in legal fees and potential settlements. 

On the hunt for the Democratic message

What’s really flummoxing is that identity politics was the foundation of the message strategy for both the Davis and Hillary Clinton campaigns. Neither worked out. When you segment voters into groups, you don’t speak to all of them. People tune you out. Progressives who insist on talking about people’s rights and identity do so, I presume, because it feels good and is in line with Democrats’ DNA. That’s true. But the goal is to win at the ballot box, not to feel good.

The cost of defending discrimination in our democracy

We must ensure that Texas is put under federal oversight when it comes to voting and election law. Court rulings finding the state’s law to be intentionally discriminatory make it an irrefutable candidate for this remedy. It is also high time we asked: How many times must the state’s election laws be ruled intentionally discriminatory before Texas stops this wasteful crusade?

Georgetown must protect its history

History is history and the people in it are both good and bad. Erecting a statue acknowledging the deaths and great tragedy of the Civil War and the many Texas families ravaged by the conflict is not the same as condoning or advocating slavery.

Take down all statues commemorating slaveholders

Progressives who make exceptions for Washington over Lee — both of whom participated wholly in the system of slavery even if only one of them had the opportunity to go to war in defense of the institution — is to my mind entirely bizarre. It is as though we might separate the “good” slaveholders from the “bad” slaveholders. Can there be such a thing as a good slaveholder?

Take Austin’s Confederate monuments down now

Some argue that Confederate monuments are symbols of Southern pride. Whose pride? Certainly not the millions of African-Americans who suffered under slavery. Certainly not their descendants, who still face indignity, injustice, terror and violence because of our country’s thriving racist attitudes, systems and institutions.

Republican Party platform and Texans win during special session

With the spotlight now clearly on the platform goals and the need for the Legislature to make those a reality, we can and should expect much greater results in the next legislative session on unresolved issues. I am proud of the engaging role the party played during this special session and am grateful to all the Texas Republicans who fought hard for the principles of liberty and limited government in order to make Texas an even better place for everyone.

As the descendant of a white, European immigrant...

One would think that all people descended from European, Caucasian immigrants would be too ashamed to appear in a rally like the one in Charlottesville, Virginia. “Unite the Right” rallies are nothing more than the descendants of immigrants espousing bigoted, anti-immigrant viewpoints.

Partisan redistricting in Texas: How much is too much?

Our analysis of the current Texas delegation to the U.S. House, state Senate and state House of Representatives plans suggests that under a novel test presented by the plaintiffs in a Wisconsin case, and heavily referenced by a federal lower court, Texas’s congressional redistricting plan is likely unconstitutional while the Texas Senate and Texas House redistricting plans are constitutional.

Remembering Mark White

White identified a critical problem in public education, developed a solution and got it passed into law despite the difficulty and the risk. He was willing to put his political career on the line because he believed it was what Texas needed. He devoted his long public career to improving Texas for all Texans. The courage he showed is sorely needed in American politics today.

Let Texas citizens — not Texas lawmakers — draw political maps

Currently, our elected officials draw their own electoral district boundaries; the foxes aren’t just guarding the henhouse, they’re building it. Unsurprisingly, our political foxes, Democrats and Republicans alike, have abused this power for decades, stealing power for themselves and punishing their enemies. A nonpartisan, independent commission puts a stop to that, creating fair districts that faithfully represent the people and lead to fairer elections.

Dark money, darker politics

Decades ago, the Texas Legislature decided that secret money in politics is corrosive to our democracy. Democracy dies when voters are denied critical information, when billionaires are shielded from the consequences of their political investments and when candidates can keep questionable expenditures away from the public eye.

How Democrats can stop a bad special session

During the regular session, Patrick proved that you can win in Texas politics and pass extreme legislation by being cynical, ruthless and ready to exercise power. Democrats have a choice: help pass the Republican agenda or pack their bags for someplace out of state.

The conservative drift of the Texas Senate: 2011-2017

Between 2011 and 2017 an already conservative Texas Senate shifted even further to the right. The total number of Republican senators increased by only one during this period (from 19 to 20), explaining very little of this shift. However, 14 Republican senators were replaced by fellow Republicans, and each Republican successor was more conservative than his/her predecessor — most, significantly so.

It's time for Democrats to win again

Next year, Democrats need a successful entrepreneur running for governor to lead the ticket and carry a message that the lifelong government employees seeking statewide office on the Republican ticket don't have the ability or vision to lead Texas into the future.

What we don't know about Trump — and what we do

Nevertheless, there are some assessments that now can and must be rendered. For example, we should be appalled by the efforts of Republicans — including Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and many in the Texas Republican delegation to Congress — to defend the president in a kneejerk and partisan manner.

The 2017 Texas House, from left to right

These differences underscore the Texas House’s de facto tripartite party system: Democrats, Centrist Conservative Republicans and Tea Party/Movement Conservative Republicans. The boundary that defines which side of the GOP civil war battle line a Republican representative falls on is loose and shifting compared to the clear-cut partisan battle line that separates Democrats from Republicans.

Ending one-punch straight-party voting will be good for Texas

We are trapped in a seemingly inescapable tribal paradigm, and the one-punch option reinforced it by placing party identification at the top of the Texas ballot. But now, the first thing on the ballot will not be an invitation to swear tribal allegiance. The Texas ballot will be a collection of individuals still running under their party labels, but being considered as separate individuals in separate races.

Bathroom bills in Texas reveal larger GOP tensions

The Texas GOP's unlikely marriage of business-minded, free-market capitalists and socially conservative, often Christian traditionalists has survived and thrived because until recently, the two divisions have found little reason to clash with each other in the Legislature. This year, however, the infamous bathroom bill fight started to indicate growing strains in the GOP. If this keeps up, pro-business Republicans might soon find themselves forced out of the party.

The right to vote is a fundamental political right

Making it harder for young people and people of color to vote — constituencies that have trended towards the Democrats in recent years — is part of a larger strategy to consolidate power and disenfranchise those who would oppose Republicans. We’ve seen the results of that strategy right here in Texas.

Political map-making process in need of a cure

Texas, never outdone in matters political, has a long and storied history of creative electoral district map-making. Like the rest of the Confederate South, it drew districts to marginalize black and Latino voting for generations; a tactic that led to the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Aggressive gerrymandering remains alive and well in Texas and throughout the nation.

Texas lawmakers shouldn’t contribute to a delay of justice

Federal judges have ruled that the state's congressional maps are unconstitutional, and the legislators who should set that right have not called a meeting on the subject. When it comes to our constitutional rights, particularly for minorities, it is never a good idea to wait. Justice delayed, when it comes to our constitutional rights, is justice denied.

Dark history, relived

It turns out that the first test for the Sessions/Trump Department of Justice (DOJ) could come in Texas. The state’s Republican Legislature passed the most restrictive voter ID law in the nation in 2011, and it has been ruled by federal courts to illegally discriminate against Hispanic, African American and elderly Texans.

The Limits of Public Polling on Texas Bathroom Access

Because transgender people's access to public facilities is a comparatively new issue on the public agenda, most people are still forming opinions about it, which makes attention to the intentions and uses of different kinds of polling critical to assessing how polling is used for advocacy on this and other issues.

Why We March

Before the rally, I thought: I know, I know. My team lost and I’m supposed to get over it. Even if I can’t respect Donald Trump, the man, I must respect the office of president. I must celebrate a peaceful transfer of power and pray for the good of the nation. Now I am changed.

What El Paso children are asking about Trump

While many Americans living in Texas and across the country have concerns about the agenda of the incoming Trump administration, children living in El Paso and along the U.S.-Mexico border have perhaps the most pressing and heartbreaking questions one could imagine.

What the 1824 election can teach us about 2016

The candidates have beat and pilloried one another with innuendo, mud, slander, gossip — and sometimes even a little truth. But think of how odd it would be if, after all that, neither one of our major candidates gets a majority of electoral votes? It's happened before.

Words do matter, Dan Patrick — yours included

It was quite a sight: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick admonishing President Obama at a town hall meeting on race, telling him, “Words matter — your words matter.” This from a state leader that has used words as hammers, to kick the wounded and politicize grief.

How to fix Texas' outdated voter registration system

While Texans are able to conduct a wide variety of online transactions that require sensitive personal and financial information, including renewing driver’s licenses and paying property taxes, we are among a dwindling minority of states that prohibit their citizens from being able to register to vote online.

The questions I didn’t get to ask POTUS

The only real regret I have after my interview of President Obama last week is that I didn't get to ask him more questions. Here are some things I would have asked, along with my thoughts on why these questions were worth asking.

The Texas GOP goes nativist in 2016

Renewed fears of terrorist attacks and a fiercely competitive Republican presidential nominating contest have brought to the surface a set of nativist attitudes that have not received such full-throated expression in American politics for at least several decades.

Why I'm for Ted Cruz

During these perilous times, we need a leader who is courageous, consistent, passionate and principled. That leader is Ted Cruz.

Why I'm against taxpayer-funded lobbying

I believe there is a distinct difference between a private company that uses its profits to hire a lobbyist and government entities that use taxpayer dollars to do the same. Let me explain my reasoning on why I will gladly meet with one but not the other.

Diversity key in finding Scalia's replacement on Supreme Court

As President Obama contemplates his choice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court, he almost certainly will be thinking of diversity. I hope that in addition to the normal context of race, ethnicity and gender, he also will consider other kinds of diversity, such as geography, religion and experience.

Why I'm for Hillary Clinton

There is only one candidate who has a proven and successful record of fighting to raise incomes for hardworking Americans and ensuring more good-paying jobs come to Texas. Her name is Hillary Clinton.

Waging the War for Christmas in Texas

Texas politicians have been in the front line of the War on Christmas in recent weeks, and one doesn't have to question the sincerity of their beliefs to notice that the political context of taking the side of the aggrieved in this war is also a form of preaching to the choir.

How HERO was defeated

Ensuring fair treatment for all Houston residents and visitors, including gay and transgender people, would not seem to be so far out of reach in a city that generally seems to take pride in its diversity and inclusiveness. The margin by which HERO was defeated tells a different story.

Why Trump is making a connection

There's a reason that Donald Trump is leading the field of Republican presidential candidates. His message resonates with Americans who feel that our country is in the midst of a steep decline.

Welcome to Laredo, Mr. Trump

If he’s willing to listen (and that’s a big if), the Republican presidential candidate’s visit to Texas today should provide him with a much-needed lesson on what life in border communities is actually like.

A plea for decency, not bigotry

The ignorance of a few protesters and one lawmaker will not deter Muslims like me from voicing our opinions or working to foster a better understanding of our faith. It'll only make us work harder.

7 takeaways from Iowa

At this weekend's unofficial kickoff of the 2016 GOP presidential race, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gained the most ground. But a focused and animated Rick Perry also turned some heads.

Why me and not Mike Martinez

Austin is already a great place to live, but the challenges our city faces will require thoughtful, proactive leaders who can collaborate and negotiate with the rest of the state. I'll do that as our next mayor.

Why me and not Steve Adler

Texas Democrats got hit pretty hard in November. Wouldn't it feel good to hit back? By electing me the next mayor of Austin, you'll help ensure that our city never belongs to the Republicans who back my opponent.

Why Texas stayed so red

Tuesday night's results confirmed an unmistakable trend: Over the last year, Texas wasn't becoming bluer — it was becoming redder. And the reasons why are probably more complex than we think.

Another warning sign for Texas Democrats

Texas Democrats’ electoral woes are well known, and their chances next week don't look good. What’s gotten less attention is the underlying problem that helps explain the party’s descent into political purgatory: party ID.

Perry's penchant for living on the edge

With every passing year, Gov. Rick Perry just seems to have grown bolder and bolder, like a roguish movie character who bends and twists the rules of the game, always managing to escape the burning building. Can he do it once more?

Why the gender gap in Texas politics matters

The lack of female politicians in Texas isn’t just a symbolic problem. Female legislators from both parties are more likely to prioritize issues important to women and families, and that’s vital in a state where so many of them are struggling.

A day that changed everything

State Sen. Wendy Davis' courageous filibuster a year ago laid bare a new reality in Texas politics: When we fight back, we can make a difference. And that was just the beginning.

A day that changed nothing

State Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster of abortion legislation last summer may have garnered national headlines, but it didn't impress most Texans — and probably did more to galvanize conservatives.

Let's get beyond debating debates

The perennial debate about debates is a ridiculous exercise, filling lots of newspaper column inches, websites and TV news blocks while allowing everyone to avoid talking about positions, policies and records.

Why me and not Ken Paxton

Texas needs an attorney general who will stand up and fight, not cower and hide. My opponent appears unfit to be an attorney — let alone our attorney general.

Why me and not Dan Branch

It’s more important now than ever that we have a strong, conservative attorney general of Texas. While my opponent occasionally talks the talk, I have a record of walking the walk.

Why me and not Kinky Friedman

As a candidate for this office, I have conducted myself in a manner that can be considered both refreshing and inspiring. This campaign at times has been humorous, which is good because of the state of Texas politics.

Why me and not Ryan Sitton

Texas does not need another smooth talker like my opponent using the Railroad Commission as collateral damage in his journey up the slippery pole that is Republican politics in Texas.

Why me and not Sid Miller

I have unimpeachable ethics and a record of fighting for transparency in state government. I won't give the Democrats an issue that will let them capture this seat in November.

Why me and not Tommy Merritt

My opponent is a good man and has served our state honorably, but he simply does not have the agriculture background, training and real-world experience that I have earned over the last 50 years.

Why me and not Abbott or Davis

Can I win? It’s a long shot, but the only shot we have. If you love liberty, Texas and the Constitution, I'm not just another choice for Texas governor. I'm your only choice.

Why me and not Greg Abbott

We can elect someone who supports policies that favor political insiders at the expense of hardworking Texans. Or we can elect someone who fights for all Texans — regardless of their age, race or gender.

Why me and not Wendy Davis

We’ve seen that more government leads to more spending, which leads to more taxes, which would devastate the economic miracle we have worked so hard to create in Texas. I have fought against that mindset.