Editorial Roundup: Texas

Dallas Morning News. October 1, 2022.

Editorial: Another low moment for Ken Paxton

The attorney general revealed his character once more when he fled process server.

Ken Paxton has a lot to run from. The Texas attorney general’s escape from a process server at his home Monday would be comical if it wasn’t such a pitiable symbol of his serious shortcomings.

Paxton is named in a lawsuit about whether nonprofit groups can help Texans pay to get abortions out of state. He claims that he didn’t know that the man who arrived at his front door in McKinney on Monday morning, Ernesto Martin Herrera, was delivering a subpoena in that case. Paxton said he was threatened by a “strange man.”

But court records challenge that claim. The Texas Tribune reported Wednesday that the plaintiffs’ attorneys had been in contact with Paxton’s office for days before this episode, offering to serve the subpoena through Assistant Attorney General Amy Hilton, debating the details of service, and asking for Paxton’s whereabouts so Herrera could do his job. Even as Herrera waited for an hour outside Paxton’s home, the plaintiffs’ attorneys were in communication with Paxton’s office about it.

In a sworn affidavit, Herrera said he knocked on the door and told Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton, that he was there to deliver legal documents to her husband. The attorney general disputes this, saying Herrera didn’t introduce himself but charged at Paxton yelling unintelligibly. It doesn’t make much sense that the attorney general wouldn’t be aware of the effort to serve the subpoena.

Paxton’s claim is also belied by his own actions. If he was really fearful for his safety, the most obvious course of action would have been to go inside, keep himself and his wife inside and call the police, who would have responded quickly to a threat against a high-ranking state official. Instead, Paxton apparently didn’t call police, and eventually left the house, diving into the back seat of a Chevy Tahoe driven by his wife while Herrera tried to speak with him.

After he was safely out of the presence of that menacing subpoena, Paxton rediscovered his bluster, saying Herrera was “lucky this situation did not escalate further or necessitate force.” It’s a lousy bully who threatens violence after the confrontation is over.

Paxton’s credibility is already deeply tarnished by the other things he’s running from: a felony indictment, an FBI investigation, and allegations of bribery by his own staff. That baggage makes it harder and harder for Texans to believe his version of events. Like the 374-page internal report Paxton issued last August, which asserted his innocence against all charges of corruption, this whole story raises eyebrows. We wish it weren’t this way.

We can’t say for sure what was going through Paxton’s head when he saw Herrera outside his home on Monday. But we’ll tell readers what’s going through ours: Texas deserves an attorney general who can stand on his own property without fear that his own dubious choices and ethics are going to catch up to him.

___

Fort Worth Star-Telegram. October 1, 2022.

Editorial: Did Beto O’Rourke manage to change Texas governor race in debate with Greg Abbott?

Democrat Beto O’Rourke needed a breakthrough moment Friday night in his only debate with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Barring that, he needed Abbott to make a blunder that would cause large numbers of voters to rethink the race.

He probably didn’t get either.

The debate in Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley was hampered by a choppy format, but it largely reflected where the race for governor stands with just more than three weeks until voting starts on Oct. 24: Broad differences on the issues. An incumbent displaying a mostly serene demeanor, who calmly landed the punches he wanted to land.

And most of all, two candidates who do not like each other, largely trying to energize their dedicated voters by activating their antipathy for the other guy.

Voters looking for new information or deeper explanations of the candidates’ positions walked away disappointed. On immigration and the border, abortion and property taxes, neither candidate said much new. The closest thing to news was O’Rourke’s seeming pledge to eliminate STAAR testing in schools and Abbott’s promise to make school safety an emergency item for the Legislature. That authorizes lawmakers to move more quickly on the issue than they otherwise could.

O’Rourke frequently put the governor on the defensive. Abbott often began answers by responding to an O’Rourke charge, on immigration, guns and efforts to bolster the power grid.

But Abbott surely hit every item on his to-do list. Right out of the gate, he got in a shot at President Joe Biden over the border, reflecting a fundamental problem for O’Rourke — it’s an uphill year for Democrats nationwide, especially on that issue.

Each walked away with points they’ll gladly emphasize in campaign ads and fundraising appeals. For Abbott, it was the Democrat’s failure to disavow his pledge to confiscate AR-15s and other semiautomatic rifles. O’Rourke twice declined to do so, saying he would want to focus on gun provisions that might actually be achievable in Texas.

Give him points for refusing to flip-flop. But if the Uvalde shooting made that line of attack against him harder for Abbott’s campaign to pursue, Friday’s non-answer revived it.

O’Rourke’s campaign will no doubt emphasize Abbott’s clumsy response to a question he should have seen coming on abortion rights for rape victims. The governor said recently that Plan B, the emergency contraception, was the answer. In the debate, he put the state on the hook for making sure it’s available to sexual assault victims.

O’Rourke will put any hiccups in that availability at the governor’s feet. His campaign wants to drive new voters, especially younger people and moderate women, on the abortion issue. Abbott’s stumbles will be at the center of the effort.

Also noticeable was a lack of much personality or sense of humor from either candidate. They came to fight, and it was clear even in how they addressed each other. O’Rourke started out calling Abbott “the governor,” but soon resorted to “this guy,” more than once. Abbott called his opponent only “Beto,” reflecting Republicans’ contempt for O’Rourke’s accomplishments and the ubiquity of his childhood nickname.

If Abbott is on his way to winning a third term, as it appears, it’s because of a fundamental math problem for Texas Democrats. It’s one that even O’Rourke, who’s come closer to winning a major statewide race than any Democrat in decades, probably cannot solve.

The electorate here, as in the rest of the country, is largely polarized. New polls in the race have shown almost no crossover vote; a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday had 96% of Republicans voting for Abbott and the same share of Democrats supporting O’Rourke.

Republicans still outnumber Democrats. Independents lean GOP: In the poll, they went 53%-46% for Abbott. And all but 4% of people in the poll said their mind was firmly made up, so there’s not much room to make up ground.

That’s why O’Rourke needed a game changer in the debate. The fact that he didn’t get it leaves him mostly with long odds and little time left.

___

Houston Chronicle. September 28, 2022.

Editorial: Sen. Ted Cruz votes against defending democracy — again

The chaos of the attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021, is far from behind us. Congressional hearings are still sorting through evidence while the former president cozies up ever closer with right-wing extremists. Some elected officials are working to ensure that such a scene never unfolds again.

It’s heartening, then, that a bill meant to protect against some of the events of that consequential day has garnered bipartisan support this week in the name of defending democracy.

The Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act would make it more difficult for insurgent interests to overturn the results of a presidential election by requiring more members, one-fifth of both the House and the Senate, to agree to raise such an objection. Currently, it only takes one member from each chamber to do so.

It also clarified several other procedures that former President Donald Trump had tried to use to challenge the 2020 election results, including pressuring the vice president to intervene.

“After 150 years, the Electoral Count Act needs some modest updates,” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “The chaos that came to a head Jan. 6 of last year strongly suggests that we find careful ways to clarify and streamline the process.”

The bill is less restrictive than the version the House passed last week, without a single vote from a Texas Republican, but it won near unanimous support from the bipartisan Senate Rules Committee.

Only one senator refused to vote for the bill that McConnell called “common sense.”

Anybody want to guess which senator deemed the legislation “bad for democracy?” Could it be the Texas Republican who also tried to halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s election to office? The one who, when Trump asks him to jump, says “how high?”

Ding. Ding. Ding.

That’s right, it’s Sen. Ted Cruz, a man whose principles are so limber they’d make Gumby look stiff at the joints.

His plan to delay the certification of the 2020 election with a needless, duplicative audit helped inspire the insurrectionists to attack the Capitol and he kept that hope alive even after, voting to reject Arizona’s election results.

“I think that Senator Cruz knew exactly what he was doing,” Republican Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney said in a podcast earlier this year. “I think that Senator Cruz is somebody who knows what the Constitution calls for, knows what his duties and obligations are, and was willing, frankly, to set that aside.”

Cruz has kept the act up, saying that the election reform bill would reduce “the ability of Congress to respond to the very serious problem of voter fraud.”

Not so. If indeed there is a “very serious” allegation of voter fraud that’s supported by strong evidence, then each chamber should be able to rally support among individual members to challenge the results, even at the higher threshold.

The truth, though, is that while nagging isolated incidents of election fraud still occur, they’re exceedingly rare and firm laws are in place to deal with them. Cases where fraud affects the outcome of elections are almost unheard of in modern times. Indeed, almost everyone in Trump’s orbit has confessed, many under oath, that fraud was not an honest concern in the 2020 election.

A real, honest-to-goodness problem for our democratic republic is unscrupulous politicians such as Cruz and the Texas Republican House members, who would rather play at insurrection than protect America from extremists who are ready to do much more than play.

Earlier this month, Biden broke with his usual practice of not acknowledging the former president whose rallies flirt with fascism, and delivered a speech warning about the dangers to our lauded system of government. “We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise,” he said.

He emphasized that not every Republican embraces extremism.

No, not every one.

But we can name a few.

___

San Antonio Express-News. September 28, 2022.

Editorial: Hispanics remain drawn out of power in Texas

Right on cue for Hispanic Heritage Month , Hispanic Texans have become the state’s largest racial population.

This demographic milestone, long anticipated, reflects the rising Latino demographic nationally. It merits celebration because diversity broadens our shared humanity. We are richer for our national collage of perspectives, experiences, traditions and culture.

What was once known as National Hispanic Heritage Week began in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Twenty years later President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. This year’s theme, “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation,” speaks volumes about how diversity and inclusion strengthen our nation. But it also raises this question: Why are Hispanics still begging to be included in the national political discussion and corresponding representation?

Hispanic Texans surpassed Anglo Texans by more than 230,000 people in 2021, becoming the state’s largest racial population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau . Texas reached more than 29.5 million people in 2021 — an increase of 1.8% from 2019. Statewide, 40.2% — or 11.86 million people — were Hispanic.

In his Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “The Lone Star State’s rich heritage stands as a veritable tapestry of remarkable individuals and vibrant cultures. Its history is a storied saga whose heroes hail from lands near and far.”

Abbott also described our state’s “rich heritage, vibrant culture, and manifold contributions of the Hispanic-American community.” He encouraged all Texans to “celebrate the legacy and influence of Hispanic Texans,” and he asked that “we embrace the diversity of the state while reinforcing the bonds that unite us as Texans and as Americans.”

He urged “appropriate recognition.”

We have no problem with his words, but we urge the governor and all elected officials to do better with their actions.

There’s no question Hispanic Texans historically suffer disparities politically and economically. This is a state whose population grew by 4 million people, of which about 3.8 million were people of color, according to the 2020 U.S. census. But new congressional and state districts don’t reflect this diversity. In fact, these redrawn political maps brazenly weaken the impact of the Hispanic vote.

Racial inequities — also reflected in census data — persist. Hispanic Texans are disproportionately low-income. Hispanic Texans are more than twice as likely as white Texans to live below the poverty level. Although 14.2% of Texans overall are considered poor, 19.4% of Hispanic residents live below the poverty level, compared with just 8.4% of white residents, according to the Texas Tribune. It’s been shown one’s ZIP code can determine one’s destiny .

Texas, which has been governed primarily by white Republican men, has historically discriminated against Hispanics and other voters of color, with political maps that weaken the impact of such voters.

Rogelio Sáenz, a professor of demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio, told us the numbers relate a story of a disregarded population.

“We continue to see Latinos ignored in these discussions with greater barriers put up to keep them from voting and other forms of civic participation,” he said. “Latinos increasingly will drive the future of Texas in all of its institutions, from the economic to the educational, health, political, religious, housing and so forth. More and more, the Texas workforce, consumers, students, patients, adherents, home seekers, will be Latino.”

Hispanic Texans — diverse, influential, rooted in our history and our future — need action, not festive, empty, words from elected state leaders. Strengthening their lives would strengthen Texas. Now that would be something to celebrate.

END