Looking at the statewide, legislative, and county ballot
Governor: Wendy Davis
"Abortion Barbie," her opponents call her. In doing so, they cheaply malign and undersell the achievements of the Fort Worth Democratic senator. If the role of a governor is to wake and engage the whole state – not just the radicals who vote in Republican primaries – then Davis is supremely qualified. She has mounted not one, but two filibusters (education in 2011, reproductive rights in 2013) to derail the increasingly extreme agenda of the state GOP, and has proven that she has the ability to lead with vision and commitment. Her challenger, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has no real record other than knee-jerk reactionary politics. He has his office sue (and lose) against progressive federal policies, while fighting every lawsuit brought against Texas, no matter how flimsy the defense, and claiming incorrectly that he is legally obligated to do so. At the same time, he has turned a blind eye to criminal malfeasance within state agencies – corruption at the Texas Enterprise Fund and sexual and physical abuse in the Texas Youth Commission – until his hand was forced by lawmakers. The notion that he would put an end to Texas' corrupting old boy network is incredible, making Davis the only choice to help turn the state away from growing disaster.
Lieutenant Governor: Leticia Van de Putte
As president of the senate, the lieutenant governor has to be part sugar, part vinegar: An arbitrator when needed, a leader when required, and capable of stepping aside when the members of the upper chamber are at work. A 14-year veteran of the Senate, Van de Putte has a long history of bipartisan achievements, while remaining true to her progressive roots. A strong advocate for the poor and minorities, she is also highly respected for her work with veterans – an important community in her hometown of San Antonio. Her combination of wit, diplomacy, and grit prepares her to be one of the most qualified of all lieutenant governors – her undoubted skills dwarf the incompetence and grandstanding of Dan Patrick. Despised by many of his fellow Republicans, the Houston demagogue is not a conservative; he is a political huckster, and a liability to Texas. For the sake of the sanity of the Senate, we fully endorse Van de Putte.
Attorney General: Sam Houston
After years of politicized prosecutions under AG Abbott, it's a relief to endorse an experienced lawyer who has pledged to end Abbott's commitment to secret government. There is no public benefit in sealing records of explosive chemicals or state subsidies to private businesses, and Houston will turn a bright spotlight on state operations once more. His rival, state Sen. Ken Paxton, would probably be too busy with his own court woes to lead the state's legal team, considering he's under felony investigation for selling financial services without a license. If he does not follow the law, how can he be expected to enforce it?
Comptroller of Public Accounts: Mike Collier
Here's a crazy idea: an accountant as the state's top accountant? The comptroller's office is supposed to be about bookkeeping, and while Republican Glenn Hegar ticks all the GOP primary boxes (anti-abortion, pro-gun, cuts budgets), even the most hardened conservative should see few qualifications to run the state's numbers. Collier, by contrast, has been a senior executive and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, including time in its audit division, as well as holding management roles in the oil industry, one of Texas' most significant employers and revenue streams. Put all politics aside for one moment: Let's select the only qualified candidate for the job.
Commissioner of the General Land Office: John Cook
While the state Republican Party tries to promote the next generation of Bushes (this time, it's Jeb's son, George P.), the Democrats have selected El Paso Mayor Cook to become the state's Realtor. Whatever ideological criticisms can be leveled at outgoing commissioner Jerry Patterson, he ran this office with professionalism, and Cook seems far more likely to continue his record of good stewardship and commitment to veterans' services. Rather than a candidate looking for his first statewide stepping stone, Cook is legitimately interested in managing the state's land portfolio.
Railroad Commissioner: Steve Brown
While Republican Ryan Sitton has far more experience in the oil and gas industry, we give the nod to Fort Bend Democratic Party chairman Brown. Sitton's promises to make the state's oil and gas regulators more science-driven, including a full survey of the alleged links between fracking and earthquakes, as well as a commitment to water conservation, are admirable, and exactly the kind of stance we would like more Republicans to take. However, the era of foxes watching the hen house must end, and we prefer Brown's commitment to make the commission a consumer and landowner advocate again.
Agriculture Commissioner: No Endorsement
On the supposed left, Democrat Jim Hogan, a cartoonish political novice who has no place on the ballot. On the right, former Republican state Rep. Sid Miller, partially responsible for shoving the Legislature to the right, only to be evicted by the Tea Party. If this is the best either party can do for this important office, then a plague on both their houses.
Supreme Court Chief Justice: William Moody
Supreme Court Place 6: Lawrence Edward Meyers
Supreme Court Place 7: Gina Benavides
Court of Criminal Appeals Place 3: John Granburg
Having Texas' higher courts overrule lower courts, only to have their rulings overturned at the Federal level, has become tiresome. With the Texas Supreme Court in particular so dominated by Gov. Rick Perry's appointees, the need to bring in fresh legal minds is greater than ever.
U.S. Senate: David Alameel
A Lebanese-born worker who became a multi-millionaire with a chain of dental clinics, Alameel represents the migrant's dream. His political experience is limited, but his commitment to populist progressive causes, including outspoken criticism of Wall Street's most egregious practices, is firm. He has faced criticism for donations to Republicans in the Nineties, but in many ways, he represents the new wave of Democrats, who realize that the GOP has become a radical force with no space for centrists and moderates. Case in point: Incumbent John Cornyn has willfully obstructed the justice system by refusing two judicial appointments to proceed, while falling into line behind his supposed junior, Ted Cruz. To retain national credibility, Cornyn must be replaced.
U.S. Representatives: Districts 10, 17, 21, 25, 35
See full text for these endorsements here, and in next week's print issue.
Chief Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals: Diane Henson
See the full text for this endorsement here, and in next week's print issue.
State Senate District 14: Kirk Watson
Former Austin mayor Watson has proven to be a master strategist in the Senate. It was he, along with Sen. Judy Zaffirini, who provided the legal and tactical support to Davis' reproductive rights filibuster in 2013, and he has used those same skills to curtail, derail, or revise bad legislation at the committee level, before it ever gets to the floor. He's spent years addressing fiscal transparency, but, unlike Tea Partiers who use the same language, he advocates clearing up the budget to reveal deficiencies. The GOP declined to run a challenger this year, but Watson still faces the obligatory Libertarian filer, regular also-ran James Arthur Strohm.
State Senate District 25: Daniel Boone
It's rare to find a politician who is completely ill-suited for public life – but consider Republican Donna Campbell. A dogmatic Tea Partier who regards facts as an inconvenience, her sole reason to be in the Senate is seemingly to make Dan Patrick look competent by contrast. With rumors that she may become an education committee chair, replacing her with Comal County Democratic Party chair and small businessman Boone assumes added urgency.
House District 46: Dawnna Dukes
House District 48: Donna Howard
House District 49: Elliott Naishtat
House District 50: Celia Israel
House District 51: Eddie Rodriguez
Travis County's House delegation has served the district well. With the anticipated influx of freshmen reps this year, the seniority of Dukes, Howard, Naishtat, and Rodriguez, with their seniority preferences for committee seats, and deep understanding of both the issues and history of major issues headed back to the house, will be of vital importance. Newcomer Israel already won this seat in a special election earlier this year, but is the only incumbent facing a Republican challenger (the rest face only Libertarian opponents, and seem secure). Her experience as a legislative staffer means she is supremely qualified to hit the ground running in the next session.
Travis Co. Judge: Sarah Eckhardt
After a sometimes bitter primary battle, Eckhardt has begun to mend fences across the county and also look forward to next year's policy matters. She has, for example, suggested a potential compromise on the city's dispute with the Travis County Sheriff's Secure Communities program; it likely won't satisfy S-Comm enthusiasts, but it could mean saving money for the city if it moves forward on an alternative booking procedure that would magistrate non-felony arrests in separate (but not newly constructed) facility. And she has prioritized affordability and environmental issues important to county voters. We're waiting to see how all this will work in practice in the county's notoriously hidebound procedures, but as a candidate, Eckhardt is a far better choice than her Republican and Libertarian rivals.
Travis Co. Commissioner, Pct. 2: Brigid Shea
In her latest incarnation, former City Council member and mayoral candidate Shea is trying on a county seat for size, and with Eckhardt, she should form an interesting team of progressive energy on a body that tends toward the administrative and policy middle range, neither too hot nor too cold. Shea can be overenthusiastic about her latest enthusiasm – for example, she's embraced a property tax homestead exemption and commercial appraisal reform with only small consideration for how these policies might affect renters (i.e., the majority of residents) – but her excess of energy is badly needed on the court, and her environmental passion should give an ally to others on the Court who definitely need a fire lit under them. We're eager to see what this infusion of electricity can do to a Court whose batteries are running low.
Travis Co. Commissioner, Pct. 4: No Endorsement
Longtime Democratic incumbent Margaret Gómez is opposed only by a token Libertarian, Joseph Morse, but we cannot convince ourselves to recommend her for another term. In the past, we have noted that she often seems off the radar on many county issues, taking some interest in her precinct – currently deferring to the interests of Circuit of the Americas owners rather than the county's finances – but otherwise, apparently uninterested in wider county issues. We have previously encouraged her to consider whether her heart remains in this work; the advice still stands.
Travis Co. Clerk: Dana DeBeauvoir
Opposed only by a token Libertarian and a token Green – hoping to pad the minor parties' overall résumés – DeBeauvoir is a local definition of the Faithful Servant, working tirelessly to professionalize and streamline local elections, to build a network of precinct judges who work long hours out of sheer patriotism, doing whatever she can to improve and modernize voting procedures, and to simply make certain that everyone in Travis County gets a full opportunity to vote. If we could clone her and distribute her copies around the country, the nation would see a great improvement in turnout and election day enthusiasm. We are proud to give Dana DeBeauvoir our unreserved endorsement.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment ("State Prop. 1"): YES
Although everyone routinely refers to this transportation amendment as "state Prop. 1," on the ballot it is named simply as an unnumbered constitutional amendment. Even more vaguely, the ballot language mentions only "certain money" rather than the actual source: the Texas "Economic Stabilization Fund," much better known as the "Rainy Day Fund." This amendment would allow a portion of the currently burgeoning fund to be transferred to highway and road projects ("not to include toll roads" – that's how the Lege got it passed). While we're not devoted fans of poured concrete, these expenditures are truly necessary because anti-tax frenzy has prevented rational funding (e.g., increasing the gas tax). Moreover, the amendment would at least set the sensible precedent that the Rainy Day Fund is not untouchable for necessary expenses – e.g., public education or even health care, in difficult economic times. Begging shouldn't be necessary, and perhaps this small step will make it less so.