The Austin Chronicle

News Roundup: Political Humility, Pandering, and Money

By Michael King, July 18, 2016, 2:00pm, Newsdesk

In this week’s Roundup, we catch up with The Donald’s madcap campaign, consider the politics of pro-police pandering, and summarize the early money in the City Council campaigns.

Saint Donald

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had a fairly rough weekend in preparation for the party convention in Cleveland this week, although no amount of garish bumbling seems to slow The Donald’s momentum. After much (almost) private jockeying among vice-presidential rivals Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Mike Pence, Trump finally settled on the Indiana governor – at the last moment before Pence hit the deadline to withdraw from his reelection campaign – and reports flew that Trump was attempting to change his mind even on the night before his Saturday morning press conference to formally announce his choice. The press conference was an entertaining shambles, with Trump spending most of 30 minutes talking about himself instead of introducing Pence, while admitting the pick was effectively forced on him for “party unity.” Pence strained to conform his conventionally hard-right GOP positions to Trump’s unpredictable grandiosity, but did emphasize that he himself is a “Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” A Sunday night 60 Minutes interview with the running mates by Lesley Stahl was even more preposterous, with Trump barely allowing either Stahl or Pence to get in a word, forgiving Pence (“but not Hillary”) for having voted for the Iraq War, and finally declaring his own humility, in response to Stahl’s attempt to ask him if he is at all “humbled” by the prospect of the presidency. “I think I am, actually, humble,” pre-empted Trump. “I think I'm much more humble than you would understand.”

Governor Pander

Although precisely what motivated the killers of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge remains murky – both were former U.S. military, both used military tactics, and both showed signs of mental illness based in hypermasculinity – Gov. Greg Abbott has concluded that the way to deal with people willing to meet death in order to kill cops is to threaten them with stronger criminal penalties. In the 2017 legislative session, Abbott will propose a “Police Protection Act,” which would add police officers to those victims covered under “hate crime” laws, increase the penalties for any attacks on police, and “create a culture of respect for law enforcement by organizing a campaign to educate young Texans on the value law enforcement officers bring to their communities.” The proposal (which makes no mention of improving police procedures and treatment of civilians) was duly endorsed by various state police association leaders.

Harmony or Discord?

The failed coup attempt in Turkey has an odd and uncertain Austin connection. There are three “Harmony” public charter schools in the Austin area, founded by educators associated with the Turkish “Gulen” movement, named for Turkish exile Fethullah Gulen, a scholar and political opponent of the Turkish government who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames the coup and much of Turkish unrest on followers of Gulen, and has demanded that Gulen be extradited to Turkey for trial. Gulen has denied any connection to the coup – specifically opposing military action against a democratically elected government. Officials of the Harmony schools deny any connection to the Gulen movement. For more on this story, see this week's print edition.

We’re in the Money

City Council candidates for the November 8 election filed their first campaign finance reports July 15, and the early money race went mostly to the five incumbents. Council Member Delia Garza (District 2) raised more than $25,000 ($14,000 cash on hand), while her two challengers, Wesley Faulkner and Casey Ramos, each raised less than $500. CM Greg Casar (D4) raised nearly $80,000 (COH $39,000), while his opponent Louis Herrin III reported no fundraising and told the Chronicle he would be relying on volunteers. CM Leslie Pool (D7) raised $32,000 (COH $26,000), outstripping challenger Natalie Gauldin, who nevertheless raised $20,000 (COH $19,000), impressive for a newly declared candidate. CM Sheri Gallo (D10) raised a comfortable $44,000 (COH $32,000); her challenger, Alison Alter, declared her candidacy after the June 30 CFR deadline, so has yet to file a report.

The only exception in the money race was in District 6, where incumbent CM Don Zimmerman raised $36,000 and his challenger Jimmy Flannigan (narrowly defeated in 2014) raised $47,000. Zimmerman does have more cash on hand ($31,000) than Flannigan ($20,000), who has been campaigning early and hard.

For more on the campaign finance reports and other stories, follow the Daily News and this week’s print edition.

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