Editorial Roundup: Texas

Dallas Morning News. March 2, 2024.

Editorial: Texas voters, beware of pro-secession candidates

Some Republican primary candidates have signed an unpatriotic pledge to “take Texas back.”

Today is Texas Independence Day. It’s a day that marks our state’s independence from Mexico in 1836 and the beginning of the Republic of Texas, which soon became part of the United States.

But there are some who take Texas’ famous independent streak a bridge too far. As Super Tuesday approaches, Republican primary voters in Texas should beware. A worrying number of candidates for the Texas House of Representatives and other offices have signed the “ Take Texas Back” pledge that makes them promise to advance legislation to help Texas secede from the United States under certain conditions.

The desire for smaller government and increased state’s rights is valid. But this rhetoric, largely espoused by far-right candidates, is not conservative. It’s unpatriotic.

The pledge asks candidates to promise that if elected, they will place the interests of Texas before any nation or political entity. By signing the pledge, candidates promise to advance legislation to call for a referendum for Texans to assert their status as an independent nation, if a majority of residents are interested.

Over 150 people have signed the pledge so far, including multiple GOP candidates in North Texas. Among them are state House District 65 candidate Mitch Little, one of Ken Paxton’s attorneys during impeachment trial who is now trying to unseat incumbent Kronda Thimesch of Lewisville, and Daren Meis, opposing incumbent Jeff Leach of Allen in state House District 67. Candidates Andy Hopper in District 64 and Shelley Luther in District 62 have also signed on.

Many of these signatories, like Hopper and Luther, are also major beneficiaries of campaign donations from a political action committee called Texans United for a Conservative Majority. The influential PAC that has pumped millions of dollars into statehouse races this primary season is funded by West Texas oil billionaire Tim Dunn. If money could talk, Dunn’s contributions are articulating an extreme new form of conservatism where it’s normal to disavow the United States in the name of freedom in Texas.

Candidates who sign the pledge also signal that they aren’t thinking far ahead about the real-life consequences of their statements. The website for the Take Back Texas pledge does not identify how an independent Texas would be funded in absence of federal money that currently comprises about 30% of our state’s budget. The practical challenges to establishing an independent nation are sizable and cannot be patched over with extreme rhetoric.

Ideologies are constantly shifting beneath our feet, and the level of extremism that the Texas electorate finds acceptable seems to grow by the day. If you’re voting in the Republican primary, we urge you to read, with an independent mind, about candidates before heading to the polls to avoid being surprised after the fact.


Fort Worth Star-Telegram. February 29, 2024.

Editorial: Biden, Trump visiting the border? Whatever. Texas needs action, not more photo ops.

Did you hear that Joe Biden and Donald Trump are visiting the Texas-Mexico border Thursday?

Whoop-de-do, right?

The current president, meeting with Border Patrol and local officials in Brownsville, and the former president, going to Eagle Pass, aren’t bringing any solutions. All either can offer is more politics and rhetoric — and when it comes to the border, we’ve got plenty of both, given the heated primary campaigns wrapping up soon.

What Texas needs is action, short- and long-term. But these rematched presidential candidates are too busy looking for political advantage from an extended crisis that has shot to the top of voters’ concerns in polls — and not just Republicans.

Biden has pushed for legislation in Congress. But with the House and Senate so closely divided between the parties, the compromise offered up was far short of what’s needed. It would have allowed too much illegal immigration to continue and failed to adequately reform asylum laws.

Now, Biden is relishing Republicans’ rejection of the bill against them. That’s politically smart, but it will go only so far. The current crisis is squarely on Biden’s ledger. It doesn’t help him, either, that he can’t seem to decide whether he can or should use executive action to at least set new priorities for border enforcement.

Trump, of course, is a chaos agent as usual on the matter. He reportedly pushed congressional Republicans to hold off on the bill — or at least they perceived that was in his and their best political interests. So, we’re treated to the head-scratching spectacle of leaders declaring an unprecedented emergency that can wait until after November’s election to address.

Trump can surely be counted on to take sweeping executive action if he’s elected. But much of it will be bound up in court, and the next Democratic president can easily reverse it. Neither party is willing to compromise enough to actually get some of what they want codified into law, so we play ping pong between conservative and liberal approaches and never get to the long-range immigration issues that the country must address.

We’ve said that rather than try to solve everything all at once, Congress needs to build toward consensus. First, act on border security and asylum to stem the tide. Then, the parties can negotiate on things Democrats prioritize, such as the status of “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. at a young age, and top Republican concerns, which now include what to do with millions of migrants who’ve entered the country illegally during Biden’s term.

For now, as Biden and Trump will show us Thursday, everything is in the political realm. The issue might get a little better for Biden thanks, ironically, to Gov. Greg Abbott thumbing his nose at the president’s administration over the situation in Eagle Pass. Abbott refused to remove razor wire placed by the state, and the feds haven’t forced a confrontation over it, other than in the legal system. Illegal immigration through the area has dropped dramatically as a result.

But Biden has a huge deficit in polls over which candidate voters trust on the issue. He needs to shore up the Hispanic vote, too. A slow but sure shift to the GOP is evident among Mexican-American communities like the ones Biden and Trump are visiting.

Let’s try not to forget the human consequences, either, of both rampant illegal immigration and the reaction to it. In Georgia, a nursing student out for a run last week was killed, and a Venezuelan immigrant has been charged in the crime. The suspect, Jose Antonio Ibarra, was reportedly released into the country in 2022 despite being caught entering illegally.

It remains true, as immigrant advocates point out, that migrants commit less crime than citizens. But it’s also a fact that if not for such loose immigration policies, Riley would still be alive.

Closer to home, Attorney General Ken Paxton is targeting a small Catholic charity, Annunciation House of El Paso, accusing it of helping smuggle migrants into the country. The group says it helps homeless migrants who need shelter and assists with asylum applications. Perhaps it crossed a line, but given Paxton’s history, it’s just as possible he’s using the courts for maximum political gain on the issue. And his lawsuit could have a chilling effect on the groups that spend considerable money and effort to help immigrants who desperately need it.

Let’s hope this real-life harm on all sides of the issue stays front of mind as the predictable politics of the Biden/Trump show play out.


Houston Chronicle. February 29, 2024.

Editorial: How to vote five times in Texas without breaking the law

Vote at more than one polling location and you could end up in jail. In Texas, it’s a felony. Same for sending in multiple mail-in ballots. Don’t try it, folks.

Yet, there is a legal, underutilized way to have the impact of five voters —and maybe more: vote in the Republican or Democratic Texas primary.

We asked Rice University political science professor Mark P. Jones to calculate how much more impact Texas primary voters in the spring have compared with those who only show up for the November general election. We know that turnout in the primaries is typically abysmal: so far, as of Tuesday, only 120,000 Harris County voters out of the more than 2.6 million who are registered have voted early in the ongoing primary. We expect that number to be roughly 375,000 by Election Day on March 5. That’s less than 15% of the electorate deciding who will represent Texans in making national and state laws, and upholding them in the courts.

So few primary voters in a state that also sees low turnout in general elections is a vexing problem that tends to result in a small gaggle of party faithful or hyper-engaged activists picking more extremist candidates to govern. But, if you think about it, for those who do show up, it’s an opportunity to supercharge their voting power.

How so? The few voters who participate in primaries are essentially speaking for the majority who stay home. They get an outsized say in choosing Texas’ next elected leaders because, in large part due to gerrymandering of redistricting maps, many of the candidates who win primaries are shoo-ins to win in November. So, in Texas, the primary isn’t preliminary. In effect, it’s the main event.

Since 1994, every single Republican who has won the primary for statewide office has gone on to win in the general election in Texas. The November election voters are merely “rubber stamping” the primary voters’ picks, Jones says.

The math for Republicans works out this way, according to Jones’ calculations using turnout in the past two election cycles: In 2020, a little over 2 million Texans voted in the March Republican primary compared with 11 million in the November general election. In 2022, the turnout was nearly 2 million in the primary versus 8 million in the general. That means that the primary GOP voters had the same electoral impact as 5.6 November voters in 2020 and 4.2 November voters in 2022.

Of course, the GOP voters who show up only in November still matter — without them, the GOP wouldn’t dominate — but in terms of selecting candidates, not so much.

For Democrats, the math is even more compelling, at least at the local level. In Harris County, Democrats have swept nearly every county-wide race since 2018. Per Jones’ calculation, one voter in the 2022 and 2020 Democratic primaries “had the same electoral impact as 6.6 and 5.0 November voters.” This year, he says, one Democratic primary voter in the race between incumbent District Attorney Kim Ogg and her challenger, Sean Teare, for example, will likely have “the impact of six or seven voters in November.” That’s a remarkable level of power.

“Far too many Texans view the March primaries as akin to the NFL pre-season, when in fact they should be looking at the primaries more as equivalent to the Super Bowl,” Jones told us.

Almost nothing riles us up like people who have the right to vote but don’t. Shame may well motivate some: it’s your obligation in a free and self-governing society. Clarity on the nature of primaries may benefit others: they’re for everybody, not just card-carrying partisans, and in Texas’ open primary system, any registered Texas voter, regardless personal political ideology or affiliation, may vote in either primary.

But today, we mostly appeal to your sense of agency. Your yearning for empowerment. Your desire to reach your highest potential.

If you haven’t already, put on your cape and mask — not the robber kind because this ain’t breaking the law. Sub the super hero tights for a voter card or acceptable ID. Get informed by reading the Chronicle’s news coverage and the editorial board’s endorsements at houstonchronicle.com/voterguide. Find out where and when to vote at harrisvotes.com.

Then, get out there and vote! Early voting ends Friday. Election Day is Tuesday March 5.

No more griping about how your vote doesn’t count. In a Texas primary, it counts many times over.


AIM Media Texas. February 27, 2024.

Editorial: We hope Biden’s visit to Valley proves to be more than just another campaign appearance

President Joe Biden is coming to the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday. It must be campaign season.

The White House announced Monday that the president would come to Brownsville to talk to border personnel and local officials. It’s his first visit to South Texas, and just his second to the U.S.-Mexico border.

We’ve heard enough talk; what we need is someone to listen.

Perhaps we should be more impressed; he is the president of the United States, after all. Truth be told, we’ve seen presidents before, since Bill Clinton began visiting the area. This has been a favorite spot for Donald Trump, who coincidentally also will be on the border, at Eagle Pass, on the same day.

Let’s hope Biden uses the opportunity to learn about the border from the people who actually live here. That certainly would set him apart from the dozens of other officials who have merely used such trips as taxpayer-funded publicity stunts. But we aren’t holding our breath.

Plenty of congressional leaders and other national and state politicians — including from other states, who really have little business here — have come to the border. So we know the routine. They meet with the top brass at the Border Patrol, exchange pleasantries with local elected officials and then make a public statement in front of an appropriately photogenic backdrop — the border wall for conservatives and detention or processing centers for liberals. Then they go on their merry way, content with the knowledge that the photo op will be broadcast nationwide.

Meanwhile, back on the border, we see little evidence that the semblance of attention they brought to the area will amount to anything.

The president’s visit isn’t likely to be any different in this age when appearances seem to matter more than accomplishments. That’s unfortunate — for Biden, the border and the nation as a whole.

He’s is in a race for his political life and his legacy after a half century in politics. He could lose his reelection bid to the most unpopular, and poorly rated, president in American history. And it’s primarily because of the complicated mix of border security and immigration that both of these men, and their predecessors, have allowed to fester for decades. Even the post-pandemic economy is drawing less attention.

We need more than a mere appearance from the president.

We need him to talk to people who actually deal with the issue. Have congressional leaders invite them to Washington to inform policy makers about what’s really going on and what’s really needed. Hear from Border Patrol personnel who deal with immigration issues directly, of course. But also hear from local officials whose budgets are shattered by the strain of mass immigration; from service workers and volunteers to deal directly with immigrants and know why they keep coming; from farmers, shrimpers and other contractors who need the labor many immigrants can provide; perhaps even from migrants themselves to know what happens if we simply shut our doors as some people want.

We’ve seen enough publicity stunts from visiting politicians. We need visible evidence that they’re serious about fixing the problems that they — yes, they — have created at the border through their inaction.