Beyonce and Feminism

On Tuesday of this week, I had my first day of class with this semester’s Women In Politics students at the University of Houston.

To wake them up for the early morning class, I created a short playlist and it included Beyonce’s Rule the World and the spoken word Feminist Interlude.

It helped to spark an intriguing discussion among students. When I asked if Beyonce was a feminist, some said yes and some said no. One gentleman bravely said that she was “too sexual to be a feminist”. I couldn’t have planned it more perfectly! I asked the class what a feminist was supposed to look like and laughingly said “an older white woman like me?” There were actually a number of positive responses.

How can people question whether or not Beyonce is a feminist? Why should this even be a topic of debate? I’m lost. I find her commitment to the cause exciting and hope that she is leading a new generation of women and men to embrace the term.

Since she was a part of Destiny’s Child, Mrs. Carter has performed songs that speak to female empowerment. Her Rule the World song that is currently generating discussion is exceptionally strong. Seriously here are a couple of the lyrics “Who runs the world? GIRLS” and “Our persuasion can build a nation” How can we even question that these lyrics don’t inspire young women.

As I said, this is not her first dive into the feminist discussion. Last year, she published an essay in the Shriver Report by Maria Shriver. Click here to read it.

In my humble opinion, this dynamic young women proves the EXACT point of feminism. You can be beautiful and sexual, married, a mother, have a successful career and support equality for all women.

Thank you Beyonce! Thank you for speaking out and empowering women across the globe!

2014 Texas Political Battle

Back to School and Back to Politics

Across most of Texas, students from pre-K through college return to school today. My teenager and I both return to school as well. I’ll be teaching though.

I love the start of a new semester and a new school year. We get to make all new resolutions and the students come ready to conquer the world. It will be an exciting semester for me to teach Women in Politics with female candidates all over ballots this year and a few females talking presidential politics as well.

It’s also back to politics. As families get the kids back to school, they will slowly tune back in to politics. Most consider Labor Day the official kick-off of the political season and that is probably still accurate. However, in the world of permanent campaigns, it is really the final stretch for the candidates.

We’ll keep our eye on happenings in Texas and Harris County with an occasional glance across the country, when appropriate. It has been a volatile summer on many levels. Will issues such as Ferguson stir more voters to the polls? Will significant areas of international unrest cause more Americans to pay attention to their divided home government who can’t agree on solutions?

Wendy Davis, Democratic Candidate for Governor, has already launched attack ads on her opponent who seems to be basically ignoring her presence. Abbott’s strategy worked well for Rick Perry in the past. He is clearly operating on the theory that recognizing your opponent empowers them.

Meanwhile, the Lt. Governor’s race seems to have captured more attention than Governor. After an embattled and bitter Republican primary, Dan Patrick has taken the summer to shore up his base and refill his campaign coffers. Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee, has been making tracks all across Texas and trying to inspire lackluster voters that the election matters.

In Harris County, we have a heated race for District Attorney between two female candidates – incumbent Devon Anderson (R) and challenger Kim Ogg (D). They have already garnered media attention and the race proves to be one of the most interesting battles in a county that splits its votes.

Harris County is one of the few in the state that remains in play as a “swing” county. We should see lots of action this year.

So happy back to school to all and back to more traffic, too. Welcome to a heated Texas political season!

2014 Texas Political Battle

What is a Party Platform?

Since the recent Republican revival meeting, I mean Party convention, there has been much hue and cry about the platform.

The platform included language that appears to be out of step with societal norms, even among conservatives. The most obvious of these was a statement calling for the “reparative therapy for gays” which means that gays can be rehabilitated. There are also statements on the role of women and children in society and bashing of international organizations. Overall, it is a most entertaining document to peruse and will make you wonder when it was written, this century or the 19th century.

Party conventions are even more conservative than party primaries. As you know, this blogger always refers to party primaries as the “family feud.” If the primary is the family feud, the convention is the gathering of the family, with plenty of discord and debate over who will ultimately inherit and all the dysfunction of any family. If only 10-15% of eligible voters vote in primaries and only a few of them become delegates to a convention……. Hopefully you are getting the picture. This is the most loyal and committed element that plays at the convention level.

The Democratic platform will also represent the most extreme version of its party membership. Granted, after 20 years out of power in Texas, they are a smaller bunch with less discord. They are not arguing over slices of the pie but to even move from the children’s table and have access to the pie.

Many bloggers and other inside players have written extensively about the Texas Republican platform and the national media loved playing with it to illustrate those crazy Texans, once again.

Ultimately, though, that is the last you will hear about it. Will Wendy Davis dangle the Republican platform in front of her opponent? Will he remain loyal to it? He has to win a general election with many urban voters and will distance himself from the more radical elements of the document. He will claim that he doesn’t believe this or that and couch his phrases carefully.

This is the way it has always been. The state conventions of summer provide a modicum of entertainment for the insider crowd of political theater observers. In the end, the platforms are not relevant to the campaigns and the focus will turn to personalities.

The question remains – will anyone vote or does anyone out there even care about the leadership of Texas?


2014 Elections

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The Republicans and Democrats have now set their ballots for 2014 and the election moves from the shadows to the mainstream voters.

Primaries really are family feuds where loyal partisans struggle amongst themselves to select their banner bearers for the general election.

In 2014, the Democrats had a rather smooth path and have been able to maintain party unity. They have not won a statewide election in 20 years and have assembled a strong ticket, for the most part.

The Republicans, however, have battled for control of their party all year. Twenty years of power has left them with deep internal battles and scars as they presume their nominees will be the winners.

The late primary run-off season creates a shorter healing period from their brutal primary battles while the Democrats have been focused since March.

Will this matter in the general election or will Republicans maintain their iron grip on Texas’ elected offices?

The one race that may be the most telling will be for Lt. Governor. Dan Patrick has secured the Republican nomination and has alienated many mainstream Republicans in the process. Yet, he handily won his primary run-off and has deep support among the party faithful.

The Democratic nominee, Leticia Van de Putte, has deep roots as well and is universally popular among Democrats. She’s Latino and has a good back story to present to voters.

Of great interest is that both of these nominees are current State Senators. It has been many years since a State Senator held the office of Lt. Governor. It means that the victor will enter the office ready to govern, appoint committees and manage a Legislative Session.

In our opinion, this match-up will be the one to watch in 2014.



The Never-Ending Campaign: Presidential Politics

If you have been paying attention to politics since the first of the year, you should be recognizing the signs of the coming 2016 Presidential election.  As of this month, we are just two short years away from the 2016 primary season.

Presidential politics are in full-swing at the insider level.  President Obama will finish his tenure in office and we will definitely have a new President.  If you are going to run a billion dollar business in a short time frame, you have to start early.  In 2012, the two Presidential candidates raised and spent more than $1 billion each.

Thus, it is safe to say that the elections are underway.

This has been most clearly evidenced in the persona of Chris Christie.  Christie has been leading all other candidates in early polling for presidential candidates.  He was beginning to capture the label “front-runner” for his party’s primary.   Thus, the scrutiny of his tenure in office as Governor of New Jersey has intensified.  He is now facing at least two investigations.

Dominating the news has been the issue with traffic management and retribution.  Is Chris Christie a bully?  Does this necessarily harm his chances?  Many politicos and academics have varying opinions on the potential harm of this investigation to his image.  Personally, I think this is one he can emerge from and still become a viable candidate.  However, the second investigation begins to create a pattern.

The second investigation has been less discussed but is still very significant.  It seems that some of the federal Hurricane Sandy relief money may have been tapped to allow Christie to show his family and appear on TV even more frequently.

The combined investigations serve to put him under ever more scrutiny.  It is questionable if will hold up well under the spotlight.

Meanwhile, more and more investigative reports are being released on Benghazi and the bombings of the U.S. Embassy that resulted in loss of lives.  As you may recall, Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State at the time of this event.  The lingering questions revolve around whether or not Clinton made bad decisions or knew more information that might have provided better protection.  Of course, Hilary Clinton, though unannounced, is considered a front-runner for the Democratic nomination for President.

Alas, our own Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, has been making frequent trips to primary states.  He is giving speeches to Republicans and capitalizing on his popularity from his filibuster as well as conservative positions.

Many others are doing the same.  If you want to start paying attention to presidential politics, watch who is speaking in Iowa and New Hampshire!

Let the races ……. advance, as they have already begun.

2014 Texas Political Battle

2014 – A Very Political Year

Ponderings is back for a very exciting and politically intriguing 2014.  Of course, we have upcoming statewide elections for U.S. Senator, Governor, Lt. Governor and many other offices.   The new Houston City Council is being sworn in today with 6 new Members that will change the politics of that entity.

Statewide Elections promise to be very exciting beginning with the primaries on March 4.   The Republican primaries are clearly far more interesting than the Democratic races.  However, the Democrats have some hotly contested races as well as 5 people seeking the privilege of opposing incumbent U.S. Senator John Cornyn.  He also faces a primary challenge from Congressman Steve Stockman in his own primary.    I would say it is a safe bet that Cornyn returns to D.C. but most pundits never predicted Ted Cruz so I will just wait and watch this one.

Beyond the primaries, the race for Governor should provide solid entertainment throughout the year as well as the race for Lt. Governor.  It is a fairly safe bet that Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott will be facing off for Governor and Leticia Van de Putte will be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor.  In fact, the Republican primary for Lt. Governor may be the most fascinating Republican primary race.  We’ll be looking at it more closely as the year progresses.

Meanwhile, local government will continue to churn.  6 new Council Members will bring their own thoughts and perspectives to the discussions of city government and no doubt spark new approaches to debates at the Council table.  Mayor Parker enters the year stronger than ever and should be able to successfully push through many of her goals for her final term.

She has decided to put some of her energy into changing term limits.  We’ve written extensively about term limits over the last few years and will follow this debate closely.  Parker has signed on to a push led by Council Member Bradford to seek to change the limits rather than abolish them.  It will be an interesting discussion.

2014 may also be the year we learn the fate of the Houston Astrodome, our iconic facility that pulls at our heart strings but serves no purpose at the moment.  Harris County Commissioners Court will make the decision of what happens to the structure.

We’ll ponder all the politics and a little of life along the way.

Thanks to all my loyal readers and Happy New Year!




City Elections, Astrodome, Water and more

We are just days away from Houston’s Election Day.  The Election is Tuesday, November 5.  You can still early vote through Friday at 7:00 p.m.

This election has been especially odd but people do seem interested in the outcome.  At least, they seemed to have tuned-in during the last couple of weeks.  Early vote totals indicate that many are interested.

The Mayor’s race was expected to be much more intense but seemed to fizzle out towards the end.  Initially, most of the pundits regarded Ben Hall as a serious contender to face Mayor Parker due to his ability to self-fund his campaign.  Pundits also like good political theater.

However, Mr. Hall has let down most everyone in that regard.  While he has spent lots of money, he consistently hit the wrong note with voters.  He went dark on TV while Parker steadily blasted him with attack ads.

Council races also seem to be flying slightly below the radar.  When I ask any average voter (non-immersed politico) about At-Large Position 3, they look at me blankly.  When I name a few of the candidates running they sometime have a glimmer of recognition.  A number of people have seen the billboard Roy Morales has on 1-10 at Silber.  Many have heard of or seen signs for Michael Kubosh.  If they are party connected, they probably know Rogene Calvert, Kubosh or Morales.  Some know Roland Chavez has been a fire fighter and inner loopers seem to know Jennifer Rene Poole.  This race is anybody’s best guess.  Pundits think Kubosh wins but most won’t predict who is in a run-off with him.

Council Districts A, D and I have intense campaigns going on in their communities.  Again, unless you speak to someone who knows them, it is hard to measure the outcome.

Meanwhile, the fate of the Astrodome will finally be decided by voters across Harris County.  Will sentimentality overcome a tax increase?  That is one of the biggest questions facing voters.  Are you willing to pay more taxes to save Houston’s beloved landmark?  I think this one may squeak by.  It helps that Reliant Park officials are holding an Astrodome memorabilia sale just prior to the election.  It will remind everyone of the good times they had there.

Water is probably one of the most important issues on the ballot.  Proposition 6 will allow Texas to better plan for our water needs in the future.  The prolonged drought in parts of the state has had a significant impact on agriculture while rains wash away other parts of the state.  When speaking with a pundit in Dallas last week, he told me the Prop. 6 supporters are very worried since it has been raining so much in Houston this fall.  I told him to give us a little more credit.  Bottom line is that Houston/Harris County voters will have the most impact on the outcome of this election.  This blogger recommends a vote for Proposition 6, strongly.

If you need to learn more, please visit the Voters Guide produced by the League of Women Voters.  It provides unbiased and clear information on the candidates.

Consider yourself informed!  Now, GO VOTE!!!!!!






Mayoral Forums – Final Thoughts

Last week, I took in a Mayoral debate and a Mayoral candidate forum.  Between the two, I was able to see the full slate of contenders for Mayor.

The Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum on Thursday and Houston Public Media (KUHT and KUHF) hosted a debate on Monday evening in conjunction with the League of Women Voters.  They also assisted with the Women’s Chamber forum.

We previously discussed the debate last week.  At the Women’s Chamber, it was an actual forum with a much shorter format.  Two candidates who had not participated in the debate were in attendance.

This field of candidates is truly interesting.  There are genuine grass-roots people running for Mayor.  Some are not so well spoken.  Some have a specific agenda they are espousing.  One is just downright funny and one is very angry.  When Mayor Parker and Ben Hall are in the mix of the field, they shine.  Mayor Parker has refused to meet Ben Hall one-on-one and insists that all candidates be invited when they have accepted forums.

Personally, I have enjoyed this exposure to the “also-rans” as they are often called in politics.  It makes me feel so much better about our democracy.  The guests at our table for the Women’s Chamber were not so enamored and were a little stunned.  Several of them pointed out that “anyone can run for Mayor”.  EXACTLY!  We live in a democracy and isn’t it great?

When I look at what is happening in Washington and I see the collapse of respected dialogue between elected officials, I am sad for democracy.  But when I look at a field of 9 Mayoral contenders, I feel better.

One of the problems with D.C. is the lack of competition in our system.  Most Members of Congress are elected from such lopsided partisan districts that they are answerable only to the most extreme loyalists of their party.  Sure, there is competition in the primary process but less than 15% of voters usually participate.  General election competition has dissipated completely and thus, we have a Congress that only talks to those who will re-elect them and not do what is in the best interests of the American public.

So rejoice!  Study up on the multiple candidates seeking office in Houston this year.  You can access the League of Women Voter’s Guide by clicking here.  

Early voting starts on October 21 so prepare yourself to participate in genuine democracy.

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Mayoral Debate Post Mortem

On Tuesday night, Houston Public Media and the League of Women Voters hosted the only televised Mayoral debate of the campaign season.

They invited all of the candidates to participate and 8 of them agreed to join in the conversation.  Debates with 8 candidates can be a bit tedious but some of them offered comic relief to the otherwise serious candidates.

Of course, the primary focus was on Mayor Parker and her main challenger, Ben Hall.   The format of the debate and the number of participants kept the conflict a bit lower than might otherwise have been the case.  They managed to exchange some barbs but the impact was nominal.  They both repeated information that has otherwise played out in the press.

To a person, the candidates laid blame for Houston’s atrocious street conditions at the feet of the Mayor.  Each and every one took some of their time to comment on the need for street repair.  The Mayor remained poised, confident and did not become defensive in light of the criticism.  She explained the process for improvement as if she was teaching a class.

Kudos to the moderator and to the panelists.  The panelists did a great job with their questions.  They included Laurie Johnson from KUHF, Doug Miller from KHOU – Channel 11, Pedro Rojas with Univision and Mike Morris with the Houston Chronicle.



Houston City Elections – District I

We previously analyzed District D with its 12 candidates and the impact it may have on the Mayor’s race.  In our continuing series on Council races, we will focus on District I.

Like District D, District I has no incumbent.  Council Member James Rodriguez has served his full terms on Council and is prohibited from seeking re-election.

There are 4 candidates in the race.  Each has a distinct perspective and alignments with other elected officials.  The candidates are referenced in alphabetical order.

Leticia Ablaza was formerly a Council staffer to Council Member Helena Brown.  She has also volunteered on a variety of campaigns.  She is a long-time resident of the district and drew nearly 40% of the vote when she opposed Rodriguez in 2011.

Gracie Garces is Chief of Staff to the current Council Member.  Given her experience in working with him, she has deep ties to civic clubs throughout the district as well as the support of Rodriguez and State Representative Carol Alvarado.

Robert Gallego is a civic activist with deep ties in the district.  He has served as a civic club president and has worked on most major projects in the area for years.  He formerly worked for then County Commissioner and now State Senator Sylvia Garcia.  She is actively campaigning on his behalf.

Ben Mendez is a businessman with deep ties across Houston’s Latino community as well as strong political connections.  He is by far the best funded candidate and is running a well-organized campaign.  However, his opponents accuse of him of “not living in the district”.  While he did relocate, he has been active in the community for a long time.

The candidate field is strong and should bolster turnout.  However, this district historically has a low voter turnout.  It doesn’t seem that Parker or Hall are investing heavily in winning the Latino vote while they focus on other communities.

This district will have a higher than normal voter turnout due to the competition of the aforementioned candidates.  However,  it will not likely have a major impact on the Mayoral candidates.