November Election roundup
Just in time for the November elections, the League of Conservation Voters has issued its voting report card for the second session of the 109th Congress (that is, the 2006 session). Unfortunately for environment-minded Texans, it is depressingly similar to previous report cards.
Enviros Say Doggett Shines, Others ... Stink
The LCV selects key congressional votes on environmental issues (e.g., Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil drilling, increasing offshore drilling, strengthening food safety) and tracks whether each member voted pro- or anti-environment, according to the LCV's take on each bill. For 2006, the Washington-based group gave zeroes to Texas' two senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, for anti-environment votes on all seven Senate bills tracked by the LCV. Texas' House delegation was hardly better our 32 reps averaged only a 22% pro-environment score on 12 monitored votes.
On the upside, Austin Democrat Lloyd Doggett (District 25) was the only Texan to get a perfect 100% score; his average over his 12-year congressional tenure is 98%. The Republicans who represent other parts of Austin didn't rate nearly as well Round Rock's John Carter (District 31) scored 0%, while Austin's Michael McCaul (District 10) and San Antonio's Lamar Smith (District 21) both scored 17%. At least the latter two improved on their zeroes from 2005.
Of course, the LCV issues the report cards to guide green-minded voters at the ballot box. On Nov. 7, Hutchison faces Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky and Libertarian Scott Lanier Jameson, and McCaul is challenged by Democrat Ted Ankrum and Libertarian Michael Badnarik; Doggett and Smith both face special elections with multiple opponents, the latter challenged by Democrat John Courage, among others. Lee Nichols
Esquire, the national magazine for men, has tapped Chris Bell as its man for Texas governor in the monthly's November issue. Once you peel your eyes off the come-hither cover shot of sultry starlet Scarlett Johansson, aka "Sexiest Woman Alive," you'll find Esquire's cross-country roundup of its choices in 504 House, Senate, and governor's races. The editorial board tipped its hat to Bell with apologies to Kinky Friedman and a good-grooming nod to incumbent Rick Perry. "We love a good joke as much as the next guy, but we're sorry Kinky, we just can't," the endorsement read. It went on to describe Perry, "Not as smart as George W. Bush but much better hair." Then came the kicker: "Our pick for the excellent people of Texas is the former congressman who had the guts to get the ethics investigation of Tom DeLay started." That would be Bell. The lone woman in the race, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, didn't even get a mention. Amy Smith
Chris Bell, Esq.
Gubernatorial candidates have cranked up the heat with new TV spots. In a shark-themed ad, Gov. Rick Perry attacks Chris Bell for taking money from a millionaire trial lawyer; Bell blasts Perry for the botched privatization of state health care services; and Carole Keeton Strayhorn pummels Perry on toll roads and education. After the campaigns unveiled their new ads, they then fired off e-mail rounds of press responses, counter-responses, and more counter-responses, with fact sheets and "truth tests" to back up their claims and what have you. Kinky Friedman entered the fray Monday afternoon, accusing Perry of "sending desperate e-mails to hunters across Texas telling them that I am against hunting and fishing. This is not true," Friedman said in a statement. He pledged to work toward a state constitutional amendment preserving the right to hunt and fish. Just watch out for those sharks. A.S.
War Time in TV Land
James Crabtree is hopping mad. He says he didn't get to vote in the local Travis County races in November 2004, and he blames the head of the county's elections division: Democratic County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. To show his displeasure, the Republican wants to unseat her from the office she has held since 1987.
20-Year County Clerk Gets a GOP Challenge
At the time, Crabtree was serving in Iraq and was both postal officer and voting officer for his battalion of 1,000 Marine Reserves. "[Of] our whole unit in Iraq, Travis County was the one county that didn't get the absentee ballots to us on time," Crabtree says. "Harris County, Bexar County, Dallas, all these other counties, even real small rural counties got them to us on time. When I got back home and kind of looked into it, she said nothing had happened, and some of her folks blamed the post office, which I thought was kind of insulting, because it was the same post office that my family was sending me letters and care packages through, and the same U.S. Postal Service that all these other counties used. So basically she just ignored me and blew me off, and the more I looked into it, the more I felt that was indicative of some of the mistakes that she had made during her 20 years in office. That's what propelled me into the race."
After failing to see the ballots arrive with two weeks remaining until election, Crabtree filled out and advised his troops to do the same a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, a limited ballot that allowed him to vote for president, vice-president, and Congress, but no local races. Crabtree says his full Travis Co. ballot finally arrived the day before the election, too late, he says, to have it counted.
DeBeauvoir counters that Crabtree gave his troops bad voting advice and that there was nothing to prevent him from casting his full Travis ballot. She presented photocopies of documents to the Chronicle that appear to support her claims. The 2004 early-voter record that her office has on Crabtree shows that his full Travis ballot (a Federal Post Card Application ballot) was mailed to him on Oct. 6, almost a full month before the Nov. 2 election. The FWAB that he sent back instead arrived in Austin on Oct. 27.
Moreover: "They're allowed to vote five days after the election, which is [why] he shouldn't have told his people not to vote," DeBeauvoir says. "He told them to vote on a FWAB instead of the regular FPCA. And what he apparently didn't tell them was that, see, when you vote a FWAB, that doesn't mean you can't vote the full FPCA once it gets there."
Crabtree also referred to a Jose A. Esparza as another soldier in his unit who had been prevented from voting a full ballot. "He's served with us in Iraq and is one of the guys that said, 'If you ever need somebody to back up your story, have them talk to me.'"
But DeBeauvoir also produced Esparza's early-voter record, which showed not only that Esparza's full Travis ballot was mailed out one day after Crabtree's, but that Esparza completed and returned it in time to be counted. She also presented an official airmail envelope for the ballot stamped with a postmark showing Esparza mailed it back on Oct. 22 and that her office received it Nov. 1.
"Well, that's good, because that's not what happened with me, and that's suprising if that happened with his ballot, because he told me that he didn't get his ballot on time either," said Crabtree. Attempts to locate Esparza for comment were unsuccessful.
Asked to present direct evidence showing DeBeauvoir was to blame, Crabtree didn't provide any, but instead referred to an incident in this year's municipal election. "I know last spring they mailed out about 11,000 postcards telling people to go vote at the wrong polling places and then said it was a glitch. So I think maybe something along the same lines happened with our ballots that it was a glitch. Maybe she thinks she sent them out when they said, but something happened along the way to make them late and to make Travis County's the only ones that were late."
"November 7 would have been the last day I was counting military ballots," said DeBeauvoir. "What this shows us is, first of all, yeah, by mail, once it's in the military's hands, it is slow for some real obvious reasons goodness knows what they're dealing with in the field. I wouldn't begin to know. And second, that both the military and the post office did exactly what they said they would be doing, which was to expedite the mail. And as the voting officer, he was supposed to know that and tell his people." L.N.
Tonight (Thursday), U.S. Senate candidates Kay Bailey Hutchison, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, and Scott Lanier Jameson (are all Senate candidates required to have three names?) square off in a televised debate in San Antonio. The debate will be shown via tape delay on PBS stations, including KLRU (broadcast Channel 18, cable Channel 9) in Austin at 9pm.
Next Thursday, Oct. 26, Austin activists Abbe Waldman DeLozier and Vickie Karp will hold a booksigning and discussion of Hacked!: High Tech Election Theft in America, 11 Experts Expose the Truth, a collection of essays on the perils of electronic voting that they edited, at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar, 7pm.