The Texas Democratic Party State Convention is underway in Corpus Christi. Today, Democrats are gathered at the beachfront convention center for a day of caucuses on a range of issues, including demographics, the environment and the death penalty. This afternoon, attendees will split up by Senate district to elect local party leaders.
But the main event is later tonight: gubernatorial nominee Bill White will address the whole crowd in the American Bank Center arena.
In the meantime, there are plenty of other sights to be seen: an unidentified person running around in a chicken suit, hair care magnate Farouk Shami and a double-wide trailer offered to (and ignored by) Gov. Rick Perry — to name a few.
By the end of the weekend, the Democrats will have elected a chairman (either incumbent Boyd Richie or little-known challenger Michael Barnes), set their platform, and debated their unique hybrid primary process. The Texas Tribune will be there to cover the whole shebang.
These are things you won't here at the convention this week," Miner says. You won't hear about BTECH — a company he served business to when he was mayor of Houston during Hurricane Rita. You won't hear him talk about his service on the corporate board of BJ Services, a company under investigation by congress. So, we're here today to talk about these issues."
Miner's also handing out a press packet complete with NoDoz, Tylenol, and bottled "White Water."
One of the more anticipated panel discussions was snappily titled "What Can You Do To Take Back Our State Board?" and moderated by SBOE candidate Michael Soto. Several minutes before it even began, only standing room remained. Eventually, the building found an empty ballroom, mass migration ensued, and everybody was able to enjoy the speakers from a sitting position.
State Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, and Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, both stopped by to speak to the assembled textbook enthusiasts.
Expect to hear a lot more about the SBOE in the next 24 hours. Texas Freedom Network is holding a workshop on how to "stop the right wing agenda" on the SBOE tomorrow morning.
Around lunchtime, the trailer served as a makeshift buffet, complete with "Perry's kill" Coyote Beef. (Below is Democratic activist Carl Davis of Houston).
And, yes, he is on fire.
If anyone needs a reminder: Bill White defeated Shami in the race to be the Democratic gubernatorial nominee. That's why White is the headliner tonight, while Shami spoke to some caucuses this morning.
Sputnik, whose real name was Bill Strain, died of a massive heart attack early yesterday morning, according to letter from Terri Williams (http://abatesc.com/web/Latest/rip-sputnik-chairman-of-the-texas-motorcycle-rights-assoc.html), state secretary of the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association. The tattooed, mohawked, leather-wearing motorcycle man was a fixture at the Capitol, and he lobbied for both motorcycle safety legislation and for workers' rights.
Chavez and other motorcycle enthusiasts here at the convention are wearing black armbands with the word "Sputnik" written in white to show their respects.
Most don't start for a few more hours. The exception, of course, is the one put on by the Young Democrats.
Tejano Democrats Pachanga
Omni Marina Riviera Ballroom
Blogger Caucus Party
Bourbon Street Grill
313 N. Chaparral St.
8:30pm - 12am
House Democratic Campaign Committee
Omni Bayfront; Corpus Christi Ballrooms B&C
Catch the Wave Celebration (hosted by Corpus Christi state Reps. Abel Herrero and Solomon Ortiz Jr.)
Brewster St. Icehouse
1724 N. Tancahua
Young Democrats Party
Produce Art Gallery
415 Peoples St.
End of general session - 2am
State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, got the bunch riled up about the November election. He's running against Republican Dee Margo — again. He beat Margo two years ago and won the seat that former GOP state Rep. Pat Haggerty had represented for decades.
"We need to make sure Dee Margo is a three-time loser," Moody told the small crowd, referring to Margo's previous House loss and his loss to Democratic state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh in 2006.
Linda Chavez-Thompson, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, stopped in to say hello and introduce herself to El Paso Democrats and got a standing ovation, hugs and even a baby kiss.
"We're going to tell that State Board of Education what they can do with their history books," she said to rousing applause.
The group also got a visit from Michael Barnes, state party chair hopeful. He told El Paso Democrats he hopes that in two years it will be a Hispanic woman running to lead the party. For too long, he said, Hispanics in Texas have not been listened to.
They've got multi-colored spotlights waving around the auditorium like it's the opening of the "Price is Right."
The American Bank Center Arena holds about 8,000. Not very full for now.
A bit preoccupied as the big show begins in Corpus Christi, Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Gray joked, "I didn't know there was a Travis County GOP."
As blue as Travis County may be, it turns out they do have a GOP. They sent out a press release saying the following:
"Under the elections code of the Texas Ethics Commission a PAC must wait for 60 days from the time of its establishment and have at least 10 contributors before running any advertisements. Back to Basics was created with a single $250,000 contribution from wealthy trial lawyer Steve Mostyn on May 19th and is now running its first ads only 37 days later. It plans to expand this campaign from Austin into the Houston and Dallas areas, though whether that will be done in violation of the ethics rules is not clear."
"Under TEC regulations the PAC may be fined and its treasurer, Dallon James, is guilty of a Class A misdemenor and could be jailed as a result."
"The Travis County Republican Party has filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission and hopes that the Back to Basics PAC will decide to play by the rules before the TEC has to take action against them. TCRP Chair Rosemary Edwards observed that "The smears and cheap shots featured in their advertisement are Democrat politics-as-usual, but actual violations of the ethics code are unacceptable and illegal."
The Democrats didn't have an a very flashy convention stage in 2008 (I seem to recall a podium and a couple of large ferns) but this year the stage have a much nicer set-up. It's not high-glitz or multi-tiered, but it does have some fancy lights and big TV screens.
....and procedes to give the rules of the convention to the crowd. A rockin' song -- and a not so rocking intro.
Ortiz welcomed Democrats to his seaside city and urged them to "Keep the party alive."
That first phrase may not be an oft repeated one, but his next comments are a common refrain for the Democrats, for about the last 15 years or so.
"This is the time when we are going to turn things around, and we are going to have statewide officials elected this year. We can do it," Ortiz said.
He closes by revealing what must be a little-known fringe benefit of Democratic Party membership. "I'm proud to be a Democrat!" he said. "I know I'm going to Heaven!"
Is that in the platform?
And she just brought up "Change" which worked well enough in 2008. We'll see in 2010.
The Hispanics who can save the day for the Dems are right here in South Texas, she says. Super Democrats? Do they have capes?
"We will have discussion and debate and even a little competition between ideas and individuals," Richie says.
A little foreshadowing of the upcoming election for party chairman — his own position — and the debate over the Texas two-step, the party's hybrid primary-caucus voting system.
Video is a "Mission Impossible" like message. Saying the Democrats can accept this mission to elect Democrats and evict Governor Perry from his rental home.
Perry's people say they're ready to debate — just need to see all those White tax returns from his years in public office.
"Do you know what you could do with $25?" Watson asks.
Well, we could pay Reeve's salary for a week.
While the video is going on a crowd with Bill White signs held high pour onto the convention floor. WIth "Ready To Go" from Republica playing. Something tells me Mr. White is about to appear on stage.
Fun facts: She also spent some time in Jordan, which is why she spoke to the Muslim Democrat Caucus this morning.
Texas needs more jobs, he says. "We know that Texas is ready for a new governor."
A few chant, "We need Bill!"
"In Rick Perry's Texas it is every man for himself," White says. "In Rick Perry's Texas it's the special interest, not the public interests that calls the shots."
"I will always be in it for Texas," he says.
1 - Expand pre-k programs
2 - Work with schools colleges, and technical schools to restore excellence
3 - Cut dropout rates by treating a dropout as an emergency
4 - Let teachers teach reading and writing and other things I cant hear over the cheering - rather than how to score on a test
5 - Make higher education more affordable and more accessible
Insurance and utility rates skyrocket.
White wants wages to skyrocket.
in Perry's Texas we import workers from other countries.
White want to train Texans.
In Perry's Texas, SBOE injects ideology into classrooms.
White wants computers in schools.
Bill White's Texas: Government will be servant not master
Perry's Texas: the governor threatens to leave, as White says, "...the greatest country in the union."
Bill White's Texas: Its own country?
The difference is Sam Houston was against it and Perry is for it.
We come from the endless horizons of the high plains to the shaded forests of East Texas, from the bustling morning traffic of our great cities to the calm sunsets along our coasts. Texas is home to proud people. We come from all backgrounds, but we share so much:
We all believe that Texans need more jobs with real futures.
We all understand that Texans work hard to create a better life for our children.
And we all know that Texans are ready for a new governor!
We gather in Corpus today because we share common values:
We believe in freedom and diversity, but we understand that real leadership unites us.
We take pride in our state’s heritage, but we understand that we have come a long way in breaking down barriers and our greatest days can be ahead of us.
I am honored by your support, and especially by the love and fighting spirit of my family. I am inspired by the friendship of so many present today.
We gather with a sense of excitement, preparing for this great test of Texas’ future.
In Rick Perry’s Texas it is “every man for himself.” You see, Rick Perry and his friends put special interests above the public interest.
And in promotion of self-interest, it is fair to say Rick Perry leads by example.
So we find that Perry this year has drawn a full state salary but scheduled only seven hours per week for state work. How can you explain this to state teachers, troopers and so many others are asked to do more with less? Simple: part-time Perry is in it for himself.
We learn that Perry charges taxpayers for a $10,000 a month rented mansion, larger than anything used by prior governors, with chefs and a subscription to Food & Wine magazine. How can you explain this to taxpayers when our state faces an $18 billion budget crisis because it is living beyond its means? Simple: part-time Perry is in it for himself.
We know that Rick Perry accepted more federal stimulus dollars than any Governor except those in California and New York. In fact, federal dollars have been the fastest growing source of state funding since he has been governor. Yet now we hear that he is writing a book on state’s rights, called “Fed Up.” How does he have time to write a book when he hasn’t even written a state budget that adds up? Simple: part-time Perry is in it for himself.
Many may remember that Rick Perry was the statewide chairman for Al Gore’s first presidential race, then immediately switched parties when he saw an opening to move up. Now it appears that he spots another opening—national leader of the far right wing. The opening was created when Ms. Palin cashed in. Are we surprised? No: Part time Perry is in it for himself.
Look, I may not have all the practice and polish of a career politician. Perry’s been on the public payroll so long that his state pension is higher than the salaries of most Texans. But I can assure you of one thing: Though Rick Perry is in it for Rick Perry, I will always be in it for Texas.
I learned the value of service from my parents, life-long educators. My dad held down two jobs for most of the time I was growing up. My brother and I learned hard work, faith, and the value of education. En San Antonio creemos que todos merecen respecto. We were taught that life is about what you give, not what you take; it’s about preparing for the future-- leaving our community, our state, our nation, better than we found it.
I used this background to build great businesses, to create jobs, to balance budgets and meet payrolls.
These values and skills served me well as mayor of our largest city. We cut crime rates, expanded parks and health clinics, cleaned the air, brought dropouts back to school, and improved services for veterans. We did so while building surpluses and cutting property tax rates for five straight years.
Because I’m in it for Texas we’ll do the hard work Rick Perry has never done: we’ll prepare Texas for a better future. That means moving forward—not standing still—on education and job training.
First, we will expand pre-K programs that work.
Second, we will work with school districts, community colleges, and employers to improve career and technical education.
Third, we will cut drop out rates, by treating it as an emergency when students do not return to school.
Fourth, we will let educators teach writing, reasoning, and problem-solving skills rather than teaching how to make a minimum score on an annual high-stakes multiple choice test.
Fifth, we will make college education more affordable for more Texans.
Moving forward in education and job training will produce a better long run economy, more jobs. After all, people with more skills earn more, spend more, invest more, and that helps the whole economy.
Of course this campaign won’t be easy. They will try to scare rather than to inspire. And Rick Perry is a career professional, who will say anything to hold on to power.
Perry will take credit for all that has always been good in Texas, though that attitude alone is proof he has been in office too long.
He will make false attacks, including attacks on our state’s largest city. No wonder his handlers don’t want him to debate.
Rick Perry will claim he represents Texas values. But Perry’s Texas is different than our Texas.
In Rick Perry’s Texas insurance and utility rates rise faster than in other states. In our Texas wages will go up faster because we invest in people.
In Rick Perry’s Texas we import nurses and welders and other skilled workers from abroad. In our Texas we will train more Texans to do those jobs.
In Rick Perry’s Texas the State Board of Education injects political ideology into classrooms. In our Texas we’ll put more computers in our classrooms.
In Rick Perry’s Texas state boards and agencies are pressured from the top to serve those who help the Governor’s re-election. In our Texas government will be the servant, not the master, and our customers will be ordinary Texans.
In Rick Perry’s Texas the governor threatens to leave the world’s greatest country. He is content allow our state to compete with Mississippi for lack of social progress. In our Texas other states will follow Texas because we will be the leader.
In Rick Perry’s Texas citizens are stuck in traffic in big cities because the Texas Department of Transportation was doing the bidding of a foreign company promoting the land grab known as the Trans-Texas Corridor. In our Texas we will work across party lines for a new mobility plan, assisting commuters to get from home to work and all communities to get their goods to market.
In Rick Perry’s Texas the best days may be behind us. In our Texas our best days are ahead of us.
Let us go from this convention, staffing phone banks, knocking on doors, and sending emails. Lift up all who share our values, from the courthouse to the statehouse to the double-wide trailer Andrea and I will live in while the Mansion is rebuilt. Describe to friends and neighbors, from both parties, the simple choice we face in the governor’s race.
Rick Perry is in it for Rick Perry. By the grace of God and with your help, I’m it for Texas, for you.
"God Bless Texas" blaring over the speakers. (How original. The GOP used the same tune two weeks ago dozens of times.)
"In delivering one of the most negative speeches by a nominee for Texas governor in modern history, Bill White continues to run a campaign of no substance. Governor Perry’s proven leadership, Texas values, and priorities of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and job creation have made our state the envy of the nation. Voters will reject Bill White’s liberal agenda of supporting Obamacare and cap and trade legislation that would cripple the Texas economy, greater restrictions on the right to bear arms, and limited voting rights for the military."
Watson's tips for a strong social media network: Maintain your Wikipedia page, Use search advertising (like Google ads), organize on Facebook, customize your conversation on Twitter, and create a clean website.
In the spirit of the event, I snapped a picture of it with my phone:
The guy on the far left is Matt Glazer, one of the gurus behind the liberal Burnt Orange Report blog. Speaking of personalizing your conversation, Glazer admitted to being addicted to Twitter and using it primarily for "geek fighting." His favorite target: Michael Quinn Sullivan of the conservative Empower Texans blog.
So does he expect he'll ever debate Gov. Perry? "No," he doesn't think "Perry's handlers" will let him be in an uncontrolled environment like a debate.
They've been talking about a number of issues related to the party's complicated two-step primary voting process. The meeting started at 8 a.m.
Right now, they're debating some relatively minor changes to the caucus process proposed by state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. Some of the folks on the committee want the party to stop using the caucus process to award presidential delegates. They want all the presidential delegates to be awarded based on the primary vote. Others, including West, want to keep the caucus system with some modifications to use more technology and make the process more secure.
So far, though, most of the discussion has been about those modifications.
Meanwhile, a group that wants to eliminate the caucus process is circulating a petition to get signatures from folks who support that. They're not sure yet if they have the numbers they need to bring up that change for the entire convention to vote on later today.
Two years ago, in 2008, they got the signatures they needed, but the party decided instead to wait on West and his committee to go around the state and get input on the process.
The modifications they're voting on now are ones that come from West's report.
We're going to be here a while, folks.
Pojman told me they were having a good time at the convention. They had a steady stream of people stopping by asking questions. And he'd signed up about a dozen people to their e-mail list.
Meanwhile, the rules committee just voted on a rule to encourage using technology to allow voters to sign-in at their caucus meetings.
Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Gray said she's not aware that the Rogers campaign applied to have a booth in the exhibit hall. Gray mentioned that the South Texas Tea Party applied for a booth and was turned away. She suspects the Rogers campaign would have suffered a similar fate because the TDP executive committee has taken unprecedented steps to distance themselves from Rogers.
Most fun that's happened so far up here.
They decided not to break to go vote in the race between incumbent Party Chairman Boyd Richie and challenger Michael Barnes. Quite a few folks are leaving for the momentous event, though.
Michel says there is no single issue driving his distaste for Democrats (his signage reflects this), but "the killing of babies" really gets to him. He particularly admires and tries to model himself on James Dobson of Focus on the Family. He also speaks well of the Tea Party movement, but balks at being labeled a "Tea Partier" himself. "Everyone wants to label it," he says, "but I'm just a conservative."
Not even the sweltering Corpus Christi heat seems to faze him. "I'm not here for a fashion show," he said.
Michel, the lone protester, gets the same sort of thing. An angry convention attendee shouted, "Maybe you should hold a sign that says 'The End is Near!'"
In an energetic speech, Barnes explained, "We know there's a drought in Texas in our activists, and we need to change that!" He also mused, ""Boyd Richie is a great man from a small town. We need a great party from a great state."
Noteworthy: Barnes won the endorsement of the Hispanic caucus yesterday.
Richie said that the TDP has the best voter file in the country, and they didn't have that four years ago, when he became chair.
Much of his speech focused on his wife, Betty, who joined him on stage. Richie likes to say that Democrats get a "two-fer" when they elect the Richies. Today, he praised Betty's role in his efforts slightly differently: "Roosters can crow, but hens deliver."
One committee member is worried doing that could confuse voters even more. Another is worried it will create an additional cost for the local parties.
The next motion was going to be on the two-step, but so many folks have gone down to the main convention floor that West says he wants to wait.
This is painful.
So far, the representative from Harris County's senate district 13 says he wants to keep the two-step because it encourages participation.
Sen. West says he wants to keep it, too.
A majority of the members so far say they want to keep the caucus process because it gets people involved in the political process and helps build the party.
Opponents of the two-step are still gathering signatures to bring the question up for a vote by the entire convention. So, it ain't over yet.
"It's worked from a vantage point of getting more people involved in politics," West says.
Worth noting: Chairman Richie asked people to be mindful of the time. "I assume most of you would like to be out of here before midnight," he said.
"These shenanigans ought to stop right now, and they ought to take that minority report and go trash it," he says.
On a personal note, thank you.
Short recess now to count the votes.