Liveblog: Keynote Speakers at The Texas Tribune Festival
We liveblogged The 2013 Texas Tribune Festival's Keynote track, which included conversations with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and state Sen. Wendy Davis, a talk on the Tea Party's goals and a session on efforts to turn Texas blue. Read the highlights here.
We have liveblogged each of the sessions from The 2013 Texas Tribune Festival's Keynote track. There were several one-on-one conversations, a panel discussion with candidates for attorney general, a talk on the Tea Party's goals and a session on efforts to turn Texas blue.
A one-on-one conversation with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz kicked things off Friday evening.
Other featured sessions included conversations with House Speaker Joe Straus, first lady of Texas Anita Perry and state Sen. Wendy Davis.
Look below for highlights of the sessions, which were held on the University of Texas at Austin campus.
With: Ted Cruz and Evan Smith (mod.)
This room is packed, even though there is only one chair on stage. Cruz will be appearing from Washington, via video, and Evan will be in the chair. The rig is... weird. A mic over a phone, a camera on Evan (so Cruz can see him) and a monitor (so Evan can see him). Here's hoping it works!
Evan is on stage now, with University of Texas President Bill Powers, who's opening the proceedings. He is, not surprisingly, bragging on UT and says he's happy to open the third TribFest, etc.
Evan has the microphone, acknowledging the sponsors of the TribFest. Talking about how to contribute, he suggests everyone give $10k (hope they do!), and they all start laughing (still hope they do the $10k, though).
The chairs are full, and the ushers are starting to seat people up front on the floor. Like I said, it's full.
Evan asks for phone silence and suggests hashtags for tonight: #TribuneFest and #SenTedCruz. He will handle questions on index cards, filled out and handed in by the audience.
The news is landing, for those who didn't know: Cruz got stuck in Washington (you watch the news, right?) and is doing this via camera/remote/hopeitallworksout.
Evan: "After all, a long-distance relationship is better than no relationship at all."
Well, that worked. Cruz is on screen. Cruz is in front of the Gonzalez "Come and Take It" flag. And we're off.
They start with today's news: Iran. Cruz says he was at a prayer vigil yesterday in Washington ... says he was trying to get two conditions in place before President Obama met with Iranian president. 1) Get them to agree that Israel has a right to exist, and 2) Release his political prisoners.
Evan asks, "How was your week?"
Cruz says he was trying to get people focused on "all of the Americans who are suffering because of Obamacare."
"I do think, over the course of the week, that we had some success," Cruz says.
Cruz says it was worth doing even though the outcome was likely to be against him, but he adds that it is "a multi-stage battle." First he wanted to engage people, and he traveled the country in August with that in mind. Second stage: The House vote last week to defund Obamacare.
Stage Three, he says, was moving it to the Senate. "It had been my hope that Senate Republicans would unite and unfortunately, that was not the case." Now, he says, his hope is that the House will "stand strong" and send something back to the Senate, which he hopes will this time unify around the objections to federal health care.
We have had lots of conversations with lots of House members, Cruz says, and he says he's telling them, "Listen to your constituents. Stand your ground, fight for the men and women of your district ... and fix this train wreck that is Obamacare."
Evan asks about the timeline and the impending deadlines. "There is plenty of time to avert a shutdown. I don't want a shutdown. I hope we don't have a shutdown," Cruz says.
"The only reason we might have a government shutdown is if Harry Reid and President Obama insist on a shutdown."
He implies that keeping funding for health care in the budget would be tantamount to insisting on a shutdown.
That gets raspberries from the audience; not sure, given the hookup, he can hear it.
Evan asks about high number of uninsured in Texas and says, "We know what you're against — tell us what you're for."
Cruz: The cost of insurance is too high. He says Obamacare has raised those costs and affected business planning in a way that makes it harder for people to get insurance.
He says he tried, during his long time at the mic in the Senate, to tell individual stories. "I read letter after letter from retired couples, from people who are losing their insurance."
He's quoting from a letter from Teamsters President James Hoffa to Democratic leaders in the Senate saying Obamacare was destroying people's health care.
"That's the first piece. Let me talk about the second.
"After Obamacare is gone, we should allow people to purchase health insurance across state lines... Number Two, I think we should expand health savings accounts ... and Number Three, we should work to delink health insurance from employment."
Cruz says you don't lose your other insurance if you lose your job, and you shouldn't lose your health insurance, either. "Doing that goes a long way to solve the problem of pre-existing conditions."
He gets some applause for saying the country would be better off with private insurance that doesn't put a federal bureaucracy between people and their doctors.
Evan asks about complaints from other senators about Cruz's tactics.
"All 99 other senators remain very much on my Christmas card list."
He says people who don't want to see Obamacare defunded are trying to change the subject, and he says "most Americans could not care less" about politicians not getting along. "If others want to attack me, I'm not going to respond. I'm not going to defend myself. I'm going to try to talk about the content."
Evan asks whether it works for Cruz's politics to have unpopular Washington types shooting at him. "I try to keep very much in mind for whom I work." He says he's more focused on 26 million Texans than on "getting invited to the next cocktail party."
Evan asks about his comments blasting Republicans who voted on the other side of the cloture vote in the Senate. Cruz says he's staying out of other people's races (Mitch McConnell is specifically the one Evan asked about).
Smith: "What's the deal with you and John Cornyn?"
Cruz: "He's a friend. ... We disagreed on this one. ... Texans are perfectly capable of assessing every politician."
Smith: But you wouldn't endorse him in a "nothing primary"... You could put a stop to this by endorsing him. Will you do it?"
Cruz: "I'm going to stay out of other people's primaries."
Cruz recalls his own race last year, saying he was outspent by 3-to-1 but was swept in by a grass-roots campaign ... every incumbent owes it to the grass roots to win their votes. ... He says he would be breaking faith to endorse others.
He says it is "not remotely the case" that he is, in effect, dissing Cornyn by not endorsing him.
"I'm not anticipating endorsing their challengers, either."
Evan asks about the news coverage of his own 21-hour talk and Wendy Davis' 11-hour filibuster. "Do you think the press has treated you like a jerk ... has, in effect, shown its colors?
"It may just be a sign that I might start doing something right ... if The New York Times wanted to harm me, they would endorse me."
"I don't have any complaints about how the media treats me. ... I don't think most people care about politicians. ... I wish the media would focus on the substance, on the issues, how people are suffering under Obamacare."
He says voters' top priority is jobs and the economy, but "we spend virtually zero time" talking about it.
He says Congress' low approval ratings are related to Congress not talking about what people really care about.
Evan asks about a quote in GQ magazine to the effect that Cruz, when at Harvard, wouldn't study with people who went to the "minor ivies." Cruz says it wasn't true.
2014 questions. Handicap the next governor's race?
"I don't know Wendy Davis. I've never met her. I obviously know Greg Abbott very well." Sings Abbott's praises ... nice buildup ... but stops short of an endorsement.
Now, Evan asks about the race for lieutenant governor. "I have always liked David Dewhurst ... the other individuals running, I know them all, I like them. I don't know what's going to happen in that race. I'm going to stay out of it."
Evan asks about a poll (PPP) that has Cruz at the top of the heap among potential Republican presidential candidates. "Are you going to run for president?"
"I don't put a lot of stock in polls. ... I'm trying to focus on just getting the job done."
Evans asks, "if you're not running for president, who in the devil would go to Iowa and New Hampshire."
"I've gone all over the place," Cruz says. He says it was to energize and mobilize grass roots for the Obamacare fight. "I intend to continue to travel to any venues ... to help build that grass-roots movement."
Audience questions read by Evan:
How would you respond to idea that your views are too extreme for a national election?
"Washington is a strange place. It's considered radical to say you have to rein in your spending ... outside of Washington, D.C., there is substantial care that Obamacare isn't working."
The only reason we might have a shutdown is if Harry Reid and President Obama tell the House to go jump in a lake...
He doesn't answer the question, which was whether he would accept a paycheck if government shuts down.
A question about same-sex marriage. He says he is for marriage between one man and one woman and says the courts shouldn't decide it. But he says the states should decide it, and he leaves open the question of whether states should allow it.
Question about what he would do to fix the immigration problem. "That's a great question. It's a very important question." He talks about Washington and agreement about border security and repairing the legal immigration system. "I think the way Congress should address reform is that we should focus on the areas of general agreement...
"Unfortunately, that has not been the approach that has succeeded in the Senate." He talks about his amendments during the debates and their failure on partisan grounds.
"There is no stronger advocate of legal immigration in the United States Senate than I am."
He talks about the influence of unions on the Democrats in committee and says they blocked efforts to expand the number of highly trained immigrants allowed into the US.
Cruz says the "pathway to citizenship" issue is the most divisive part of the debate and says the Democrats kept that in as "a poison pill"... "they can use to campaign against Republicans in 2014."
"If you want to pass the bill," Cruz says, "You've got to get that that [amnesty, pathway to citizenship] out."
We are out of time, Evan says. Thanks Cruz, and signs off.
Cruz says he's sorry we're out of time. "I had intended to read everyone 'The Cat in the Hat.'"
With: Joe Straus and Jay Root (mod.)
Root asks Straus why the Tea Party folks don't like him very much. Straus says, "Maybe they don't know me very well."
Straus asked about the government shutdown and the fight in Congress. He says Congress should take Texas' lead. "Our results here are so much better than in Washington."
Root asks about Straus being called a moderate, pejoratively. "I don't embrace any term really, except maybe prudent, pragmatic. ... A lot of times the Legislature acts in ways I don't personally approve of."
Straus says he's "tried to stay constant" in his governing strategy, despite the shifting makeup of the House over his time as speaker
Straus on the drought and the 83rd lege: "We took bold and decisive action and water" because legislators were disciplined, not because they "fell into it." (Pun intended?)
Conversation moves into transportation, and gravel roads. Straus: "We have a lot more to do to address our mobility issues in the state." He said the shale boom has brought great prosperity but great challenges for the state's roads. He suggested that TxDOT hasn't acted aggressively enough to take action. After community meetings, "I think they got the message it wasn't handled very well."
Straus says he told TxDOT that converting roads to gravel wasn't acceptable. He also said he told TxDOT the proposal to turn roads back over to local entities was going to be problematic. "It's better communication, giving better notice about some of these proposals."
Straus is asked about raising the gas tax: "I think we need to define better what our real needs are." As vehicles get more efficient, "the gas tax may not be adequate anymore at whatever level. It's one consideration."
Straus asked about some of his committee chairs retiring or running for other office and what it means for his leadership. "I'm told that historically turnover is really not that high right now. ... I don't think we're anywhere near excessive turnover at this point." He also says it provides an opportunity for others.
Root asks why Straus appoints Democrats to committee chairs. Straus: "We don't want to devolve into Washington. Washington is divided by aisle." He says he likes having a strong Republican majority, but adds that he doesn't "think we have anything to fear" with healthy debate.
Straus asked about his relationship with Tom Craddick, who he used to raise money for. "I think I have a good relationship with him. Sometimes we visit. ... I think we have a pretty unique understanding of what the job involves."
Root tries to get Straus to bite on casino gambling or racetracks. "I have been very, very clear that I don't touch gaming issues. I'm clearly not philosophically opposed" because of his family history. "I still have a passion for horse racing, I always will." But says he'll continue to stay far away from it from a policy standpoint.
Straus said he supports a Texas solution for federal health reform. "The federal government has given a waiver to Arkansas for some unusual Medicaid changes that could be interesting to watch. ... Doing nothing won't really fix a lot of the problems we have in my view."
Straus says that if he were running the show in Washington, he'd develop an insurance program where the tax credits given to employers are given to individuals instead.
On attacks on his Jewish faith, Straus says he "couldn't feel better about how that's not been an issue" in his leadership in the House. "You're gonna have some kooks out there," he said, adding that they're "such a small minority."
Straus on UT Regent Wallace Hall: He says he's not sure Hall should be impeached, which is why there's an investigation. "We'll see what the recommendations are, and we'll have a decision to make as a House." He added that impeachment charges are "very, very serious."
Straus on Wallace Hall: “I have no bias here... whether they give him the medal of honor or hang him from a tree.”
Straus said he felt that there was a sense the university regents were threatening members of the House, and he wanted to protect his members.
"I'm very proud of the way the House dealt with" the abortion legislation in the special session. "We didn't fall apart" — a zing to the Senate.
Kid in audience asks if Straus will ever run for governor. Straus: "I think the state is safe from me for the next few years."
With: Dan Branch, Ken Paxton, Barry Smitherman and Reeve Hamilton (mod.)
Hamilton asked the candidates whether they agreed with AG Abbott's decision to get involved in the American Airlines merger.
Smitherman said it's always a problem when government inserts itself into private situations.
"We need to always be careful before government inserts itself in a private arrangement," he said.
Paxton said that as AG, his framework would be to let business operate with as little regulation as possible.
"I'm all about the free market and letting business operate as free from government as possible," he said.
Branch was the one candidate to agree with Abbott's decision to get involved in the merger and said that he hoped there would be a quick resolution. Branch added that he would continue Abbott's legacy of challenging the Obama administration.
Next, Hamilton asked how the candidates would differ from Abbott in their leadership if they were elected.
Smitherman said that he would make a priority of prosecuting border crimes.
Both Paxton and Branch said they would bring their legislative experience into the AG's office,
Paxton said he would look to the example of President Ronald Reagan and would be courageous and stand up for conservative values.
Hamilton asked whether the candidates support U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's stand against Obamacare.
Branch: "If you have a federal government that's overreaching, ... I think the office of the attorney general will have a critical role in protecting Texans."
Smitherman likened Obamacare to Soviet policies. He said he has sued the federal government seven times.
"The policies they are putting forward are not grounded in good science, and they would harm the Texas economy," he said. "It's one thing to talk about fighting Obama; it's another thing to do it," he added.
Paxton said he really appreciates what Cruz did. He grew up in a military family that depended on government health care, which he described as inadequate. "I appreciate his willingness to fight now, because if we don't stop it now it's more likely to stay in place," Paxton said.
Next, Hamilton asks whether Abbott is spending too much time suing the federal government and not enough on other priorities.
Paxton said those fights are important in standing up for Texans.
Smitherman agreed and said that the AG's office can do both.
"There cannot be any higher priority than standing for the rights of Texans," Smitherman said.
Branch said he had been working with Abbott this session to make sure there is more accountability in the Legislature.
"The attorney gneral has to be the defender of limited government in Texas," he said.
Hamilton asks about how recent local decisions expanding protections for gay and lesbian Texans in some cities could effect the Republican primary.
Branch, Paxton and Smitherman argue that the laws aren't constitutional and are a limit on free speech.
"It's sort of thought police stuff," Branch said.
Hamilton then asks whether the differences between the candidates are more style or substance.
"I have a history of conservative leadership and accomplishment," Smitherman says, describing his work on the Railroad Commission and the Public Utility Commission to increase efficiency and reduce costs. He also says he was a prosecutor in Houston, "putting bad people in prison."
Paxton says he has 22 years of legal experience outside of the government. He said his voting record shows his leadership.
"If you want proof somebody is going to have a conservative framework in this position, you've got an 11-year consistent record," Paxton said.
As a lawyer at one of the biggest firms in the state and a legislator, Branch said he's got "a record of getting things done as a conservative."
Audience memeber asks Smitherman what he would say to gay Texans about marriage and having children.
Smitherman says he doesn't agree with the gay lifestyle. He said he thinks marriage between men and women is the way to happiness. But, he said, he has nothing against gay people.
Paxton says he thinks God supports marriage between men and women but he knows some gay people and likes them.
Branch says he has five children, which is more than the other candidates, so "I guess I win."
An audience member asks whether the candidates will support federal laws that protect Texans with disabilities.
Branch says one of the most important roles of government is to protect the most vulnerable.
Smitherman says the AG is not a policymaker. "If that's the law then we absolutely should comply with it."
Paxton says his job is to enforce the law.
An audience member asks the panelists about continuing to fight for child support payments and about equal pay for women.
Branch says he would continue Abbott's aggressive work to obtain child support from parents. As to pay for women, he said, "To me, it should be about merit."
Smitherman says, "If you're performing you should get paid as much or more; it shouldn't be an issue." Child support, he said, is important revenue for the state. But he said he's also talked to fathers who pay child support who want to be more involved in their children's lives. "It's not just about the money," he said. It's also about putting families back together.
Paxton agreed that pay should be merit-based. He says child support collection would be one of his highest priorities.
An audience member identifying himself as a member of the Tea Party asks whether the candidates would work to limit the growth of the federal government.
"There's a lot of legitimate frustration I find when I go around state" because we do have an administration that seems be tone-deaf to its role within the constitutional powers, Branch said. "It's not unpatriotic to push back on a federal government that's overreaching."
"I think we need to use every possible means available to fight back," Paxton said. If states don't find a way to stop federal spending, he said, it won't be stopped.
Smitherman said the other candidates were not endorsed by individuals from whom they claimed to have received endorsements.
Smitherman touts his work on lawsuits against the EPA over greenhouse gases.
The final audience question is about what steps the candidates would take to ensure improved access to justice for people who can't afford legal aid.
Smitherman says that when he was in Harris County as a prosecutor, he worked on domestic violence cases. "We have to make sure everyone has access to justice," he said. "The courthouse is really the last recourse for justice for many people."
Paxton says ensuring poor people have access to justice is critical and would continue Abbott's work.
Branch said "justice delayed is justice denied." He said he supports efforts to ensure access to justice for the poor.
With: Anita Perry and Evan Smith (mod.)
Perry says that never in her wildest dreams did she think she'd be first lady of Texas. "You have to be authentic and genuine... I hope I've maintained that small-town" feel.
Perry says people see her all the time in Target and Chick-fil-A — that they try to keep it real.
Perry says that with her background in health care — she was a nurse — she feels very strongly about federal health reform. "It's an infringement upon our rights. I really don't want government coming in telling me what doctor I can go to. We're seeing it already."
Perry thinks Gov. Rick Scott in Florida might have reversed course and compromised on Obamacare "because he has an election coming up."
Perry on what it's like to live in the Governor's Mansion: In the early years of the governorship, "it was really a very dangerous place to live" with no sprinkler system, etc. "I have to be very careful when the public tours are going on downstairs. With three dogs, it's kind of a juggling act."
Perry says she and her husband "agree on most everything." Says she and her husband aren't 100 percent in lockstep, but we're not going to get details
Perry on her husband's comments on Wendy Davis: "He thinks if she had decided to terminate her pregnancies — and maybe he could've chosen a word that would've been a little more sentitive to what she was thinking — it would've come out differently."
Perry says it's not up to her to judge women who choose to have abortions, under the terms of state law. "That could be a woman's right, just like it's a man's right if he wants to have some kind of procedure. I don't agree with it, it's not my view. ... The older I get, there are two sides of every nickel. God made us our own individuals, and I can believe, you can believe, what you want to believe. That's the law of the state."
Smith asks if Perry's husband is misunderstood. "I do." She says the biggest misunderstanding is swagger. "He walks just like his mother."
Perry: The governor "is one of the most well-read people I know." The Wall Street Journal, The Economist.
Perry on Oops: "That was such a human error. Who out there has not remembered the three things they meant to get at the grocery store? ... You cannot jump into a presidential race six weeks after you have back surgery."
Perry says they've received two pieces of advice: Start planning a presidential race two years out, and you have to run twice.
Perry on being on the presidential trail: "Getting out across this country ... is one of the greatest things you can do in life." She's speaking like a woman running for first lady of the United States. "If he makes the decision, I'm going to be right there with him."
On not campaigning for the first time in decades: "If I miss a workout, it's OK, because I don't have to go out there."
With: David Dewhurst and Ross Ramsey (mod.)
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst dismissed his Republican re-election opponents, saying he thinks voters will be willing to keep him in office to keep the state on the track it’s on now.
He said he decided to give up his quest for federal office — he lost to Ted Cruz in last year’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate — and passed on a race for governor because he thinks he can do more in the job he’s got.
Asked about his recorded phone call to the Allen police, trying to get a relative out of jail on a Saturday night, Dewhurst said anyone would have done the same for a relative. And he dismissed a question about whether his opponents will use that, saying they can’t beat him if that’s all they have.
Dewhurst said the June filibuster drama that catapulted Wendy Davis to stardom was the fault of “an unruly mob” and not his management of the process. And he said he was not convinced that Gov. Rick Perry would call lawmakers back for another special session on the abortion and women’s health legislation if transportation and criminal justice bills had already passed.
Dewhurst vigorously attacked Obamacare and said the way to insure health care for more Texans was to get a federal Medicaid block grant that would allow the state to experiment with health policy. He said the state has de facto universal health care, though he said “I don’t recommend it,” in the form of emergency room care.
He wouldn’t talk directly about his challengers in the 2014 election, saying simply that he expects to win. As for his 2012 loss, he talked again about bad advice from consultants and saying he shouldn’t have ignored his instincts. This time, he said, he is meeting with more voters, talking to grass-roots supporters and shunning the “Rose Garden” strategy he pursued for much of the Senate race.
With: Steve Murdock
Texas has always grown more rapidly than the country as a whole, Murdock says. Between 2000 and 2010, Texas’ most rapid growth happened in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley, he says.
Even though Texas is growing quickly, between 2010 and 2012, 96 of the state’s counties saw a population decline, mostly in West Texas, Murdock says. But some East Texas counties also saw a decline, which is a relatively new phenomenon, he says.
In the U.S. as a whole, 92 percent of all the growth between 2000 and 2010 was due to minority populations, Murdock says. Hispanic population growth is very pervasive all across the country and not just limited to states like Texas and California, he says.
Why should we care about demographics? Murdock asks. Because demographics is tied to socioeconomic characteristics, he says. He shows statistics indicating higher poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanics than for non-Hispanic whites in Texas and across the country.
Populations do well over time as they assimilate, Murdock says. Hispanics have been in San Antonio as long as any of the Anglos, he says. And after a correction from an audience member, he concedes: “Longer!” He’s pointing to the fact that high school graduation rates for Hispanics in San Antonio are better than some other areas of the state.
“Education is the single best predictor of how one does socioeconomically,” Murdock says. “In general, you can bet on education.” For any profession, even as a laborer, you make more money if you have more education, he says. It’s true for all racial and ethnic groups, he says.
Murdock is flashing a ton of charts on the screen and saying things like: “This is one of those charts that only a demographer could love, with all the numbers.”
Financial aid per student has never been as high as it is right now, Murdock says. And the number of kids with unmet financial need is expected to increase rapidly. Most of those kids will be minority kids, he says.
Murdock flashes this quote onto the screen: “The mark of a truly educated man is to be moved deeply by statistics” – George Bernard Shaw.
There are two populations in the U.S. and in Texas, Murdock says. One is an aging set of non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic white fertility is below replacement and has been for years. The other population is the minority population, he says. Hispanic fertility is above replacement levels. The average Hispanic woman is significantly younger than the average non-Hispanic white woman, he says.
The future of Texas and the U.S. is tied to minority populations, and how well they do is how well Texas and the U.S. will do, Murdock says in explaining why this all matters.
Demographics is not best left to demographers, Murdock says. Is has to be taken into account as we plan for the future of Texas, he says.
Murdock says that he’s often asked why one group of people – i.e. Hispanics – isn’t doing as well socioeconomically as another group, such as Asian-Americans. He says it’s important to keep in mind that it takes a different level of resources to cross over the border (from, say, Mexico) than to relocate to the United States from faraway places. Moving to the U.S. from China isn’t done quite as cheaply, he says. So comparisons between the two groups fail to recognize that the two don’t have the same educational or socioeconomic characteristics, he says.
With: Dick Armey, JoAnn Fleming, Matt Krause, Julie McCarty, Debra Medina, Jonathan Stickland and Evan Smith (mod.)
We're getting started with the panel on the Tea Party, with Evan Smith and six others, including Dick Armey, JoAnn Fleming, Matt Krause, Julie McCarty, Debra Medina and Jonathan Stickland.
Evan says at the top that Texas is a three-party state, with Democrats, Republicans and Republicans, and that the "dominant narrative" is in the Republican primaries.
Introductions over, first question is to ask the title question of the group in the context of the congressional skirmish over funding for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
Armey is up first (that list of names a minute ago was in seating order, by the way) and says, "what the Tea Party wants is its nonprofit tax status."
He's talking about the beginnings of the Tea Party and their frustration over the way things were going in government. And he says that they have to get elected as Republicans — just like Ron Paul, who Armey IDs as a Libertarian. "You're going to get elected as a Republican or as a Democrat."
He says people are waiting for people who will say "I dare." Uses Cruz as an example.
McCarty says that people are signing up rapidly now that they "see someone like Ted Cruz take a stand."
Medina apparently told Smith backstage that TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already, and he asks whether this is fundamentally an economic movement. Since it's a movement, she says, it's hard to put everyone in one box.
"A lot of people think there I'm the crazy guy out there, and recently, that the Tea Party is dead," Stickland says.
"Right now, we're at a point where we've established ourselves ... we can win elections."
Evan asks about the risk that someone gets elected and gets into office and says "Oh, this is what it's like to sit in first class." Whole panel is nodding.
Krause says you run the risk but says if you're going to be effective, you have to work inside the system.
Fleming, asked whether the Tea Party would rather lose a race to a Democrat than to get a "moderate" Republican elected, says the candidate recruiters need to vet their candidates. If you know something about yourself that you don't want to see on a billboard, you need to rethink this. She's talking about candidates who won GOP primaries in 2012 only to implode in the general elections around the country.
It's raining like crazy, and I know that in this room without windows because we're under a very nice tin roof, apparently.
Armey says that candidates in Indiana and Missouri "got pushed by their base constituency" to try to educate" people about their anti-abortion positions. They got clobbered. He says they should have kept their mouths shut.
McCarty says she would be happier with moderate Republicans in office than with Democrats. It's better to have someone who agrees with us a little bit that with someone who doesn't agree with us at all.
Fleming says the House should pass a bill to fund every single thing in government instead of the one thing — the Affordable Care Act — that is going to fail.
Medina says "we keep getting scared into these positions that the world is going to stop turning." Stickland says the Republicans are really bad at playing chicken. "We have to stick to our principles."
Armey says the Republicans shouldn't change the subject and let the president off the hook by changing the subject to shutting down the government. "We should be talking about Obamacare, where he's hurting."
When we shut down the government in '95, we had already funded all of the mandatory spending and most of the discretionary spending. It was only 8 percent of the government. But you would have thought we shut the whole thing down.
Medina, on the "insulated royal class" of elected officials, says, "The voters are the smartest people in the world until we get elected, and then the voters don't make any sense."
Medina says her 19% showing in the 2010 governor's race changed the dialogue in that race and in the legislative session that follows. Armey says Medina changed that race on a public policy basis instead of the usual thing, which is arguing on a political basis.
Fleming says there are people in the Legislature who are happy to be there and to stay there, and are concerned with who is moving up the food chain. She says there ought to be a conversation about "corporate welfare." She says they say they don't like in Washington and they don't do anything about it in Texas. "We don't need to pay people to come to the state of Texas."
"When you look at the core functions of state government, you don't see Formula One racing in there," she says.
Medina quotes Daniel Webster and says a government that isn't working is the fault of the people choosing the officials — not the officials themselves.
Krause, talking about the political lists, says the same people turn up on the top of the evaluations from the economic groups and the social groups, and the same 20 or 25 people show up at the bottom. He says it's a decent indication of what they'll do.
Stickland, on Joe Straus, says, "I like Joe." And he says that he's not sure he would get rid of him if he could. The problem, he says, is moderate Republicans who elect him. He calls Straus the symptom of the problem. "Joe Straus lobbied me on one issue: The water bill. He has never lobbied me on anything else."
Stickland says he is "very upset" that the state decided to get the money for the water fund from the Rainy Day Fund and says it should come out of the general spending budget. Everybody on the panel is against the water amendment on the November ballot.
Krause, too, says he has nothing bad to say about Speaker Straus. "What we have to do is make sure we don't focus on a person, but on a movement."
Medina says she thinks there is a problem with the process. "It's not about the 'will of the House' — it's a little smoke game."
She says the speaker needs to change the rules on that. She says the Texas House is pro-gun, for instance, but adds, "So where's our gun bill?"
McCarty says it falls to the voters. Why aren't there more Tea Party people in the House? We haven't elected them.
Armey says the U.S. Speaker of the House is in a box, because he has to take care of the majority of the Republican Conference — conservatives — by denying the will of the majority of the whole House, which would consist of Democrats and moderates. He's sympathetic to the problem.
Everybody on the panel thinks U.S. Sen. John Cornyn should be challenged in the Republican primary, although Armey says "he is principally with us most of the time, and we should think twice before changing horses."
Jumping now to audience questions.
First up: What is the value of shutting down the government when that's harmful to the people?
Medina says "it won't stop the country" but says she would do it.
Why does the Tea Party seem to be pretty not okay to compromising with others?
Fleming says she has served on 21 different government working groups, says she has been the most conservative, and has asked the most irritating questions. "But let me tell you, problems get solved when people come to the table."
Stickland says he respects the differences. "This is nothing personal at all. It's just a disagreement on the issues."
Armey says the problem with liberals is "they're so dang greedy." He says the law should address the 40 percent of the people who have trouble with their health care, instead of trying to change it for 100 percent. "They ought to leave us alone."
Question about closing down government and the threat to the "full faith and credit of the federal government."
Fleming says the ff&c is in trouble because of the federal debt. "This just puts it in focus again."
Stickland says the way to solve the health care crisis is to get government completely out of health care.
Armey says the Democrats wanted to write a health care plan that increased their own power: "They don't care whether you live or die."
Nobody else on the panel agrees when Evan asks whether they agree that Democrats don't care about people's health. Lot of head-shaking going on.
Last question from the audience is, What is the difference between the Tea Party and the Libertarian Party?
Medina says the cost drivers in health care don't have to do with providers being paid more, and blames it on the regulations in that business.
Krause says some of the Tea Party people are also social conservatives and that's the difference with the Libertarians. Stickland says he's not trying to claim one or the other: "I'm a Republican." He suggests people read the Texas GOP's platform.
With: Jeremy Bird, Pete Gallego, Leticia Van de Putte, Bill White and Evan Smith (mod.)
We are ready to start our last day of the third annual Texas Tribune Festival and Evan Smith is introducing Leticia Van de Putte, Bill White and Jeremy Bird for a panel on Turning Texas Blue.
U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego was going to be on the panel, but got stuck — like his 434 colleagues in the House — in Washington.
Bird is talking about the Battleground Texas effort to organize Democratic voters in Texas, to build the data and information — the voter file — they would need to become competitive with Republicans here.
Van de Putte, asked about the "challenging" numbers for Democrats. "Winning an election is tough," she says, but she says there are signs that this cycle might see some changes (should say here that she is considering a run for lieutenant governor, the No. 2 spot on next year's ballot). "But Democrats are going to have to work for it."
"I don't think we're going to sit back and wait for the demographics to come," Van de Putte said. "I think the Republicans are helping us a great deal."
Evan: I know this is going to be a little bit like slow-pitch softball, but how are the Republicans helping you?
Van de Putte: Thank you.
That got a laugh. She goes on to talk about groups she thinks the GOP is alienating, starting with women, LGBT voters and businesspeople who might be put off, she says, by the Tea Party.
White, a former Houston mayor who ran for governor in 2010, on what's changed for the Democrats, says "Perry and that gang of people tried to convert it into a national election ... so you saw this backlash against the administration and independent voters wanting to send the national Democrats a message." He says this time that those same voters might be wanting to send a message to the Republicans.
Evan asks why, with Obama in midterm, it would be any different in 2014. "I think they will try to nationalize it... All I'm saying is, it won't be as potent as it was."
Bird is talking now about turnout and voter registration in Texas and about his own belief that they are more likely to vote for Democrats than the current people who turn out have been voting.
Bird picks up the line about Texas Republican politicians being too conservative for "fair-minded Republicans and independents" who might be turning to Democrats for something else.
Evan follows with a vignette from the Tony Sanchez campaign to flip the state by getting new people to the polls. "They're called 'non-voters' for a reason."
Bird talks about the turn in Colorado, one of the models for the Battleground Texas effort. "We've done it in other states."
Evan quotes Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who said yesterday that turnout is low and that Republicans could be vulnerable if they don't get people to the polls. Van de Putte counters by quoting Dewhurst from the same talk, saying that Texas has a form of universal health care in its emergency rooms.
White says he learned political organization from Willie Vasquez, doing door-to-door campaigning when he was 16. He's answering a question about where to get the people who know politics in a state where Democrats haven't won in so long.
Evan asks about "sprinkling the Obama big data pixie dust" as an answer for Democrats. Bird: "Big data is important... you want people to go out there with a list that has good information they can use when they're talking to voters... but if you just have big data and you don't have an organization to do something with it, it's just big data."
Bird says that wherever in the country they went on the Obama campaign, there were volunteers from Texas. "They were learning what it looks like to win," he says.
Evan asks about money, and Van de Putte says, "Democrats are going to be competitive." She says it will be a combination of both in-state and out-of-state money. She makes a deal out of Davis' ability to raise money from small donors, contrasted with Greg Abbott's fundraising from large donors. "I think we're going to have a breakthrough candidate," she says, "And that's all it takes."
Evan asks White about having a ticket of strong candidates behind him (his ticket in 2010 was relatively weak) and asks whether Van de Putte is going to run. "We need people like the senator, of stature, who will run," White says. "I haven't talked to the senator about it, but we should encourage candidates to run for office."
Evan: "I'll ask her."
Van de Putte: "It's a very personal decision and one that, I am frankly looking at very carefully." She talks about her family and about the recent deaths of a grandson, her father and her mother-in-law. She says a campaign would be brutal and she is still talking to her family about it. "It will be a family decision, but I am looking at it. I want different leadership for the state so badly."
"When will you tell us?" Evan asks.
"Let's wait until after Thursday," Van de Putte says, a reference to Wendy Davis' announcement event.
Bird is talking about whether it is a good idea — at this time — to run for office as a Democrat in Texas. "It's like the old drunk-driving thing," Evan says. "Friends don't let friends run Democratic."
Bird says it's changing. "There are incredible Democratic candidates in Texas." He compares it to baseball, saying the reasons the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals go to the playoffs all the time is that they have good farm teams.
Most Texans agree with the positions of the Democrats in the Legislature, White says, citing polling from his race for governor. "I will tell you, though, that there are some Texans who have disagreements with the Democrats' policies in Washington."
Evan asks White, who sort of famously skipped a chance to appear with Obama when he was running, whether Wendy Davis should campaign with the president. "I think people should remember that they're campaigning for the governor and not for the president," White says.
Now we're to audience questions. The question is about the House and Senate in Texas. Van de Putte points to the lopsided redistricting maps. She says the Republicans said they weren't discriminating against minorities in those maps (which is illegal), but against Democrats (which isn't).
What will Battleground Texas do to reach out to past proven Democrats, an audience member asks. Bird says BT is not only about registration, but about identifying new voters and then turning them out."You have to have a volunteer base that's big enough to actually reach folks."
Bird says the battleground states have in common: 1) strong parties and 2) political action committees and campaigns. "That's going to help folks that run statewide, but it's also going to help people at the local level... we see it as part of one ecosystem... we hope to be a part of that."
Van de Putte is talking about the changes in communications, primarily social media, after an audience question about what the questioner called "the people's filibuster."
Audience member says she doesn't even know who to give money to. Van de Putte says it's about "our responsibility to make sure you know how... I'll come talk to you."
"I'm a part of the unruly mob," says an audience member to cheers (this is a Wendy Davis crowd). She asks about the steady disappointment of being a Democrat in Texas. White says the party needs a large base of small donors to keep the party going. "That's good government, too," he says.
Bird says BT has been around for 9 months in Texas and talks about an effort in Ohio where the Democrats knew they were going to lose. "We had to get 32 percent," he said. They still lost, but they got the numbers they needed. "And the lady running that for us was from Austin."
With: Wendy Davis and Evan Smith (mod.)
Asked about the calculation going into it, Davis says she wants to make sure she's not doing something "foolhardy."
Davis says the "most striking" thing to her about her new celebrity status after filibuster: "I'm so struck by young women who come up to me, many of them with tears in their eyes ... somehow that day tapped into what was a feeling for many young women that they weren't being heard. It's been remarkable to see their reaction to that."
Q: How do you handle derogatory terms like "Abortion Barbie": "I've been through a lot of tough fights in my life, and I've learned to weather them." She says she's "leathered up" a bit. Also says, "I'm capable of withstanding all kinds of hea,t all kinds of nastiness" in order to reach Texans who haven't been heard.
Davis says average Texans are not focused on divisive issues. They're focused on bread-and-butter issues like education, health care and jobs.
Davis says that if investments are not being made in public education, "we're going to see the impact of that in our economy."
Davis says that many members of Legislature are worrying more about their "scorecards" than "standing up and doing the right thing" for school kids. She says this "wonderful story we tell" about Texas is likely to "begin to crumble" if as a state we don't put more emphasis on public education.
Davis criticizes Comptroller Susan Combs for making errors on revenue estimate, saying she could have "done a much better job" of accurately telling the Legislature how much money was available to spend.
Davis says of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz: "We agree on some things." She says politicians like her shouldn't be afraid to say that.
Asked if we have enough revenue, Davis says, "I believe that we do." But she also says "we have to be thoughtful and smart" about how it's allocated in budget. And she says there are a lot of tax "exemptions" that need to be looked. She sas she wants to take a hard look at $35 billion per biennium that "we give up" via loopholes and exemptions.
Will you rule out tax increases? She says no sales or property tax increases. Said she would veto such legislation if governor.
About transportation: "We know we cannot turn our roads back to gravel," she says, adding, "Think about rural Texas." Says farm to market roads "made Texas what Texas became." She says it's time to have a discussion about transportation policy.
On higher ed: "In 2003, the tuition in Texas was of course deregulated." She says that has priced many families out of higher education. She agrees with Gov. Perry about 4-year tuition freeze starting at freshman year.
What about this Texas Miracle? Davis says it's not "unfair" for Gov. Rick Perry to brag about Texas. But she says part of the story that's not being told is that Texas stands 49th out of 50 states on per-pupil spending on public ed.
Davis says anti-Washington posture makes "great political theater" but doesn't solve real problems. She adds that people "are tired of the acrimony." She says she doesn't want Washington-style gridlock in Texas. She says that in the Legislature, "we've got some amazing people on both sides of the aisle who work that way."
Davis says she supports driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. She says there should be some indication on the licenses about whether they are citizens.
Davis says that in the Legislature, Democrats have moved to the center to get things done. Within the Democratic Party, she doesn't fear that she will be run out by a primary opponent if she doesn't take an extreme position. But she says Republicans are pushed to extremes because of concerns that they will be defeated in primary.
Davis says she's gotten a lot of support from Republicans who like that she stands up for what she believes in.
She says her seat in Fort Worth is a "tough district" to win, but she says she has been very good at turning out the base. She says people need to feel "empowered" to participate.
Author Robert Draper asks where Davis would disagree with Obama. She says she disagrees with the decision to oppose an American Airlines merger with US Airways. "That was the wrong call," she said. (Context: Greg Abbott is with the Obama Administration on this one.)
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