The Battle for Texas: Meet the Democrats

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This is Part 1 in a series about the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race, The Battle for Texas.

Texas Capitol and flag, taken by Jon Wiley.

Texas Capitol and flag, by Jon Wiley.

On Tuesday, March 4, all eyes in America were focused on one state: Texas. People across the state cast ballots for their party’s primary election, leading to some very interesting results from both the Republicans and the Democrats. The current governor, Republican Rick Perry, is stepping down, leaving the Governor’s Mansion in Austin completely open. (As a disclosure, I personally align with the Democratic Party, and I very much hope to see the Democratic Party win this November.)

The Filibuster

The beginning of the battle for Texas really begins in June, when State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) launched a dramatic 11-hour filibuster to block extremely restrictive abortion restrictions in a special session called by the governor that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and impose unnecessarily stricter regulations on abortion clinics and doctors who perform abortions, closing all but 5 abortion clinics. To stop House Bill 2, she had to speak continuously until midnight.

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By Texas filibuster rules, she had to stay completely on topic, couldn’t eat, drink, or use the restroom, and not lean on any desk or chair. After three strikes—first for referencing the Planned Parenthood budget, second for having a fellow senator help adjust her back brace, third for referencing the Texas sonogram law—her filibuster was abruptly ended at 10pm. As the Republicans in the chamber hurried to pass the bill, Democrats challenged lieutenant governor David Dewhurst’s ruling that Davis violated Texas filibuster rules, culminating in State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) slamming her male colleagues and a 15-minute “people’s filibuster” where a packed gallery delayed the vote to stop the bill’s passage.

Governor Rick Perry immediately called a second special session to pass the abortion restrictions, and after making its way to the Supreme Court, a 5-4 decision to not interfere with Texas’ abortion bill allowed the state legislature to set the bill into effect. The last rural abortion clinic closed within the past week.

For a brief video recap of the filibuster (with footage of the filibuster itself):

Neither Wendy Davis nor Leticia Van de Putte are new to the stage. Wendy Davis’ other successful filibuster blocked over $5 billion in education cuts, but Gov. Perry ordered another special session to pass the cuts anyway. However, Davis found herself as an enemy to Republicans, yet the conservative Tarrant County voters reelected her again in 2012.

Despite the HB2 passing in a second session called by Governor Rick Perry, the June filibuster reinvigorated Texas Democrats who haven’t won a statewide election since 1994. Texas has been considered a bastion for conservatives for a very long time, and Texas’ 38 electoral votes are normally guaranteed to go to the Republican Party in the same way California’s 55 electoral votes will go to the Democratic Party. However, Texas Democrats hope to change that, starting with putting Democratic politicians in Austin, the capital of Texas. And when Democrats saw an opportunity with Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, a powerful duo Texas Democrats haven’t seen in years, they urged them to run.

Meet Wendy Davis: Governor Hopeful

Wendy Davis for Texas Governor

Photo by: Marjorie Kamys Cotera

One of Wendy Davis’ most compelling aspects is her personal narrative, one that influences all of her major decisions as a state politician. Raised by a single mother, she worked after school at the age of 14 to help support her mom and siblings. By the age of 19, she was also a single mom who spent time living in a trailer park with her daughter, working two jobs trying to make enough money to survive. She enrolled herself in community college and transferred to Texas Christian University after two years using the help of student loans, scholarships, and state and federal grants. She became the first person in her family to earn a college degree, graduated at the top of her class, and went on to Harvard Law School.

Wendy Davis has always considered education as a major issue for Texas. Currently, Texas falls $3000 below the national average on spending per student, ranking it at a lowly 49 out of 50 despite having one of the largest economies in the nation. When $5.4 billion in education cuts were proposed to be passed in a special session, it’s understandable to see why someone like Senator Davis would be vehemently opposed and willing to talk the bill to death for over an hour.

In the famous abortion filibuster, Senator Davis used her personal story as a reason why she opposed such heavy abortion restrictions that would make terminating a pregnancy exponentially harder for the people who needed it the most. Because of the sonogram law and the 24-hour waiting period after it plus the lack of any abortion facilities in the western half of Texas after the passage of the bill, the people who’d be in the most need of an abortion would not have access to one and would spend more time trying to raise the funds necessary to get the procedure as well as pay for travel and a place to stay between the sonogram and abortion. And in the weeks it takes to do that, the woman may hit the 20-week limit—forcing desperate women to turn to desperate measures such as unsafe abortions.

As someone who experienced what it was like to be a single mother who used education to pick herself up by her proverbial bootstraps, it makes perfect why someone like Wendy Davis would oppose education cuts and strict abortion restrictions. She wants to make sure every Texan has the opportunity to get an affordable education, and that no Texan woman will be forced to carry a pregnancy against her own will.

Leticia Van de Putte: Farmaceutica, Madre, Senadora

Photo by: Janis Daemmrich

Photo by: Janis Daemmrich

Senator Leticia Van de Putte hails from San Antonio, the seventh-most populous city in the United States and second-most populous city in Texas. San Antonio is predominantly Hispanic—63.2 percent of the city is of Hispanic origin—and a Democratic bastion in the state of Texas, making up one of the five Democratic cities of Texas—El Paso, Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, all cities that have voted Democratic in 2010 and 2012 and have mayors tied to the Democratic Party. (The Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of the state is also reliably Democratic.) While Texas Democrats easily hold all the major cities of Texas, it’s the rural and suburban areas that the Texas Republicans win. But back to Van de Putte.

Leticia Van de Putte, a pharmacist, senator, small business owner, and mother of six (and grandmother of six), graduated from the University of Texas at Austin College for Pharmacy and was a Kellogg Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. After a seat was left vacant in a heavily-Hispanic, lower middle class district of San Antonio, she decided to run against the five men who also wanted the seat. This one action spearheaded her many legislative actions and successes in the Texas state legislature, including helping to write and sponsor Texas’ version of the DREAM act. Every time her name appears on a ballot, she wins with numbers ranging normally from the mid-80s to a full 100 percent, and she hopes to repeat her success in the incredibly-tough election this November where she is at a huge underdog.

Van de Putte stresses that she is a sixth-generation Tejana who has not lost touch to her roots, touting that she still lives in the same neighborhoods as her constituents. She holds her pro-business ideals in high regards, using examples of South Texan Republicans who support her lieutenant governor campaign because of these ideals. Speaking at Mi Tierra, Senator Van de Putte emphasized two major themes of her campaign: education and equality.

Her stance on women’s issues, health issues, and immigration are particularly strong. As a healthcare professional, Senator Van de Putte would like to expand Medicaid in Texas, something Governor Rick Perry has refused to do and that President Barack Obama has personally called Texas out on. She supports increased family planning services and an end to all abortions in the state by making them unnecessary, not by cutting off access. She has blasted Perry for vetoing a bill that would ensure women in Texas are paid equally, a bill written by Wendy Davis. While she and Wendy Davis support LGBT rights including the right to marry, she wants to end discrimination in the workplace before dealing with the unconstitutionality of the gay marriage ban in Texas (which is currently going through the courts). And finally, she wants to make sure Texas fixes its broken education system, one that hasn’t accepted the national Common Core Standards—45 out of 50 states have adopted it, plus Minnesota which accepted the English portions—and battles over whether “creationism,” the unscientific belief that God created the world in seven (technically six) days as laid out in the Book of Genesis, is included in its science textbooks. (Even worse is that both Republican lieutenant governor candidates in the runoff have embraced the teaching of creationism in public schools.)

An Uphill Battle

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Sen. Wendy Davis at the Stand with Texas Women Rally at the Capitol after the filibuster. (Photo by: Callie Richmond)

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Sen. Wendy Davis at the Stand with Texas Women Rally at the Capitol after the filibuster. (Photo by: Callie Richmond)

The Texas Democrats are hoping to mobilize the many unregistered Hispanic voters in the state, a demographic that leans Democratic in Texas (but not by as much as in other states). With Tea Party Republican extremists like Dan Patrick poised to run against Leticia Van de Putte, Democrats hope to capitalize on Dan Patrick’s racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric to win the Hispanic vote.

A major issue surrounding the key voting demographics needed by Texas Democrats in order to win (white, suburban women and Hispanics) is the issue of voter ID. After the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and allowed for the disenfranchisement of women, student, and minority voters (all groups that vote Democratic), Texas forced photo IDs to be shown before voting. This unconstitutional law makes it difficult for certain groups, especially poorer Hispanics in southern Texas, who don’t have easy access to an accepted form of photo ID because of time constraints, money issues, and/or transportation problems. For example, students can’t use student IDs to vote, and the distance to travel to get an ID for people in south Texas can be quite far.

Also, the strict law even required the names on the ID and voter registration form to be exact matches; because of small incongruities (Gregory vs. Greg), neither gubernatorial candidate would have been able to cast a ballot for themselves! Thankfully, an amendment (passed, once again, by Wendy Davis) makes it so that if the name is close enough, you can still have your vote counted. The United States Justice Department is suing the state of Texas for this law, and despite requests from the Justice Department and Texas to postpone the trial until 2015, the judge kept the date as September 2 so that it could be dealt with prior to the election.

The issue of abortion also comes up as a wedge issue for Hispanics in the state, as most Hispanics are generally opposed to abortion due to their Roman Catholic faith. Because the filibuster that catapulted Wendy Davis to fame was her abortion one and not her education one, there is no possible way to divorce herself from the issue of abortion, especially when big groups like Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List are rallying behind her. Van de Putte, also a practicing Roman Catholic, does not see abortion as an issue for Hispanic voters, a sentiment supported by research from the Latina Institute. However, Wendy Davis’ significant losses in her primary in border states against a very unknown competitor who didn’t raise a single cent bring that view into question, as her opponent was a pro-life, Hispanic man (more on that in a future post).

“[Latinos] understand that these are very personal and private decisions. They also understand that the four guys that are running for this position make no exceptions for rape and incest, none.” — Sen. Leticia Van de Putte to MSNBC

Naturally, Wendy Davis has come under attack from many pro-life groups. However, she has come under the most attention for her reported “flip-flop” on abortion by saying she would support a limited 20-week abortion ban that would “give enough deference” to women. Conservative opponents weren’t fooled and parts of her liberal base were alienated, but supporters claimed that her view only fell in line with the majority of Americans—the idea that late-term abortions should never be used as birth control and only in cases of rape or incest (Texas Republicans wanted no exceptions).

Most notably, Wendy Davis came under fire for flubbing details about her personal life story. At the age of 19, she was not divorced, but rather separated. She lived in a mobile home with her daughter for “only” a few months before moving into an apartment. Her second husband helped raise Wendy’s first daughter and the couple’s new daughter while she was at Harvard, and he also helped pay for her education. He was granted custody of both children, and Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support. Texas Republicans used this to question how well Wendy Davis did on her own and how much she relied on her now ex-husband for help.

The irony is that the conservatives around the country fail to see how sexist, misogynistic, and hypocritical they are by attacking her. If she was a man, there would be no controversy. There would be no newspaper covers with her face on it asking if she can “have it all,” and there would be no issues with her choosing a career over a stay-at-home mom life. Any 19-year-old woman who finds herself single and pregnant could have easily chosen a much faster and easier path to moving on with her life: abortion. Yet the same people who vehemently oppose abortion continue to judge a woman who has fought against the odds—even if she got help. The same people who claim she couldn’t do it all on her own continue to do everything they can to cut off any sort of government aids and social safety nets for people who need help, people like younger Wendy Davis.

While the Wendy Davis campaign has picked up again and started firing more shots at her opponents—gubernatorial candidate (and current attorney general) Greg Abbott and the unchosen lieutenant governor candidate (either Tea Party-favorite Dan Patrick or current lt. gov. David Dewhurst)—the rough winter Wendy Davis had has hurt her significantly in a race where she has no room for error. She is currently down by a whopping 11 points against Greg Abbott in a February University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, despite being only 6 points behind in early November. However, the February poll doesn’t take into account one of the largest attacks on the Texas Republican campaign: an issue over Ted Nugent.

Next time, we’ll talk more about the Republican contenders, the heavy Hispanic influence (and why Texas Democrats can’t rely on them), more controversy from both sides, and actual policy between the campaigns. As a side note, neither the Democratic ticket nor the Republican ticket will be finalized until after the runoff on May 27, where big races like Republican Lieutenant Governor (Patrick vs. Dewhurst) and Democratic U.S. Senator (Alameel vs. Rogers) will be decided.

Why We Need More Ads Like Coca-Cola’s

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This post first appeared on The Roundup, but because most of you won’t be able to comment on there or won’t see it, I wanted to share it on here as well!

Earlier this month, as the Super Bowl went underway, one ad sparked more controversy than any other: Coca-Cola’s. Despite lasting only sixty seconds, a national conversation on the issue of multilingualism and diversity ensued. Disputes broke out on social media. Both conservative and liberal politicians and commentators argued over whether the ad was anti-American or pro-American. Against the will of detractors, Coca-Cola defiantly aired the ad again during the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics, this time televising the ninety-second version and adding the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” (Latin for “out of many, one”) to the beginning.

So what was it that caused so much controversy? Singing “America the Beautiful” in other languages.

Nine languages were represented in the song: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, Keres, French and Arabic. All of these languages—with the sole exception of Keres, which is a language native to the Pueblo Indian peoples of New Mexico—were brought to the land we currently call the United States, English included. Really, unless you are one of the small percentage of Americans who claim Native American heritage, at some point your ancestors (or maybe even you or one or more of your parents) immigrated here by foot, boat, or plane.

Diversity has been a particularly important issue recently. The idea of “being American” is so widely debated and open to interpretation that no one can truly pinpoint what it means. How much of your “foreign” culture can you retain—whether it’s Irish, Indonesian, or Iranian—and still consider yourself a part of American culture? Does it mean anything if America’s most common last names go from Smith, Johnson, and Williams to Garcia, Rodriguez, and Martinez?

Continue reading

The Year of the Horse Has Arrived

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Gong xi fa cai! So while I know it’s about a week late, the Year of the Horse is officially upon us and the Year of the Snake is gone.

Kuya’s Notebook turned 2 this past week! This blog started back in the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, and every following New Year I celebrate its beginnings. Honestly, if you told me two years ago that I’d still have this blog, I’d be very surprised since I normally don’t keep things around for this long. But I guess that means this blog has to be a keeper!

This Year of the Horse will be a big year—I can just feel it. I want this to be a year of trying out new things and begging to figure out what I enjoy. And of course, I’m sure it’ll be a big year for you all too! Apparently, it’ll be kind of a crazy and unpredictable year but hey, that’s better than a really boring year, right?

Since I’m actually on the run (always busy!) I’ll have to cut this post short. Until next time, have a safe and wonderful Lunar New Year and Year of the Horse ahead of you. Happy New Year!

Joshua

I’m Ready for You, 2014

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Whoa, can you believe 2013 is already gone? The new year came pretty quickly, but it didn’t take me by surprise.

Yesterday, my family and I spent hours cleaning the house, vacuuming, and getting our home ready for the new year to arrive so that luck could come in. I made sure my wallet was filled with money, because an empty wallet means no wealth or prosperity. After going to a friend’s house that night, we rushed home ten minutes before midnight because it’s bad luck to be outside the house when the clock strikes twelve—or so I’ve been told by my mom and grandma.

Within those last ten minutes, we turned on all the lights in the house so that 2014 will be a bright year. I scattered coins outside the door and around the house—on tables, on the ground, on the counters… all so that wealth would be attracted to my home. We turned on the TV and the radios and made a lot of noise to scare away evil spirits.

As the clock struck midnight, I jumped twelve times so that I would grow taller, and we all ate twelve grapes, one for every month of the year—a Spanish tradition that melted into Filipino culture that’s said to bring about prosperity and good fortune. I left the door to my room open, so that the good luck would flow into my room and fill me with good fortune, too.

As quickly as you may have come, 2014, I’m ready for you. Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

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Hi everyone!

It’s about noon here in Dallas, so I thought I’d just pop in and say a quick “Merry Christmas” to you all! For those of you in the Americas, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Christmas Day. And if you’re in Europe, Africa, Asia, or Australia, I hope you had a very merry Christmas!

I was planning on having some more posts up by today, but a little computer catastrophe occurred. Now I’m stuck a few operating systems behind while I wait for my new computer RAM to come into tomorrow so I can re-update to OS X Mavericks, so until then my photos are inaccessible. (They’re on a backup disk, but I need to update my operating system to use the new iPhoto so I can open my photos.) Moral of the story, always make sure you back up everything up!

My family and I just finished opening all of our gifts to each other, and now we have a bunch of gadgets, books, book gadgets, and more floating around the house. None of us really had anything we specifically wanted, so it was pretty interesting trying to get each other gifts this year. But the best part is how we all get to spend the holidays together, and hopefully many more to come!

Hopefully I’ll be back on track with the blogging soon—I can’t wait to share more photos and stories with all of you!

Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The Boy Who Lived: Adventures from Harry Potter World

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I’ve actually never been much of a Harry Potter kid. By the time I was really old enough to start reading the books, the Harry Potter movies were already in to the fourth or fifth one, so I felt like I missed the boat on that one. Plus, I’ve never been much of a “magic” kind of person—unless you’re talking about Disney magic—and my mom didn’t like the first movie because it was boring (the first movie is probably the worst).

In eighth grade, I decided to read the first Harry Potter book, just because. I secretly enjoyed it, even though the unicorn blood stuff at the end weirded me out. When my brother was forced to wanted to read a new book series, I made him recommended for him to read the Harry Potter series in all its magical goodness.

Because my brother read 4 out of the 7 books, his prize was a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a.k.a. Harry Potter World), located in the Islands of Adventure—one of the parks at Universal Orlando. Continue reading

Read My Lips… Racism is NOT Okay!

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slide_317105_2915017_freeLast week, Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American, was crowned Miss America 2014. Hailing as Miss New York, she became the first Indian Miss America. She is the second Miss America to be of Asian descent, the first being Angela Baraquio—a Filipino-American from Hawaii.

As the demographics of the United States changes, it’s definitely not surprising to see more ethnicities being represented in different parts of American culture. The most noticeable is that we have our first African-American president in the White House. And one of the reasons he won was the changing demographics of the United States—there are more “minorities” in the United States now than in the past.

It didn’t take very long for racist, bigoted people to rear their ugly heads and say all sorts of nasty things. Am I surprised? No. But that doesn’t make it right. Here are some screenshots of what some frustratingly stupid and ignorant people tweeted: Continue reading