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Texas Sized Filibusters

It’s always fun waking up and reading various opinions about Texas politics splashed across the entire media spectrum, particularly discussions about the rules. Texas filibusters are nothing like what you now see in Congress, and more like the fictional Mr. Smith’s filibuster. The longest filibuster was 43 hours. You can read more about the Senate’s rules and filibusters here.

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Did NRA’s Money Influence Gun Vote?

That is the question posed by Jonathan Backer of the Brennan Center. In response to the claim that big money lost in 2012 (also addressed here), Backer points to the $20 million spent by the NRA in 2012 and suggests that spending influenced the votes of Sens. Mark Begich (AK), Mark Pryor (AR) and Lindsey Graham (SC) on universal background checks. But is NRA spending really the catalyst for their votes?

Both Begich and Graham have “A” ratings from the NRA suggesting they have previously supported NRA stances on various gun legislation. Given this, why should we assume NRA spending is the reason for their vote as opposed to ideological reasons? Perhaps they are ideologically predisposed to support the NRA position.

And while Pryor has a “C” rating, other potentially vulnerable Democratic Sens. Hagan (NC), Landrieu (LA) and Rockefeller (WV) voted for cloture and have a “C” rating or lower. They also voted for the Manchin amendment. These are states where the NRA could potentially invest in spending against them in 2014. Why is the NRA a threat to Pryor but not these equally vulnerable candidates?

To assume the threat of NRA spending is the primary reason for their vote on the Manchin Amendment, we have to rule out all other possible motives, which is not reasonable when there are other alternatives, such as ideology or local political considerations.

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The Response to Hagel’s Nomination

Two groups have begun an advertising campaign targeting Senators in certain states regarding the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary (Sources: CNN, New York Times). The American Future Fund ad will focus on what they perceive as Hagel’s positions against Israel, weak position vis-a-vis Iran, as well as some previously undisclosed “personal, business and ethical conflicts.” The Americans for a Strong Defense charge that Hagel’s views are out of the mainstream and will weaken our defenses. Ads will be run in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina (Source).

As these ads are broadcast, keep in mind that many of these charges have already been checked and elaborated on by FactCheck.org when the Emergency Committee for Israel ran ads against Hagel earlier this year. You can also view Hagel’s ratings from national security interest groups here. If you would like to know more about how the ratings were devised: The Center for Security Policy has ratings here (2004), here (2006), and here (2008). The American Security Council Foundation ratings can be found here.

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Texas Run-Off: Voter Turnout

Early vote turnout for the Republican primary run-off was not far off the mark of the regular primary, and we saw the same with the total turnout.

During the regular primary, 1.4 million people voted, and during the run-off, 1.11 million people voted. Early voters (549,993) represented 49.5 percent of the total turnout [slightly higher than the 48 percent in the regular primary]. 

This year’s statewide run-off had the 2nd lowest drop off between run-off turnout and primary turnout, behind only the 1972 run-off between Ralph Yarborough and Barefoot Sanders, out of the 11 such statewide primaries held since 1950 (Source).

Conventional wisdom suggested the high turnout would benefit Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, since it was thought low turnout would play into the hands of activists/movement conservatives who were supporting Ted Cruz. But conventional wisdom, which proved right during the regular primary, was proved wrong during the run-off, as Cruz beat Dewhurst by 13.6 points (56.8 to 43.2 percent).

Public Policy Polling’s final poll of the TX Senate race [pdf] showed Cruz with a 10 point lead in the race, including a 15 point lead among those who already voted (the actual results for early voting were 52.9 to 47 in favour of Cruz). A lot of interesting numbers in the PPP poll showing where support for each candidate was coming from that might have some bearing on future GOP primaries, but I’ll leave that for another time.

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Texas Run-Off: Early Vote Turnout

The Texas Secretary of State publishes the early vote numbers for select counties. During the regular primary, they published the numbers for the top 15 counties, and during the run-off, they published the numbers for the top 10 counties.

The early vote turnout for the top 15 counties during the regular primary was 343,497 - 4.7 percent of registered voters.

The early vote turnout for the top 10 counties during the run-off was 243,795 - 3.3 percent of registered voters.

That’s pretty amazing. Opinion about why the turnout is so high for the run-off and who it benefits varies, but it’s remarkable none the less.

Photoset

I posted McArdle’s Dawn at the Alamo earlier, and after I did, I wanted to share an interesting tidbit about the two McArdle paintings that hang in the Texas Senate chamber. You can learn a lot hanging out in the Texas Senate - mostly about politics - and in the process, I learned that McArdle painted his deceased son into both scenes (he is identified by the yellow circle). Most tour guides don’t point it out, but a few do, especially the afternoon tours when there’s more time to roam around the chamber.

You can learn more about McArdle here.

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No, not in relation to this rumor, but the wrong doing he admitted to did occur at SMU.

According to the Dallas Morning News, James said he accepted gifts while he was playing football at SMU, which he said was an insignificant amount, but he wouldn’t say how much money or what kinds of gifts, so I can only assume he means: not as much as Eric Dickerson and no gold TransAm.  James claimed that he didn’t have the maturity to turn it down.  He has tried to distance himself from the scandal, and it’s always been suspected he received payments from boosters (like Eric Dickerson and other members of the Pony Express).  Now he has finally admitted to accepting those payments.

James also won’t take any responsibility for the death penalty the NCAA applied to SMU’s football program in the wake of the pay for play scandal, which James was admittedly a part of while he was playing football there.  He told reporters, “Everything that went down on SMU happened five years after I was gone, and I had nothing to do with it [accept for the fact that I was being paid to play football, which is against NCAA rules].”

Regardless of whatever else happens in this Senate campaign, at least Craig James has been exposed for the cheater we all knew him to be.

For those who may be a little lost, Southern Methodist University was involved in a pay for play scandal in the 1980’s which rocked college football.  You can read the background here.  ESPN’s 30 for 30 series recently produced a documentary about the scandal, including interviews of James and other SMU players.  The documentary was titled Pony Excess, and you can find it on sites like PirateBay, etc., or you can order it from Amazon.com or ESPN.

Any other future posts about the Texas Senate race will probably consist of nothing but bashing Craig James for his many, many sins against Texas football, as well as football in general through his work as a talking a-hole on ESPN.  I just really can’t stand that guy, and neither can most college football fans.

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Impeaching Sen. Blount

Usually when we think about impeachment proceedings, we think about Presidents, etc. and not Senators, but they can indeed be impeached. In fact, in 1797, the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Senator William Blount of Tennessee. This was the first time that a bill of impeachment was passed. He was impeached for conspiring with the British to conquer parts of Spanish Florida and Louisiana (Source). The Senate expelled Blount, and eventually began trial proceedings; however, at the time, the Senate did not have a sergeant-at-arms and were unable to enforce their order that Blount attend his trial, so this impeachment case lead to the creation of the Senate’s first sergeant-at-arms. The Senate ultimately dismissed the charges as Blount refused to leave Tennessee and attend his trial - even after the sergeant-at-arms was directed to arrest him (Source).

Just an interesting little tidbit of American history I learned about tonight; hope you enjoy.