Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

Fort Worth Star-Telegram. December 10, 2019

Is Texas truly purple? Without Beto on the ballot, we’re about to find out

The lineups for next year’s Republican and Democratic primaries are essentially set, and we’re finally going to get an answer to the question that could define Texas politics for years: Are Democrats truly competitive, or was 2018 merely a Beto buzz?

The response will go a long way toward determining what’s happening in Tarrant County, where Beto O’Rourke narrowly beat Sen. Ted Cruz. Democrats are confident they can turn several legislative districts blue.

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And increasingly, what’s happening here is becoming a bellwether for the rest of the state. Tarrant is the last big urban county in Texas where Republicans still dominate, so if Democrats are ever going to break through in a statewide race they must do better here.

Right up to the final moment Monday that candidates could file to run in the March primaries, some Democrats probably held out hope that O’Rourke would change his mind and challenge Sen. John Cornyn.

But that was never likely. There were no other major surprises in the final days of candidate filing. And there are only a handful of truly competitive primaries in either party, headlined by the Democrats’ multi-candidate jump-ball for who will take on Cornyn. Otherwise, the real action will be in the November general election.

The absence of O’Rourke or a candidate with his pull at the top of the ticket isn’t the only major difference from 2018 that will determine how Tarrant and Texas go next year. In a presidential year, that race greatly influences what happens all the way down the ballot.

That could mean a continued surge of anti-Trump voters to the polls. But Republicans maintain a structural advantage, and the heat surrounding the Trump presidency and impeachment will motivate plenty of Republicans to go to the polls to defend him, too. And the overall effect will be much different if his opponent is, say, Elizabeth Warren rather than Joe Biden.

Another factor that could make 2020 very different from 2018 is simply that Cornyn is not Cruz. The senior senator, seeking his fourth-term, doesn’t generate the antipathy that Cruz did, especially coming off his 2016 presidential run.

Cornyn wears his Republican badge proudly as a Senate leader and Trump defender. He remains a serious legislator on issues important to Texas, such as health care and trade, eager for bipartisanship where it’s possible and ready for battle where it’s not. Having drawn no significant primary opponent and likely to face a relatively unknown Democratic challenger, he looks formidable.

Races further down the ballot are much more likely to be competitive. Several Republican-held congressional seats are open, giving Republican newcomers a chance but also giving Democrats a shot in districts where they haven’t competed in years. Chief among them is the 24th, which includes much of Northeast Tarrant County. Rep. Kenny Marchant is retiring, and it’s a Democratic target.

Several Tarrant County districts in the Texas House will help determine whether Republicans keep control of that chamber or whether Democrats win it back for the first time in nearly two decades.

Overall, both parties are behaving as if Texas will be in play. Like the rest of us, they don’t quite know yet how competitive the situation is — more than in most recent elections, but up to 2018 standards? That will be the big story for Texas and Tarrant County politics for the next 11 months.

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El Paso Times. December 13, 2019

Times Editorial Board endorses Debbie Torres, Cassandra Hernandez for City Council

Special elections are a major challenge when it comes to representative government.

History has shown that voter turnout is low during these types of elections, even though the impact on the overall eligible voter population is significant. Simply explained, this means a small group of voters will decide who is placed in these positions of power.

So, we urge voters in El Paso City Council Districts 3 and 6 to cast their ballots in the runoff and special elections.

Early voting continues through Tuesday, Dec. 10. Election day is Dec. 14.

Candidates in the District 3 race are in a runoff because neither person secured a majority in an earlier special election. The District 6 candidates are running for the first time. The winner must secure a 50%-plus majority of the vote to avoid a runoff.

District 6

Four candidates are running for a seat left open by Claudia Ordaz Perez, who is running for the District 76 seat in the Texas House of Representatives in the 2020 general election.

District 6 has 46,852 registered voters in its East Side and Mission Valley precincts. It’s a district in which roads, public safety and quality of life issues are important to voters.

The candidates are:

• Eric Stoltz-Reyes

• Debbie Torres

• Arnulfo Hernandez Jr.

• Claudia Lizette Rodriguez

With Ordaz Perez pursuing higher political ambitions, District 6 voters are forced to elect their next representative from a field of candidates that has no clear front-runner.

Some have described the field as weak, but we are grateful for those who step up to run for office on short notice. Still, it’s clear the winner of the District 6 race will need to be a quick study to become a positive influence on the overall City Council.

Ideally, we are looking for city representatives who can take care of business in their home districts, protect residents’ access to their government, demand transparency from city administrators and be bullish about El Paso’s future.

They need to be independent but willing to work as part of a team to make good things happen in our city.

Given the experience level of the candidates in the District 6 race, we thought it might be useful to set some expectations.

We admit it is difficult to make a recommendation in the race, given that the candidates are relative newcomers to city politics. So, please take the time to watch the El Paso Times’ Facebook Live interviews with the candidates to help guide your voting decision.

We are recommending Debbie Torres in the District 6 race. She has a background that seems to make her the best fit for the district.

She has a history of advocacy. During her college days, she protested at the University of Texas at El Paso for equality for Mexican-American students. As a mother, she has advocated for children with disabilities.

Torres also serves as president of her neighborhood association, Pueblo Viejo. She has worked on local committees focused on issues including the 2020 census, the City Plan Commission and Ysleta Independent School District facility bond campaigns.

Torres is articulate and seems to understand public policy. She has shown signs she can also look at the big picture when it comes to the city’s future.

We encourage her to learn more about the City Council’s work to allow El Paso to join other large Texas cities in implementing a policy that directs law enforcement away from arresting residents for low-grade marijuana possession offenses.

This could reduce the number of residents incarcerated for Class A and B marijuana charges. It is costly to arrest, prosecute and jail these minor offenders. It’s worth exploring other ways to handle these offenses.

District 3

Incumbent city Rep. Cassandra Hernandez and challenger Will Veliz are competing again to decide who will represent District 3.

The seat represents East-Central El Paso neighborhoods and businesses.

While Veliz had a strong showing in the Nov. 4 special election, Hernandez clearly demonstrated that voters in District 3 still support her. She captured 46% of the vote in the special election, falling below the 50%-plus needed to win the seat.

We are sticking with our recommendation that Hernandez be elected. We also are reminding her to step up her game to avoid the kind of missteps that led to this runoff.

A special election was called by the City Council in September because of a Facebook post that contained an image of Hernandez and a message that read: “Cassandra Hernandez for Mayor of El Paso, Texas.”

Hernandez denies she authored the post, but we maintain she is responsible for item s posted on her Facebook account.

The Texas Constitution has a provision that calls for automatic resignations when an officeholder announces a candidacy for another office. It is known as the state’s resign-to-run law.

Hernandez should have taken steps to avoid sparking the political controversy.

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Amarillo Globe-News. December 12, 2019

Plan ahead, think ahead when it comes to holiday parties

With fewer than usual days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s likely social calendars in the time leading up to the holiday are filled with outings and get-togethers, where, many times, alcohol will be available.

Choosing to partake is one’s own personal choice. Our plea today is to urge everyone to be responsible if they choose to drink. It may be a personal decision that one makes, but, holidays past serve as stark reminders of the terrible consequences that can come about as a result of drinking and driving.

Almost every year, we chronicle tragic stories of this type, and we know full well that way too many of our West Texas neighbors have bad memories of losing loved ones as a result of someone else’s decision to drink and drive.

Statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation indicated that in 2017, more than 1,000 people were killed as a result of more than 900 fatal DUI crashes. Additionally, more than 2,000 suffered serious injuries, with thousands more injured less severely. The state’s highways and streets are busier than ever, and they can be more dangerous than ever, even under the best of conditions.

Poor weather, which regularly visits West Texas from early November to mid-March, can make things even more treacherous. Combine that with the busiest shopping season of the year and its accompanying stress, and there are more reasons than ever before not to chance getting behind the wheel after having even one alcoholic drink.

Especially because, as law enforcement authorities point out, it’s easier than ever to avoid drinking and driving. The practice of selecting a designated driver has become more prevalent across all age groups.

As we have said before, we encourage people to choose a driver at the beginning of the evening’s festivities, and we encourage party hosts (individuals and organizations) to take a few moments to check with their guests regarding who is fulfilling this important duty, especially now that liability issues are involved so far as people being “overserved.” Designated drivers are appreciated just based on the unknown number of lives they have saved through the years.

Another option that has become more prevalent is the use of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. Scheduling a ride ahead of time is now as easy as downloading a mobile phone application and filling in information. The services are available in Amarillo and Lubbock, and more and more people are using ride-hailing services, especially on those evenings when they are more certain they will have a drink or two. Besides ride-hailing, public transportation options such as cabs are another option that will keep people from driving while impaired.

As the attention-grabbing ad campaign reminds, “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.” Why even take a chance?

The state’s driving while intoxicated laws are rightfully tough and should be deterrent enough for those who think they can “make it” wherever they might be going. West Texas drivers can also expect greater visibility from local law enforcement at all levels, especially on weekends and on days leading up to and following the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Law enforcement and others are right in saying 100 percent of alcohol-related accidents are preventable. Think ahead. Plan ahead. Enjoy the holidays … for many years to come.

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