State Comptroller

State Comptroller Hustle – Where are the Women?

CombsThis week, Susan Combs, State Comptroller, announced she will not seek re-election to the post and will not seek any other office.  She is done.

This immediately set off a flurry of activity among potential Republican candidates.  Some announced immediately, like Senator Glenn Hegar.  Others are considering running, including the inimitable Tom Craddick, former Speaker of the Texas House and one of its longest serving members. Other names bandied about include Senator Tommy Williams and Rep. Harvey Hildebran.  Former Tea Party candidate for Governor, Debra Medina, has also announced her commitment to run.  This blogger hasn’t seen any indication of Democrats announcing for the office, only Republicans.

Susan Combs has had a long career in Texas Politics and Texans have liked having a woman as Comptroller.  For the last several years, she has been the only female among the 6 single office state wide elected officials.  There is a woman on the Texas Railroad Commission and a few women among the state wide judicial offices.  However, there is no question that among state offices, Combs has been the ranking female.

I teach Women in Politics at the University of Houston.  As a part of my ongoing research for that ever-changing course, I study women elected officials across the U.S. and beyond.  Americans truly like to put women in charge of money.  Two-thirds of elected budget positions in the U.S. are held by females.  Studies indicate that voters “trust” women more to manage money.

In Texas, we once had a State Treasurer.  This position launched Ann Richards and Kay Bailey Hutchison to higher offices.  Both of them held the position prior to being elected Governor and U.S. Senator.   Another woman, Martha Whitehead, took over the office.  The office was abolished in 1995 by Texas voters.

In 1998, Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn, was elected State Comptroller and a female has held the office since then.  Strayhorn served from 1998 through 2006 when she ran for Governor.  Combs was elected to the open position in 2006.

Yet, among the candidate names we hear being bandied, there is only one female – Debra Medina.  She will run as an outsider.  Will the party apparatus get behind her?

And where is the pipeline for women candidates?  With the retirement of Hutchison as U.S. Senator and the retirement of Combs,  female officeholders in Texas are dwindling rapidly.

If the Democrats were smart, they ought to find a strong female candidate with budget experience and run her for State Comptroller.  They don’t really have much of a chance in a statewide election but a strong female would be better than most.

Thanks to Susan Combs for carrying the torch statewide.



texas senate

Sine Die!!!! Just Kidding……..

Just when we thought it was actually over and we could exhale our collective breath, the Governor called the Texas Legislature back into Session.

For the first time in several Sessions, the Legislature got along a little better this year.  They worked together to address some of the major issues facing the state like water and education and they even managed to pass a budget, though it was down to the wire.

One of the reasons they got along so well is that the leadership kept a focus on the major priorities of the Session and didn’t allow some of the more controversial issues to surface.

Never fear!  That great divider, redistricting, is the major call for the Special Session which the Governor called immediately.

Exhausted Legislators must now move into self-preservation mode and as I have frequently discussed, tackle one of the most complex topics of the day.  Nothing is more challenging than for a body of elected leaders to “fairly” approve districts that represent all Texans.

The Governor simply wants the Legislature to approve the maps drawn by a San Antonio Federal Court and used for the last election cycle.  However, the Court is due to convene again this week to discuss the case and determine if the Voting Rights Act is still applicable in Texas.

Democrats, who were not enthusiastic about the plan to begin with, will make their case in the Legislature but they have little influence.  During the Regular Session, the 2/3 rule applies in the Senate that prevents legislation from being put forward without a 2/3 majority of support.  This allows Democrats to fight down some of the legislation they see as most offensive.  In a Special Session, the 2/3 rule does not necessarily apply, though the Democrats are calling for it to be used.

At this point, the only issue on the Call is redistricting.  However, the Governor may open it up to include some of the more controversial issues of the Session that did not make it through the “peacful” process.

This blogger believes that redistricting is at the root of our troubled democracy and has significantly impacted competition among campaigns.  It is always unnerving when the process carries itself well into the decade when it should only be done every 10 years.

Check out the redistricting category for more.


senator garcia

Senate 6 Solved

The voters of Senate 6 have spoken.

After a grueling election that spurred extreme negative politics, they came out in greater numbers than anticipated to make their choice.

The good news is that more than 18,000 voters cast ballots.  In the first round, only about 15,000 people participated.  While it is not a record turnout, these are good numbers for a spring election.

And the race was not as close as expected.  Garcia won victory with a strong 53% of the vote.

Carol Alvarado remains in her position as a State Representative and will continue to speak for many constituents in Senate District 6.

The challenge now will be for the community as a whole to put the negative campaign behind them.  Garcia and Alvarado were so closely aligned politically on the needs of the area that attacking each other became the differentiator in the race.

Austin players also became very important during this campaign.  Steve Mostyn, a Democratic trial lawyer,  and many unions backed Garcia.  Alvarado had support from the business community and from the Texans for Lawsuit Reform.  As a sitting State Representative, the business community in Austin knew that they would be working with her either way.

So, score one for the labor and trial lawyers in this race.

Congrats to the people of Senate District 6.  At least now you will have a Senator to speak for you in the critical final 3 months of the Session.

And, congrats to Senator Garcia!




Immigrating the State of the State

Tuesday, January 29 was a big day in politics.  President Obama presented his plan for immigration changes that will primarily affect America’s Latino population.  Previously, a bi-partisan committee of U.S. Senators also presented a plan. While the details of the plans will be hotly debated over the next few months, it may be that immigration reform will be passed this year.

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry laid out his State of the State speech before the Texas Legislature.  After 13 years of serving as Governor, he shared with us that he will “scrub the budget” and look for ways to refund taxes to Texans.  Personally, I found it fascinating that there is still more budget to be scrubbed.  Governor Perry has had 13 years to clean up the budget and the Legislature has been completely controlled by Republicans since 2002.  The budget ought to be fairly well scrubbed.

Meanwhile, he also suggested using a portion of the Rainy Day funds for the state’s water plan.  This is a truly critical policy issue for the State of Texas.  In the early 1990′s, then Lt. Governor Bullock told me that “Water, Nancy, it’s going to be all about water next century”.  And that has proven so very true.  Texas must address our complex water management issues.  Apparently, the still “in need of being scrubbed” budget, cannot find any additional funds for water management so they will use Rainy Day funds.  Doesn’t matter to me – just do something!

The Governor also mentioned infrastructure and charged the Legislature to fund improvements.  Thank goodness.  With all of Texas’ growth, our roads and infrastructure are not keeping up.  I hope they can scrub the budget and find more money to fund highways.

Perry  touched on education policy without going into too much detail on funding.  Most attributed this to the pending lawsuit against the state by a number of school districts.  It is expected that the Legislature may have to address funding in a Special Session after the court rules.  School-choice remains a hot topic for the Session as well as testing reforms.

Governor Perry, I do want some money back.  How about providing more education funding so my local property taxes decrease?  For all the budget “scrubbing” over the last few years, more costs have been passed to local governments.  This has caused significant local tax increases.  If the state could figure out how to help solve that problem, most Texans will benefit.  Hey, we don’t have a income tax in Texas but if you own property, you pay serious taxes.

Interestingly, the Governor did not address immigration reform.  He’s leaving that one to the feds but plenty of legislators have ideas, including how to separate Texas from federal “mandates”.

It’s going to be a fun year!



No Clarity in Senate 6

On Saturday, voters cast their ballots for a new Senator in District 6.  The heavily Latino district had an abysmally low turnout and provided little clarity for weary observers and constituents who lack representation.

There were 8 candidates that filed for the position and the Saturday election just allowed the two front-runners to confirm their standing.  Former County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia actually finished ahead of Alvarado by 600+ votes.

To analyze the election more deeply, Garcia was stronger in early vote.  As we expected with her organization support and endorsements, teams deployed effectively across the district and turned out voters for absentee and early vote.  On Election Day, Alvarado finished with a 33 vote lead over Garcia.

The Governor has not yet called a date for the Run-off election so the two women have to keep their voters motivated, their organizations strong and fundraising active.

The Run-off election will be a shear game of turnout.  The candidate that is best organized and best funded will win the election.  Towards the January 26th election date, Alvarado spent a burst of money on television advertising.   Paid media is often referred to as the “air war”.  “Air wars” are most effective when a large turnout is expected.  Garcia seems to have remained focused on the “ground war”, a well-organized effort to turn out her voters.  Garcia also ran ads and Alvarado had a ground war engaged.

For the run-off, the election will be all about the “ground war”.  The candidate that is able to turn out their voters will be the ultimate victor.  Garcia has a slight advantage with money at this point but both will be adequately funded.

A couple of things are certain for Senate 6 – EVERY VOTE COUNTS!  The next Senator from District 6 will be a female!

Weary politicos who were engaged in working, donating and/or just observing this race before the November elections will have no peace.   The fundraising window for City of Houston elections in November opens on Friday, February 1.  The letters requesting funds for 2013 and the invites to fundraisers are already printing………



Ponderings Potpourri

All hail Friday!  What a week it has been.  We started with the celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday and the Inauguration of our President.

The President’s speech was a shout out to all those who helped re-elect him as he touched on emotional topics.  Interestingly, he didn’t speak much about guns but that is the issue that is swirling all around the nation.  The President and various bills introduced by U.S. Senators, called for by Mayors and filed in State Legislatures are single-handedly driving up the sales of guns and ammunition.  I find the whole thing humorous as people work themselves into a frenzy on both sides while the gun manufacturers ride the wave and make ever more money.

I do not believe that anyone in Texas is in danger of losing their right to bear arms.  Furthermore, we have bills introduced in Austin to allow you to carry your weapon openly, without concealment.  I think I prefer that actually.  At least I will know who to pick an argument with versus who not to.  Meanwhile, our Lt. Governor has called for providing teachers with arms training and arming them in the classrooms as well as beefing up school security.

And what about Hilary Clinton?  Her long awaited appearance to testify before Congress on Benghazi created a dramatic event worthy of Oscar-wining performances for her and several  Members of Congress.  I was only able to follow on Twitter initially and then headed to a TV set because of all I was seeing from reporters Tweeting.  Alas, when I hit the office’s panel of TVs, more of them were devoted to Beyonce and her possible lip-syncing at the Inauguration than were showing the hearings.  The bits I did see looked like pure entertainment, though.  Who needs reality shows when you can stuff like this?

Meanwhile, back home, the Senate District 6 election is this Saturday.  If you vote in that District, be sure and cast your ballot.  Carol Alvarado and Sylvia Garcia lead a field of 8 candidates.  Most observers anticipate a run-off between these two but who leads into the run-off and by how much may be a good indicator of an anticipated eventual outcome.

Hope you like the new look of Ponderings!  Let us know and we’re back in action now.



2013 = Wild Political Ride

Welcome to 2013!  There will be so much to ponder this year that we tremor with excitement just thinking about it all.

First up will be the Special Election in Senate District 6.  I don’t know about you but I have seen numerous commercials for Carol Alvarado and Sylvia Garcia throughout the holidays.  We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.

Even before the Special Election, the Texas Legislature will convene on January 8.  No doubt this will keep us all entertained between now and the end of May.

The President will give his State of the Union speech in late January and we will ponder if Congress has any hope of accomplishing anything this year.

And to bring it home, it is a City of Houston election year.  The fundraising window opens in February and candidates are already lining up.  We anticipate that Mayor Parker will have a strong opponent in Benjamin Hall and others may follow suit.  There are three Council Members term-limited so they will generate competitive races and a few incumbents are certain to face opposition.

Other local elections may involve school districts in the region seeking to emulate the success of HISD’s bond election and seeking their own bond approvals.

It will be an exciting year!

Housekeeping:  A few things to note about Ponderings.  We are planning an upgrade to the site so bear with us as we work to improve.

“We” versus “I” – I, Nancy Sims, author Ponderings.  However, I have a number of  team members  and sources that work with me.

News 92.1 FM – Every Monday morning, at approximately 9:44 a.m., I will be discussing politics with Dennis Spellman on News 92.1 FM.  We are working to be able to add the audio files to the blog, in case you cannot tune in at that time.

Again, thanks for you support!




The Lege is coming, The Lege is coming

Hold on to your pocketbooks and your property folks because the Texas Legislature is on it’s way. In just a month, January 8, 2013, the Texas Legislature will convene for it’s 83rd session.

The Texas Constitution, as you probably know, states that the Texas Legislature will meet once every two years for 140 days. Isn’t it amazing that Texas can run the business of a 20+ million population state for a few months every other year? Yes, it is amazing. And frankly, may be a good part of the reason that our economy thrives while other states face tougher economic recoveries.

When the legislators convene in 2013, they will still have to face many tough issues. The state’s population and accompanying demands continue to grow. We must educate an ever-expanding number of children. We must maintain roads for the ever-expanding population. We must provide public safety and prisons to protect the people. We need to address excessive health care demands and changing federal policy. And, there are a few other issues that need to be evaluated as well – access to higher education, state parks, tort reform or not, and the thousands of tweaks to antiquated laws to keep Texas functioning.

Hey, don’t you want this job? It pays $7200 a year and you can live in Austin part of the time, working nearly 24 hours a day. What? You can’t live in two locations, work like a maniac and take care of your family on that salary? Neither can most. Thus, those that can are who represent us. Keep that in mind.

This year’s legislative session promises to be full of excitement, intrigue and debate over state’s rights versus federal mandates. The economic picture is rosier than in the past but education and other issues must be budgeted.

The budget will be the overriding theme of this session.

So hold on tight as the Legislature is coming in just a few short weeks.

The Bushes are Back………

As you may have heard, George P. Bush – grandson of George H.W. Bush, has filed paperwork to launch a political campaign in Texas in 2014. George P. is young, energetic and half Latino. He may be just what the national GOP needs.

We really have to pause and think about how long the Bushes have been a part of Texas politics. Bush 41 was first elected to Congress from the Houston area in 1966. He was a rare breed indeed – a Texas Republican. The state was then entirely dominated by Democrats. He sought office for the U.S. Senate but did not win.

So, since the 1960′s, there has been a Bush on the ballot at least every decade. George H.W. Bush dominated the ballot during the 60′s, 70′s, and the 80′s. George W. Bush was elected Governor of Texas in 1994 so he dominated the 90′s and then was elected President in 2000, thus dominating that decade as well.

You didn’t really think we would let this decade slip by without a Bush on the ballot did you? No way. By the time George P. runs, it will have been 6 years without a Bush on the Texas ballot and that must absolutely be corrected.

All the same, George P. is a fresh face and may be a remedy for the Republican party as it strives to update its image and to be more current with voters. He is handsome, part-Latino, articulate and has worked hard to organize younger Republicans. Word has it that he is a bit of a charmer as well.

2014 may still seem a long way away to you but in the world of politics, it is tomorrow. There is much discussion on all fronts regarding who will seek what seat and will Rick Perry run again?

Watch for lots of politics at play once the Legislative Session begins.

And, of course, stay tuned to Ponderings…….

They are off and running – Senate District 6

The Governor has yet to declare a Special Election to fill the vacancy in Senate District 6 caused by the death and posthumous re-election of Senator Mario Gallegos.

But, that hasn’t stopped the candidates. They are off and running. Instead of visions of sugarplums, they have visions of voters on their mind this holiday season.

State Representative Carol Alvarado announced her candidacy surrounded by the Gallegos family and with their blessing.

Former County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia announced her candidacy surrounded by volunteers and loyal supporters.

Both candidates enter the fray with sizable campaign warchests and a strong work, campaign ethic.

Has the field rounded out yet, though? Republican nominee R.W. Bray said he intends to run again as well but that is a bit of a sleeper. Even though he would have a better chance in a special, he is still not likely to garner many votes in this strong Latino district.

Rick Noriega is evaluating his interest in seeking the seat and considering a run. He is a former State Representative and was the U.S. Senate nominee for the Democrats in the past. He has deep east end roots and his wife, Melissa Noriega, is currently an At-Large member of the Houston City Council. Either of them would toss an interesting twist into this already competitive race. If they don’t enter, watch to see if they make an endorsement.

Meanwhile, in Austin, the Governor remains silent on his plans for calling the Special Election. The start of the Legislative session is quickly approaching. Will the East End have representation or will they have taxation without representation?