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!


September 11

2001 was an amazing year for me personally.  My son was born, we moved into a new home around Labor Day and then the world changed.

As we all know,  September 11, our nation was attacked.   I will never forget the moment.  I was holding my 6 month old in my arms before I headed out for morning meetings and was tuned in to Good Morning America.

The main thing I will always remember about that day was the amazing images of our first responders, fire fighters and police.  When everyone was rushing out, they were rushing in to save as many people as they could.  Many lost their lives as a result.

Recently, my son was asking me about the day.  We had visited the site in New York a few years ago.  I realized that he didn’t know there were attacks elsewhere and we engaged in a deep conversation about the day.  While it has always been a part of his life, I was stunned at how little he actually knew.

For most of us, it feels like it happened yesterday.  For him, it was literally a lifetime ago.  He is old enough now to understand and learn more about it.  While he has no memory of the actual event, he and his generation will forever by seriously effected by what happened that day.

So as we pause for a moment of silence today for the events that occurred in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., let’s take time to be sure the younger generation understands what happened and how it felt for all of us.

In honor of all of those who lost their lives on 9/11/01 and those that have continued to fight for our freedom.




Political Lessons from Facebook – Endorsements

This blogger has learned a tough lesson recently.  It has been my practice to “like” multiple candidate pages on Facebook.  As a blogger and periodic radio commentator, I have felt that it was my duty to view the way campaigns engage in social media.

In fact, the Social Media Director at the paying job and I have occasionally analyzed social media engagement of the various campaigns and we plan to do that again this year

For these reasons, I have liked many of the candidate pages on Facebook and follow many political figures on Twitter, Instagram and more.  In some cases, I have been friends with candidates for years prior to their running for office.

But I have learned my lesson.  It seems that Ben Hall’s campaign for Mayor has purchased Facebook advertising.  Kudos to him and their team.  I’m sure this is a valuable way to enhance their followers.  However, these ads have been telling a number of people that I “like” Ben Hall and they should too.  Since I have a high volume of Facebook contacts that includes a vast array of friends, professional associates, clients, current and former students, and many more, I have been asked repeatedly why I’m endorsing Ben Hall.

I could not understand why this was happening until one of my close friends explained to me the way it appeared on her Facebook feed.  I immediately responded with “I liked Annise Parker too!”  But her campaign is not advertising so no one seems to know.

This is a good opportunity to reiterate that this blog nor its author make public endorsements in any campaigns.  As a long-time political observer and formerly an activist, I have truly arrived at the point in my life when analysis is my preferred path of thinking.  I try to share an objective point of view that brings in my years of experience, political science education and general knowledge of state and local politics and government.

Let me be clear – I have not endorsed anyone in the Mayor’s race.  I will continue to bring you the best objective analysis of the race.  I appreciate your reading of my blog.

And finally, let me just say that even an ole’ pro like me can periodically be tripped up by the new technologies.




Hot Texas Summers Scream for Escape

It is true.  The Blog and its writer have been on a bit of a vacation this summer.

Vacations from the Texas heat are such a blessing.  My son and I have just returned from a “cool” trip to the PacNorthwest, including Washington state and Canada.

The temps were cool.  The snow-capped mountain views refreshing and whale watching took us back to true nature that spans thousands of years.

Vacations are so critically important for our sanity.  Culture Map shares a story today that Houstonians are some of the hardest working people in the country.  Click here to read more.  All the more reason we need vacations.

Of course, we did stumble into the middle of election season in Washington state.  Seattle was having a heated Mayoral campaign with an August 6 election date as well as numerous elections around the state.  It seems we can never escape from American democracy.

Texas has clearly been politically heated this summer with two special sessions, passage of landmark abortion legislation, a return of activism that hasn’t been seen in a couple of decades, the retirement announcement of  Governor Perry and the Republican musical chairs that it triggered.  And, of course, we cannot forget the upcoming City of Houston elections.

We’re back in the mix and will be writing about it all again.  Hey, if you haven’t done so yet – take a vacation!






You Have No Privacy, Get Over It

“My privacy has been violated”, came the outcry from the American public.  “The NSA is reading my emails!”

Get over it people.  You have not had privacy during most of your lifetime.  Tracking back to the beginning of credit – as early as the mid-1800s – we began sacrificing our privacy for purchasing power.  By the mid-20th century, the plastic credit card entered our universe and we gave up ever more information.  Credit cards have always tracked your purchases and targeted marketing accordingly.  You’ve had a credit report since the moment you were issued a Social Security card which is currently when you are born.

The government has tracked your income, your every job and home location since the inception of taxes.

As we moved into the social media era, we take pride in “sharing” our information with the world.  Some of you go to extremes with privacy settings but most people can be located in seconds on a search engine and much can be learned about you – of your own doing.

And then, we scream because the government might be reading your emails or listening to your phone calls.  I find the irony of this whole outcry extremely humorous.  While the government shouldn’t be “spying” on you, the bulk of most emails, texts and phone calls are so inane that I pity those who have to track them.  Additionally, the  data they are tracking is so voluminous that they have tracking software to help ferret out the most important trails of conversation.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can only imagine my own “file” in the NSA or other government entities.  As a Professor, I research everything from global topics to pornography.  I assess the role of women in many countries to how they are treated in the entertainment industry.  That should certainly garner someone’s attention.

In my professional life, I work with clients from all over the world.  Our firm’s clients are located in multiple countries and even our North American based clients have offices and operations in numerous locations around the globe.

To top off all of that, my son has had some interesting countries for research projects the last couple of years – the currently volatile Mali and Yemen.  That should have raised some eyebrows, particularly when he and I became obsessed with the sport of camel jumping…..

Surely, through all of this, the government has taken some interest in my patterns of behavior.  But really, I don’t mind.  I’m not doing anything wrong.  If they want to watch what I’m doing, I hope it provides some form of entertainment to someone who thinks this person is “weird”.

The bottom line is that we have gradually and willingly given up our privacy over the years.  People have been decrying “big brother” for decades.  Unless you are doing something wrong, you really have nothing to worry about!


houston recycling contest 2013


houston recycling contest 2013If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I’m a big fan of recycling.   At least two or three times, we have published about Houston’s limited recycling program with the “accepts all, big trash can”.  I have written of my envy for those neighborhoods that have them and screamed for my own.

Now is our chance!  Houston is a finalist for a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies that will allow “ONE BIN FOR ALL”.  It would transform garbage collection in Houston and help us to significantly reduce waste.

According to the City’s own press release,  “With One Bin for All, residents can put soda cans, paper, plastic, food scraps, rubber, wood and glass into one bin-then technology does the rest!  By relying on state of the art technology and new process systems to sort trash from recycling, Houston would be able to achieve recycling rates of up to 75 percent. ”

Here is the link:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/vote-mayors-challenge.

Come on friends and fans!  This is a contest and Houston is one of the largest cities in the mix.  We can certainly muster the most votes and win this thing!  Imagine Houston being a leader in recycling.

That would certainly boost our image of a hip, cool city!

You can vote more than once and you have through March 6.  PLEASE VOTE NOW AND AGAIN AND AGAIN!  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/vote-mayors-challenge.

Let’s do this thing!



Mike Driscoll

Rest in Peace Mike Driscoll

Former Harris County Attorney and admired politico Mike Driscoll passed away this week.  While you will hear many tributes and appropriate statements, none of them will capture the spirit and laughter of a much beloved civic leader.

Mike Driscoll genuinely loved public service.  He believed it was the highest honor to be trusted by the public to work for us.  He put 100% of himself into the job and sought to share his passion with anyone he met.  His passion infected so many others that you can see his touch across many elected and civic leaders in Houston today.

Mike Driscoll was also passionate about young people.  I was incredibly blessed to meet him when I was in high school and volunteering for my neighborhood State Representative, Tony Polumbo.  Mike ribbed me a little and told me that I was weird to be so interested in politics at such a young age.  However, he saw the spark and latched on.  He was a Justice of the Peace at the time and I had not ever met anyone quite like him.

When I headed off to college, I told him that my professors didn’t believe I should major in Political Science without getting a teaching certificate.  He told me to stick with my plan.  Please remember that these were the days before social media and email.  It took actual phone calls or in person meetings to connect.  In my 18 year old mind, he was an elected official and took time for me and encouraged me.  As I progressed in my college career and became ever more politically active, he supported me all the way through.  Then, he offered to come up and speak to one of my programs and visit with a few of my Professors.  I was so touched and overwhelmed.

He did come and spoke to a group, a couple of classes and visited with my Profs.  He told them they should support my degree plan because leaders in Houston supported my path and that he knew I would work in politics.  Can you imagine how this felt for a young woman trying to bust the barriers of “girls don’t belong in this business”?  You cannot imagine how empowering it was for me.  It also became a goal of mine to live up to these expectations that “Judge Mike” and “Rep. Tony” placed on me.

And I am just one of hundreds of young people that Mike touched.  When he was elected County Attorney in 1980, he hired a team of young, aggressive lawyers  and staff to help him transform the office of County Attorney.  Vince Ryan, the current Harris County Attorney, was one of them along with several people on his staff.  Dana Kervin, Chief Political Officer of the Houston Association of REALTORS, was a staff assistant to Mike.  He believed in the enthusiasm and dedication of young people and helped many of us on a life-long path in the business of politics.

Mike Driscoll also taught us that good public service meant working with everyone.  He said that once you were in office, the issues are the public’s issues and not about party.  Of course, he governed in a different time when getting the business of government done was more important than posturing and positioning.  As a Democrat, he worked with the Republicans on Commissioners Court peacefully and with integrity.  Don’t get me wrong though, outside the courthouse, he was a true Democrat and supported strongly other Democratic nominees.

Mike also taught us about integrity.  He would always tell us to do “what is right for the people”.   He said that we should always operate in the people’s interest, working ethically and honestly.  His own integrity was impeccable.

This especially came true as he battled his diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease.  He completed his time in office and dedicated himself to staring down the challenges of his illness.  He handled it with his usual sense of humor, integrity and commitment to doing all he could to get better.

While I never worked for Mike Driscoll, his support and commitment have always touched my life.  I have been blessed to know him.

Rest in peace Mike!


Football Mania

O.K.  I admit it.  I’m totally wrapped up in football mania.  Go Houston Texans!  I always love an underdog too and clearly, our beloved Texans are being considered such in Sunday’s playoff game against the New England Patriots.

Why does it mean so much to us?  Why does it mean so much to Houston?  Take away all of the base level of Americans love for the game and look at how a city loves its team.  And, in our case, an entire region and many across the State of Texas will be rooting for the “home” team.  Even some beleaguered Cowboys fans will join in the cause.

Local governments have invested billions in stadiums across the U.S.  They will provide incentives and issue millions in bonds to help attract and retain a football team.  Again, why?  Because a winning football team helps to make your town legitimate!  It increases tourism, bolsters recognition, guarantees national coverage for your city, and boosts the spirits of the citizens.

Houston is raking in recognition from national magazines, media and more regarding our successful business climate.  Yet,  our businesses that compete for employees across the globe still struggle to recruit the best and brightest to our fair city.

Let’s top off the year with a championship for our city!  Let’s win the ultimate recognition.  We’re used to being the underdog and struggling for respect.  Let’s bring that can-do spirit to Sunday’s playoff game and prove we can do it!

I believe!  Go Texans!


Farewell Senator Gallegos

Senator Gallegos and I first met when I was a young Legislative Aide working in Austin for then State Representative Tony Polumbo. I was from Galena Park/ North Shore and he was from nearby Magnolia. Tony was a serious supporter of Fire and Police issues and the Fire Fighters frequently dropped by our office.

Senator Gallegos was a frequent visitor to our office. As we got to know each other, I thought he was one of the funniest people I met among the serious lobbyists that come around during a legislative session. He always put the intensity of the daily debate into a humorous perspective and taught me not to take my young, earnest self too seriously.

As he ran for State Representative, I joyfully cheered him on, knowing that his great sense of humor and irony would provide even more perspective to the Texas House. Once elected, I watched him become an intense fighter for the people he represented. While he maintained that great humor, he became very serious about issues.

As he moved to the Texas Senate, he became ever more serious. He was a fighter for the underdog every day. Sometimes, he came off so intense that people would recoil a bit and when he did, you clearly understood his position.

By then, I was a lobbyist for business. The Senator never hesitated to tell me exactly what he thought about my issues. He would say, “Nancy, I can’t believe you’re working for that bidness issue. You’re just wrong on this one but you’re still my friend.” I always loved the fact that he told me straight where he stood and consistently maintained his position. We would still share a laugh.

Whether we agreed or not, I always admired his tenacity. None more than when he went to Austin, seriously ill, to stop passage of a Voter Identification bill he thought would hurt his community and discourage voting. Senator Gallegos shared that many of his constituents used public transportation and did not necessarily have a driver’s license. He had a hospital bed installed in the Senate as he was recovering from his liver transplant. During this time, my two favorite traits about him shone through – his intensity and passion for public service and his sense of humor. He was making fun of himself, even though he was seriously ill.

The East End of Houston, that he represented, has flourished in recent years. It is sad that the Senator will not fully savor the renaissance of his core neighborhoods and constituencies.

Few people come along in life that have fully dedicated themselves to public service. Senator Gallegos began saving lives as a young fire fighter and continued his service by fighting for his communities.

Personally, my best memories of him will still be him sidling up next to me – whether as a fire fighter watching legislation, a State Representative, or a State Senator – and whispering under his breath a remark that would make me laugh out loud at an inappropriate moment. When I think of this Mario, I still smile.

Farewell my friend and thanks for giving your life to public service.

Women in Politics – 3390

Today is my first day of class teaching at the University of Houston and the celebration of my tenth year doing so.

Each semester is a new adventure. During the last ten years, I have been privileged to teach different courses and meet many amazing, wonderful students. Due to my increased work and life responsibilities, I have only taught one class for the last few semesters.

That class is Women in Politics – 3390. Admittedly, I love this class and the students who enroll in it. The hunger to learn about women’s history of engagement in the political process and the honor to teach it are mutually beneficial to me and the students.

Each semester, society engages in some new activity that also presents endless fodder for the subject matter’s current events discussions and women in the political process. This year, the opportunities for discussion are endless. We’ll be able to focus on individual women seeking political office as well as the mere topic of women as it plays out during the Presidential election. This is that rare semester that comes only once every 4 years where I will have the opportunity to teach as the nation selects its leader.

My absolute favorite thing about teaching at the University of Houston is the students. One of the most diverse campuses in the nation, UH students reflect society’s rapidly changing demographics. The mix of students enrolled in the class always teach me as much as I teach them – about cultural differences around the world, about amazing women who have overcome the odds, and about what is like to be the first generation in your family to break expectations and attend college.

My passion for teaching this class allows me to share with students the importance of having good mentors. As a result, many students reach out once they have graduated and we stay in touch for a long time. Many former students land jobs in the public affairs arena and I then have an opportunity to work with them as professionals. Four of my former students are on the staffs of Council Members at City Hall and I see and talk with them frequently.

During a recent vacation, I connected with a former student in Chicago and his charming girlfriend. He had just finished law school in Illinois and we have always stayed in touch. My son and I joined he and his girlfriend at their favorite pizza place. I posted a picture on Facebook. When I came home, people asked me about it. My response, “Yes, I stay in touch with students who want to stay in touch. I’m so proud to see them succeeding in the world and share their joy!”

Countless letters of recommendations have been sent to law schools and graduate programs and innumerable calls and emails have provided advice on political engagements, jobs and much more.

I can’t wait to meet the class of Fall 2012 today and start our adventure together!