Friday, March 29, 2013

Senate District 19

Senate District 19 as we know it today has been around since about 1994/1995.  Since that time it was held by Democrat Frank Madla.  Locals remember the 2006 primary when then State Rep. Carlos Uresti (D) defeated Madla for the Senate seat.  SD 19 is huge, to say the least, going from Bexar County/San Antonio to El Paso.  It's almost a mirror of Congressional District 23.  I'll let Sen. Uresti's website provide a little more info on this district:
Sen. Uresti represents Senate District 19, which covers more than 35,000 square miles and contains all or part of 17 counties, two international ports of entry, ten state parks, 51 school districts, almost 9,000 miles of highways and county roads, and more than 29,000 producing oil and gas wells. The district is larger than 11 states and 124 Nations, and contains almost 400 miles of the Texas-Mexico border.
The best Senator this district ever had, must have been Quintus Ultimus Watson.  What a great name.  He represented SD 19 from 1907 - 1915.  SD 19 was also represented at one time by Alvin J. Wirtz (D).  For anyone who has read Robert Caro's books on Lyndon Johnson, you've definitely run across him.



Obama - 54.6%; 116,477
Romney - 44.1%; 94,159

U.S. Senate

Sadler - 52.5%; 109,461
Cruz -44.4%; 92,556

Which state fits here?  Hint: go west...literally

It's the Land of Enchantment: New Mexico.  New Mexico has been known to be a battleground and so has this district.  Technically Wendy Davis represents a Republican district, so SD 19 has the distinction of being the most marginal Democratic seat in the State Senate.  Obama carried New Mexico by 10.15% and carried this district by 10.5%.  Sadler won here by 8.1%.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Update: $30 Minimum Wage Increase

A couple of days ago, it was mentioned that the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) wanted a $30 minimum wage increase.

A response has come from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
Australia's lowest paid wage earners would receive an extra $5.80 a week under a proposal from employer group the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

In its reply to the ACTU's pitch for a $30 increase to the minimum wage, the ACCI says many small businesses would suffer if the ACTU's claim was approved by the Fair Work Commission. 
Unlike in the United States, a government agency, not the Legislative or Executive Branch, sets the minimum wage.  No doubt though, if we tried to set up a agency in this country to regulate the minimum wage, it would get caught up in the political parlor games.

What's interesting is not that the unions are probably not going to get the $30 increase they want.  It's that they are going to get an increase.  Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce lobbyists, a proposal to raise the minimum wage never gets anywhere in this country.  But I forgot, we're the greatest country on Earth.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Senate District 18

Back when this district was first established, it was in Bexar County and held by Jose Antonio Navarro.  Nowadays this district is more southeast, comprised of a number of counties in between Houston and San Antonio.  Think Victoria County and it's surrounding counties.  For most of the 80s, this seat was held by Democrat John Sharp until he was elected Railroad Commissioner.  After Sharp came Democrat Ken Armbrister who kept the seat until his retirement in 2006.  Republican State Rep. Glenn Hegar then won the already Republican seat.  This was one of those areas of state the voted Republican up and down the ballot, but if an incumbent Democrat was conservative enough (i.e., Armbrister), they might keep him around for a good while.



Romney - 67.3%; 198,175
Obama - 31.5%; 92,809

U.S. Senate

Cruz - 66%; 191,068
Sadler - 31.8%; 91,964

We've seen this state twice already.

It's Oklahoma, making its third and final appearance.  Romney won by 33.54% in Oklahoma and won by 35.8% in this district.  Cruz won here by 34.2%.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

$30 Minimum Wage Increase

You read that right.  In Australia, the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) wants a $30 increase in the minimum wage.  From ABC News:
The Australian Council of Trade Unions is pushing for a $30 a week increase to the minimum wage.

The union will ask the Fair Work Commission to grant the increase to 1.5 million low paid workers.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver says the government has created the economic conditions to make a significant increase affordable.

"We've been concerned for some time that there has been a significant gap emerging between the minimum pay and what the real average weekly earnings are," he said.

"So the claim that we're seeking today will lift the rate from $606 to $636 - but that is still less than what average wage weekly earnings are for the rest of society."
Of course with any talk of a minimum wage increase comes the usual talking points from big business...wait for it:
But Innes Willox from the Australian Industry Group says the wage increase would destroy jobs.

Employers are expected to back a smaller wage rise.

"We all have sympathy for low paid workers, let's make that very clear, but wage increases have to be affordable and workable for the broader economy as well, and they need to be wage increases that allow jobs to be created not jobs to be destroyed," Mr Willox said.

"Unfortunately this claim falls into the latter category.

"It would make it very difficult, nigh on impossible for some employers, particularly those in small businesses or in regional areas to afford to keep staff or engage new staff."
At a Senate Committee hearing recently, there was push back just to raise the minimum wage in the U.S. to $10.10.  And we're the greatest country on Earth?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Useless Senate Trivia

This is the current state composition of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.  From the Committee's website:
While special committees have no legislative authority, they can study issues, conduct oversight of programs, and investigate reports of fraud and waste.

Throughout its existence, the Special Committee on Aging has served as a focal point in the Senate for discussion and debate on matters relating to older Americans. Often, the Committee will submit its findings and recommendations for legislation to the Senate. In addition, the Committee publishes materials of assistance to those interested in public policies which relate to the elderly. 
The average age of all the members of the committee: 57

The oldest member: Orrin Hatch (R-UT), 79

The youngest member: Ted Cruz (R-TX), 42

Senate District 17

In 2008 this was a seat Democrats had high hopes of winning in a special election.  It was a seat that Democrats did win.  In the first round of voting the two Democrats combined for 52.2% of the vote.  Unfortunately, Republicans recruited a faux Democrat to ensure that the vote was split...and it worked.  Instead of having State Sen. Chris Bell (D), we got State Sen. Joan Huffman (R).  This seat has been in and around Galveston since its early days.  For a long time this seat was held by A.R. 'Babe' Schwartz (D).  Schwartz was one of those die-hard liberals while in the Senate.  He lost in 1980 to Republican 'Buster' Brown.  Brown held the seat til he resigned in 2002 and then Republican Kyle Janek took over.  Like his predecessor Janek resigned, in 2008, and a special election was held...and we're back to the present.



Romney - 59.4%; 178,241
Obama - 39.2%; 117,562

U.S. Senate

Cruz - 59%; 175,206
Sadler - 38.4%; 113,903

We've seen this state before.

It's Tennessee making its second appearance.   Romney carried Tennessee by 20.4% and this district by 20.2%.  Cruz won here by 20.6%.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Senate District 16

Republican John Carona has held this seat since 1996 when he won it in a special election.  From 1996 - 2003 he represented primarily Dallas County along with a small portion of Rockwall County.  After the 2003 redistricting, his district became wholly within Dallas County.



Romney - 57%; 159,759
Obama - 41.6%; 116,603

U.S. Senate

Cruz - 56.1%; 154,612
Sadler - 41.1%; 113,239

The state that best matches this district hits close to home.

It's Texas.  Romney carried Texas by 15.4% and won SD 16 by 15.78%.  Cruz won here by 15%.  In terms of Republican-majority Senate Districts, this was the 2nd closest district.  SD 10, won by Wendy Davis, was the closest Republican-majority district followed by SD 16.

When it comes to putting the state senate in play, this is a seat Democrats should consistently target.  Is it a tough district, yes.  Under these lines McCain won here 55% to Obama's 43.9%.  In SD 10, McCain won 52.1% to Obama's 47.1%.  In 2012, no statewide Democrat cracked 42%.  Percentage-wise the best statewide Democrat in 2012 was Michele Petty who lost 53.72% - 41.9%.  Let's face it though, if Democrats want to take back the Legislature and crack the Republican stranglehold on statewide offices, Democrats are going to have to win in tough districts like this.

Having said that, what are some reasons to challenge Carona?

1) It's in Dallas County.  Taking advantage of the changing demographics here, Democrats seem to have consolidated their 2006 wins with 4 straight sweeps.  How good have they've gotten?  In 2010, they defeated the incumbent Democratic County Judge in a primary and still managed to elect a Democrat to County Judge.  Did I mention that was 2010?  It's never easy to hold an open seat, but for Democrats to do it in 2010, is pretty good.

2) It's the next logical step for Democrats.  You've got the countywide vote pretty secure.  Now you need to go after elections that aren't countywide, but are confined to districts.  State Rep. Linda Harper Brown (R) continues to be a perennial target (and rightfully so), as well as a number of state rep districts, but what a coup it would be to defeat Carona.

3) You have a plethora of potential candidates.  Republicans defeated 4 Democratic state reps in Dallas, but gave Dallas Democrats some possible candidates for the state senate.  Depending on where they live you have: Kirk England, Carol Kent, Robert Miklos, Allen Vaught.  Right off the back, I'd go with Vaught.  Wounded vet who served in Iraq, then the State House, and who is now with Baron & Budd.  He brings experience, and could probably raise the money necessary for this race.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Senate District 15

Some seats are boring others are really boring.  Senate District 15 falls into the "really boring" category.  I say "really boring," only because since 1982 it's had one Senator: Democrat John Whitmire.  Serving that long gets you at least one get to be known as "Dean of the Texas Senate."



Obama - 58.9%; 132,125
Romney - 39.7%; 89,030

U.S. Senate

Sadler - 57.3%; 127,255
Cruz - 40%; 88,763

What state lines up with SD 15?  Hint: Joe Biden

It's Delaware, the First State.  Obama won there by 18.63% and carried SD 15 by 19.2%.  Sadler won here by 17.3%.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Election of Pope: Predictions

The papal conclave begins voting to see who will be the next Pope.  Predicting who will be the next Pope is futile, but I'll make some predictions nonetheless.

The next Pope will be: A male
# of ballots: 6 - 7
# of days for the conclave: 3, last day will be (i.e., Pope will be elected on) Thursday

As far as the name the next Pope will choose, that's anyone's guess.  Some interesting tidbits:

Of the first 4 Gospels, only Mark and John have been taken as a Pope's name.  John being the most popular at 21 Popes.  So far no Matthew or Luke.

Of the first 12 Apostles, only Peter and John have been taken as a Pope's name.  So far no Andrew, Bartholomew/Nathaniel, James, Judas, Matthew, Philip, Simon (the Zealot), Thaddaeus, or Thomas.

Of some later Apostles named in the New Testament, only Paul has been used by some Popes.  No Andronicus, Apollos, Barnabas, Junia, Silas, or Timothy.

Senate District 14

It's interesting to look at the movement of Senate (as well as House) Districts.  We sometimes get into this mindset that because a district has been based in one area for numerous years, it must have always been there.  SD 14 has been based in Austin/Travis County since 1953.  Like so many districts it moved around.  It's the only Senate District to have had a Senator from Washington-on-the-Brazos.  For anyone needing a refresher, Washington-on-the-Brazos is known as the Birthplace of Texas, because Texas delegates formally declared their independence from Mexico.  There was also a senator from Truit's Store in Shelby County (The senator in question was James Truitt, so I think this might be a misspelling and should be Truitt's Store).  It's apparently not known where one Senator came from.  Sen. John Miller served in the 1st and 2nd Legislatures and came from Unknown in Colorado County.  But I digress.  In 1973 a special election was held for the seat in which a guy named Lloyd Doggett won.  He'd go on to be a State Senator, State Supreme Court Justice, and currently a Congressman.  After him came Gonzalo Barrientos who held the seat from 1985-2007.  It's current occupant is the former Mayor of Austin, Kirk Watson.



Obama - 60.2%; 193,112
Romney - 36.1%; 116,001

U.S. Senate

Sadler - 59.4%; 187,717
Cruz - 34.7%; 109,877

This being mostly Austin (or if you're a Republican, The People's Republic Travis County), you know it's going to be Democratic.  But how Democratic?

The state this district came closest to is Massachusetts.  Obama carried Massachusetts by 23.14% and won SD 14 by 24.1%.  Sadler won here by 24.7%.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Senate District 13

There really isn't much to say about SD 13.  It's currently held by Democrat Rodney Ellis who won the seat in 1990 in a special election after Craig Washington resigned to become a Congressman.  The seat hasn't moved or changed all that much.  When Ellis won the seat it covered Fort Bend and Harris counties.  It briefly went into Brazoria County for 1 election before coming back to just Fort Bend and Harris.



Obama - 83.7%; 178,404
Romney - 15.4%; 32,917

U.S. Senate

Sadler - 82%; 172,429
Cruz - 16.2%; 34,065

Which state comes the closest to SD 13?

Trick question.  No state comes the closest to matching SD 13.  Instead the District of Columbia fits the bill.  Obama won D.C. by 83.63% and carried SD 13 by 68.3%.  Sadler won this district by 65.8%.

The obvious reason why Obama won this district by such a large margin is because it contains a lot of African American voters.  Of the 31 Senate Districts, this district has the distinction of being the most lopsided win for either Obama or Romney.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Senate District 12

Here's a district that has numerically moved around, while the Senator in question, Republican Jane Nelson, has not.  Let's focus on the Senator.  In 1992, Nelson was elected to SD 22 which was made up of 13 counties including Denton & Tarrant.  She defeated incumbent Democrat Bob Glasgow.  Because of some court decisions and new maps, 2 years later she runs in the smaller SD 9 made up of 4 counties (Dallas, Denton, Ellis & Tarrant).  In 2002, she runs in the new SD 12 made up of Denton & Tarrant counties and has been there ever since.



Romney - 66.2%; 197,333
Obama - 32.2%; 95,905

U.S. Senate

Cruz - 65.4%; 192,944
Sadler - 31.2%; 91,993

We've seen this state before.  It's where the wind comes sweeping down the plains.

Oklahoma.  Romney carried the state by 33.54% and he carried SD 12 by 34%.  Cruz won here by 34.2%.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Republicans for Tax Increases

From The Texas Tribune:
Bucking his party and the state’s leadership, state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, filed a bill Wednesday proposing a constitutional amendment to temporarily raise the state sales tax to pay off billions of dollars in bond debt accrued by the Texas Department of Transportation.

If Texas lawmakers and then voters approve Senate Joint Resolution 47, the state’s sales tax would rise from 6.25 percent to 6.75 percent until the state raises enough money to pay off TxDOT’s debt. The move would free up $1 billion a year — now used for debt service — that TxDOT could use to expand and maintain the state’s transportation system, according to Eltife’s office.
Just thinking off the top of my head, but why increase the sales tax to pay of TxDOT's debt?  How about increasing a tax that is more closely related to TxDOT and transportation?  Maybe something like...the gas tax.

In 2011, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute put out an informative brochure about the gas tax.  The first question that probably comes to mind is How Much Do I Pay?  From TTI:  
Our state gas tax is 20¢ per gallon. The average driver pays $9.52 a month in state fuel taxes. Of this, a nickel goes to public education. The monthly net to the highway fund is $7.14 a month. This assumes your vehicle gets 21 miles to the gallon and you drive 12,000 miles a year.  There is an additional 18.4¢ a gallon collected by the federal government.
If you want to temporarily increase the sales tax, why not temporarily increase the gas tax?  At the very least it would make sense and cents.  Raising a tax that's associated with transportation to pay of the transportation department's debt.  Of course, this being Texas, don't count on legislators doing something that makes sense...or cents.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Senate District 11

Senate District 11 has definitely moved around.  First being based in Galveston, it moved north to Nacogdoches, then west to Waco, then north to Dallas, and finally coming back to Galveston and Houston.  SD 11 has had 1 Governor (Elisha Pease), 1 Congresswoman (Barbara Jordan), and 1 Land Commissioner (Jerry Patterson).  Since the 90s this district has been based in the Houston and Galveston areas (specifically Brazoria, Galveston, & Harris counties).  Democrat Chet Brooks represented the district from 1967 until his defeat in 1992 to Republican Jerry Patterson. Patterson held the seat until he left to run for Land Commissioner in 1998.  Patterson lost that race in the primary to David Dewhurst.  Republican Mike Jackson took over and held this seat until its current occupant, Republican Larry Taylor, took over this year.



Romney - 65.1%; 184,101
Obama - 33.5%; 94,893

U.S. Senate

Cruz - 64.1%; 180,086
Sadler - 33.3%; 93,430

French Fries anyone?

The state this district matches is Idaho.  Romney scored a margin of 31.91% in Idaho and won this district by 31.6%.  Cruz won here by 30.8%.

As recently as 2008 (and before redistricting), Republican Mike Jackson was held to a 56% - 41% margin.  A daunting 15% margin to be sure, but much better than the 66% - 34% margin Taylor won by this past year.  Who knows?  With population growth, we could see this district become competitive.

Overlooked HIV Story

While everyone has focused their attention on a baby in Mississippi born with HIV who was "cured", another story out of Melbourne got my attention.  FYI, the only reason I say "cured" is because the child in question still has traces of the virus in her system.

From ABC News (Australia):
Scientists at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital and Monash University say they hope a world-first treatment for HIV could lead to a cure for the virus.

Researchers say they have used a cancer drug to wake up dormant HIV from its genetic hiding place, making it more susceptible to treatment.

Sharon Lewin, the Alfred Hospital's director of infectious diseases, says 20 patients are taking part in a trial.

"The next step is to follow what happens to those viruses once they've been woken up," she said.

"We're going to be following these patients for a further few years and at the same time, try to focus on how to kill the virus once it's been woken up."

Dr Lewin says researches hope the discovery could eventually lead to a cure for the virus.

"It's a small step in a massively complicated jigsaw puzzle," she said.

"It's a really important step because there are several important reasons as to why we as scientists and clinicians need to start to think about curing HIV rather than keeping people on lifelong treatment."
The very last sentence is the reason why this story grabbed my attention.  HIV/AIDS are bad enough, but we've seen some diseases morph into superbugs and become resistant to antibiotics.  To reiterate, HIV/AIDS is bad enough on its own.  The last thing we need is a superbug version.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Senate District 10

We come to our first and only competitive district.  During the 90s this district was in 3 counties: Johnson, Parker, & Tarrant.  Republican Chris Harris represented District 10 at the time. After the 2001 redistricting, this district shifted to be wholly within Tarrant County and Republican Kim Brimer represented it until 2009.  With changing demographics and an increased turnout, Democrats captured the seat with star candidate Wendy Davis.  The big test for Davis will be if she can win re-election in a non-presidential year.  The good news, she ran ahead of the President Obama in both '08 and '12 and got almost the same vote totals both times. 2008: 147,832.  2012: 147,103.



Romney - 53.3%; 155,936
Obama - 45.4%; 132,707

U.S. Senate

Cruz - 53.1%; 153,424
Sadler - 44.5%; 128.536

Which state fits this competitive district?  Hint: I've got you on my mind

Hard to pick either Willie or Ray, so I went with both.

Romney carried Georgia by 7.82%.  He won SD 10 by 7.9% and Cruz carried by 8.6%.

We've already mentioned one of the problem for Democrats...too many districts that have high margins of Republican winning percentages.  Here's the second problem that goes along with that...not enough districts that are competitive.  If you had more Georgia-like districts...