Election Ticker: Last Chance for Controversy

E-Day is tomorrow! Here's the latest news before it's too late.

Just a few more hours before the future of the world is decided. No pressure. Here’s what’s been going on since we went to press last week…

Defaced campaign signs on the corner of MLK and Airport (Photo by Mike Clark-Madison)

The Revolution Will Not Be Voting: Austin Red Guards left the pig heads at home but went LARPing over the weekend to deface most every campaign sign, regardless of ideology, at the strategic hi-vis intersection of MLK and Airport. Signs at the equally prominent Airport/Manor intersection a short walk away were unscathed as of this writing. Since nearly half of Travis County has already voted, it’s uncertain what a “boycott” would look like…

Yup, Sure, He’s On It: If anyone tries to screw with voting rights on E-Day Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be very cross. His Department of Justice will monitor the polls in 35 counties in 19 states, including Harris, Tarrant and Waller (see below) counties in Texas. While some of the sites are pretty random (Texas County, OK?) others just happen to be prime venues for hotly contested races (Atlanta, Palm Beach, Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc.). We’ll see which way Justice leans if they’re pushed…

Enough Is Enough: Tired of relentless efforts by Waller County officials to suppress student voting, students at Prairie View A&M University announced they will march to the polls on E-Day, joined by community allies, to emphasize their voting rights. The march will draw attention to the county’s decades-long campaign of voter suppression targeting the historically black university; the coalition will also make known five demands for justice and kick off an advocacy initiative targeting both Congress and the Texas Legislature. Students recently won a fight to overturn obstructive registration requirements and “continue to demand a fulsome, just, and permanent set of solutions.”...

The Early Vote Ate My Election: Texas is one of two states (with Nevada) where early vote totals exceeded the total vote in the 2014 election. That still leaves lots of registered voters for Election Day, but observers are preparing for a scenario similar to 2016 and 2008, where the early vote constituted two-thirds or more of the total, with a comparatively quiet E-Day and races being called early-ish. In Travis County, early vote turnout (including mail-ins and mobile sites) was 47.3%, ranking No. 4 among the state’s largest counties after Collin, Williamson and Comal. Those are all red zones (though Williamson is trending purple) but Beto O’Rourke has mobilized voters both for and against him. Some good news for Dems: The increase in average EV turnout percentage over 2014 is highest in the bluest counties, with El Paso (duh) leading the pack. Here in Travis, with the usual caveat that anyone can vote anywhere, the EV locations where turnout has most increased are on the Eastside; sites like Carver and Dan Ruiz libraries, Parque Zaragoza, and both Fiesta Marts exceeded their numbers from 2016 as well...

North Side Blues: Or purples – if you want to join the as-excited-as-we’ve-ever-seen-them Williamson County Democrats on E-Night, they’ll be at Mesa Rosa on RR 620 with congressional challenger MJ Hegar, statehouse contenders James Talarico and John Bucy III, and other Wilco aspirants. Find other Election Nite watch parties here

Firing When Ready: Speaking of MJ Hegar: “Well, respectfully, Congressman, you don’t know shit about war.” That was the Democrat’s video response to TX-31 GOP incumbent John Carter’s quote in the Temple Daily Telegram, describing the campaign: “It’s a war. … I’m going to beat this lady.” Although the epithet is bleeped in the video, there’s no mistaking what the combat veteran Hegar is saying, as she rides through the Texas countryside on a Harley and derides Carter’s voting record on health care and women’s rights, and his refusal to debate. If it were a war, Hegar tweeted out with the already viral ad, “You would be prosecuted for dereliction of duty for not showing up to a single debate. What are you afraid of?” In the ad she asks, “Afraid you would lose to a girl?"...

Dirty Trickster Treat: Carter might be afraid of something: Hegar got a little spooked on Halloween night when a few folks tied to the incumbent’s campaign evidently used a few pieces of candy to taunt Hegar's two kids near their home in Round Rock. Hegar's children are 24 months and 4 years old and were out trick-or-treating with their parents when they noticed a truck pulling a trailer with a large Carter campaign sign circling the block. Hegar says the truck drove past them, came back and stopped near the kids, who they began talking and tossing candy to them in what Hegar's campaign called a "taunting" manner. Hegar that night posted to Twitter a 90-second rundown, saying "This is exactly what's wrong with politics, and it's a reminder that we're ready for change from politics as usual." Carter's campaign denied Hegar's account, calling it "just another poor attempt by Ms. Hegar to gain attention for her failing campaign."...

What’s Scarier Than One Ken Paxton? Three Ken Paxtons!: If you happened to see a trio of big-headed Texas attorney generals wearing prison stripes and roaming the Capitol grounds, it wasn’t an apparition. Democratic AG candidate Justin Nelson unleashed the trick-or-treaters on Halloween as part of his campaign to unseat the uh, legally challenged Paxton. The frightening message of Nelson’s stunt? Our state’s top lawyer can’t seem to follow the law himself: Under felony indictment, Paxton could wind up behind bars for up to 99 years...

Youthful Indiscretions? The Ted Cruz for Senate campaign has made a very big deal out of Beto O’Rourke’s 1998 arrest for drunk driving (says O’Rourke: “I made a serious mistake for which there is no excuse”). Turns out he’s not alone: According to court records, Charles “Chip” Roy, Republican candidate for Congress in TX-21 (currently held by the retiring Lamar Smith) was convicted of a DWI in Charlottesville, Va., in 1994. It wouldn’t matter at all, if he hadn’t gone on to work as chief of staff to (you guessed it) Ted Cruz. We’ve asked if the campaign believes Roy’s 1994 DWI should be an issue in his current race, but the Roy team has not responded…

An Unholy Alliance: Letters (some postmarked from New York and Wisconsin) encouraging people to vote for Cruz were sent out to members of several Presbyterian churches, ostensibly by their pastors, who are appalled by the “outreach.” Aside from boosting Cruz, the fake letters condemn LGBTQ rights and abortion. Rev. Amy Meyer, a pastor in Elgin, denounced the letter, telling KVUE, “We didn’t want people to think that our views were the same. … And we want people to know that we are allies of the LGBTQ community.” To help clear up the mess, the pastors, including Rev. Jim Rigby of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, banded together and filmed a YouTube video defending their values, vocalizing their support for same-sex marriage, immigration, and even choosing to say “Happy Holidays.”...

You Don’t Miss Your Money: IndyAustin will no longer pay petitioners to gather signatures in their effort to put the city’s recent deal with Major League Soccer and Precourt Sports Ventures, and any such deals in the future, on an upcoming ballot. It seems the well has run dry for Linda Curtis and Co. after Bobby Epstein of Circuit of the Americas announced last week he would no longer support the PAC in light of an IndyAustin video ad which featured alt-right imagery. Curtis confirmed to the Chronicle last week that “we haven’t seen any more [money] come in” after Epstein announced he would withdraw funding for the petition drive. Until more cash rolls in, IndyAustin will be collecting signatures on a purely volunteer basis – a huge blow to the petition effort…

Standing Up for Skidmore: D8 candidate Bobby Levinski has publicly distanced himself from IndyAustin (what haven't they done wrong lately?) after transgender D9 candidate Danielle Skidmore alleged that an IndyAustin canvasser misgendered her and engaged in a transphobic back-and-forth that attracted concerned passersby on the UT campus. “Hate has no place in Austin,” wrote Levinski on Twitter. “I call on IndyAustin to apologize to Danielle and to remove the organizer from their campaign. This hate should be taken seriously and rejected fully.” Levinski, who is a member of the LGBTQ community, requested the group, which had endorsed him, remove him from all their campaign materials until the canvasser is fired...

Hiding the Money?: Fred Lewis, local attorney and supporter of Proposition J – the land-use code measure spawned by the now-dead CodeNEXT process – filed an ethics complaint with the city on Friday regarding the Real Estate Council of Austin’s “controversial” $10,000 donation to the No on Prop J political action committee. In the complaint, Lewis alleges the campaign failed to “timely file” the contribution made on Oct. 22. Though the PAC disclosed the contribution on Oct. 30, via its 8-day-out report, Lewis argues No on Prop J should have reported six days sooner under the City Charter (which requires more frequent reporting from PACs) after making a $500 expenditure on October 23. Lewis noted that No on J filed a report on October 26, but excluded the RECA contribution – a omission he believes is intentional because “sophisticated political insiders are heavily involved,” calling out consultant Mark Yznaga and PAC leader/mayoral aide John-Michael Cortez by name. “RECA is a politically controversial special interest, especially as relates to land development and related issues like Proposition J,” wrote Lewis. “By failing to disclose its contribution, the PAC hid its largest and politically controversial donor from the public for at least 6 days.” After this post was originally published, No on Prop J replied in a statement, "At this time, all we can tell you is that we believe the campaign is in compliance with City disclosure rules. We do find it odd that an ethics complaint was filed by Fred Lewis, who supports the massive amounts of illegal dark money behind Proposition K, and who is running the campaign to support Prop J, which was also funded by dark money funneled through billboard companies and the Save Our City non-profit, which is of course also run by Fred Lewis." ...

Pressley Presses On: Former City Council candidate Laura Pressley has apparently found a new profession as an “election security technologist and strategist.” That’s the handle she gives herself as the founder of Save Our Texas Vote; elsewhere, the anti-fluoride (etc.) activist [*see correction below] identifies herself as the founder of True Texas Elections LLC. Last week, that entity filed three affidavits with the Texas AG alleging vote-counting discrepancies in the March Democratic primary in Dallas County. Those complaints request “in-depth investigations into Dallas County's computerized central counting station tabulation procedures.” Pressley claims her own review of the Dallas County records found uncounted votes (“computerized vote tabulation discrepancies”). Pressley made similar claims about her own District 4 race in 2014 (where she lost handily to Greg Casar), but thus far Texas courts have rejected those claims as “frivolous” and imposed sanctions upon Pressley and her lawyers. Her appeal remains pending before the state Supreme Court...

The City Doesn’t Run the Schools: Controversy flared in the race to fill the vacant Austin ISD At-Large Place 9 board seat last week, when a volunteer with the Carmen Tilton campaign sent a get-out-the-vote email that, to some, implied an endorsement from the city of Austin. Genevieve Dell set up an Evite for Election Day as a novel way to help her preferred candidate. That required a host and phone number, so Dell put in “City of Austin” along with the city’s public contact number, because “that’s where we all vote … I meant it for all of us,” she told the Chronicle Friday. “I made a stupid mistake. Carmen did not approve or see the email.” But the Evite caused a minor panic within opponent Arati Singh’s camp; Tilton asked Dell to take it down, but on Friday hit Singh for accepting “thousands in PAC and out of state money to pay consultants.” Singh said she was “proud” to have the support of the local teachers union, Education Austin, and that she works “with the best professionals in the field” along with volunteers, because “the nearly 80,000 students of Austin ISD are worth it.”

*Correction: Due to an editorial error, Laura Pressley was initially identified (in part) as a "chiropractor." As she points out below, that was inaccurate, and the mistake has been corrected.

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Election November 2018, midterm elections, elections 2018, November 2018 Election, Ken Paxton

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