Texas should be playing a role in Republican politics this year as big as, well, Texas.

The fast-growing state – the most populous by far in the Republican column – has four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a big U.S. Senate race and more than a 10th of the delegates who will choose the party’s presidential nominee.

But a racially tinged dispute over redrawing its congressional districts has delayed the Texas primary by almost three months, complicated the U.S. Senate and House contests and altered the race for the White House.

A San Antonio court pushed Texas’ primary back to May 29 from March 6 after complaints that a new electoral map drawn by Republicans violated the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of blacks and Latinos.

Three of Texas’ four new U.S. House seats were created in areas dominated by whites, even though Hispanics and blacks accounted for 90 percent of Texas’ population growth since 2000.

The battle sets white Republicans, who have firmly established political control in Texas within the past decade, against rising and strongly Democratic Hispanic and black populations, whose leaders argue that they are being unfairly denied an equal voice in state politics.

The stakes are high both for 2012, when the White House and control of the U.S. Congress are up for grabs, and longer term, when a rapidly growing Hispanic population is expected eventually to disadvantage Republicans and benefit Democrats.

“Republicans can work that racial solidarity thing for a while, but in the end, they’ve got to do better than 35 percent of the Hispanic vote or their election prospects are not great,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

States with a history of minority voting rights violations must obtain pre-clearance from either the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal court in Washington, D.C., before they can use new maps. The new voter map in Florida, another fast-growing southern state, has also been subject to legal wrangling this year.


Non-Hispanic whites already account for a minority of Texas’ residents, with 45 percent of the population. The state is 38 percent Latino and 12 percent black, numbers expected to continue to rise.

President Barack Obama lost Texas by 11-percentage points in 2008. He got only 26 percent of the white vote, but was backed by 63 percent of Hispanics and 98 percent of blacks, fueling talk that it will not be long before Republican red Texas turns purple, if not Democratic blue.

“We sort of feel like we have the wind at our backs,” said Anthony Gutierrez, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

Democrats have won Texas in only three of the last 15 presidential elections. The party has not won a statewide election since 1994, and Republicans cemented their control of the state with huge victories in the 2010 midterms.

But even Republicans acknowledge that changing demographics mean the party must appeal to Hispanics to hold onto power beyond the next few years. Latinos in Texas generally vote Democratic by a 2-to-1 margin, which won’t be helped by a redistricting fight seen as a battle to maintain white control.

“It is obviously a high-risk strategy in a state that is increasingly Hispanic,” said Michael Li, a Dallas-based election law lawyer who runs the blog “Texas Redistricting.” Li is not involved in the redistricting fight.


The redistricting mess has already affected the 2012 presidential race, notably the hopes of Mitt Romney, who may have done well in the Texas primary if it had taken place on Super Tuesday – March 6 – as originally scheduled.

Texas would have been the biggest prize up for grabs on Super Tuesday, when 10 other states held primaries and caucuses.

Romney, with far more money and a bigger campaign organization than rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, was best placed to compete in so many states at once. Texas alone has 20 media markets, meaning statewide advertising can cost millions.

Winning or putting in a good showing in Texas would have boosted Romney. The state’s 155 delegates, awarded proportionally, are a huge chunk of the 1,144 needed to become the nominee.

A strong performance on Super Tuesday also would have given Romney a badly needed breakthrough in the heart of southern Republican conservatism, weakening Santorum and perhaps cutting short what has become a protracted nomination fight.

Instead, Romney has been a weak front-runner and Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator best known for strong religious conservatism, has been winning over the party’s right wing.

“It (a March 6 Texas primary) would have changed a lot of things. It would have changed the entire complexion of Super Tuesday,” said Matt Mackowiak, an Austin-based Republican strategist, especially with Santorum and Gingrich both vying for the support of the most conservative Texans.

“I suspect if the field was split and if Santorum and Gingrich hadn’t had $5 million or $3 million to spend, then Romney probably would have won Texas on March 6,” he said.

With Texas now one of the last states to vote, the nominee could be chosen by May 29. Even if it isn’t, Santorum is now considered more likely to take Texas, thanks to improving fund-raising and his solidified position as the conservative alternative to Romney.

“Romney starts with a significant disadvantage in terms of public opinion,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, although he added that Romney’s big campaign war chest means that he could spend heavily in Texas to target clusters of mainstream conservatives in major media markets.

A Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research poll last week showed Santorum eight percentage points ahead of Romney among likely Republican primary voters in Texas. Santorum was at 35 percent to 27 percent for Romney.

Gingrich was at 20 percent and Ron Paul, a Texas congressman lagging in most polls, was at 8 percent.

The redistricting mess is affecting races down the ticket as well, with many voters not sure where they are registered and many candidates unsure of where they should run or raise money while the court fight has continued.

“I can look around the state and see the confusion in the eyes of the average voter,” said Chris Elam, communications director for the state Republican party. Some 100 Republicans alone have applied to run for the 36 House seats, he said.

The interim map is expected to stand, but there is a chance it could be changed again by the Washington court.

The May 29 date is after schools close for the summer, leading to worries that turnout will be low, which often leads to unpredictable results.

The race to replace retiring Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has been most affected by the upheaval. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has been favored to replace Hutchison, because of his statewide name recognition and fundraising prowess.

But the long delay has given opponents, especially Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, time to raise money and their profiles. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Craig James, a one-time television sports analyst, are also in the race.

If no one wins a majority on May 29, state law mandates a runoff vote on July 31, the heart of the hot Texas summer when an even smaller turnout would be expected.

On Monday, the Republican Party of Texas received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice thatconfirmed federal pre-clearance of the temporary and emergency changes to the RPT rules that were adopted on February 29 at the emergency meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee.

As was reported in previous redistricting updates, during the February redistricting trial, the three-judge federal panel in San Antonio indicated to Chairman Munisteri that the RPT needed to obtain USDOJ pre-clearance on the party’s convention process. The DOJ attorney at the trial testified that his office would expedite the review of the changes and could reduce the approval time from a couple of months to a couple of weeks. The rules changes made by the SREC were submitted to the USDOJ on March 5, 2012 and this week the RPT received a letter verifying that the pre-clearance had indeed been expedited and approved.

Thus, the final legal obstacle has been overcome in the 2012 Republican Party of Texas convention process. The county and district conventions are moving forward on the dates of April 14 or April 21 (will vary by county), and the State Convention will be held on June 7-9 in Fort Worth. For a full list of RPT Rules governing the 2012 Election Cycle, you can visit and view the updated document.






Actress Eva Longoria talks about her new role as a national co-chair for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.

>>> poised to become a deciding factor in key states like colorado, new mexico and nevada, the obama campaign is now deploying some star power to sell its message tolatinos . eva longoria shot to fame playing is gabriel solis on the tv show “desperate housewives” now. she joins me now. so nice to meet you. you were very involved in the last election campaign four years ago. you’re taking a larger role now. what is your main purpose and how do you see yourself being helpful to the candidate?

>> i was asked to be a co-chair. my roles are to engage and mobilize the voters specifically with the latino and women ‘s community. those are two areas of interest i participate in heavily and pretty literate about. i’ll be going to swing states .


>> you know a lot about health carey know. and we in fact, profiled you on nbc nightly news because of what you’re doing with special needs community.

>> yes.

>> but the women ‘s issues, women ‘s health issues have become front and center force of what has happened on the republican side . now in texas, interestingly, governor perry has turned back $35 million for planned parenthood preventive programs, including pap tests and mammograms and texas as you know better than i has i think it’s your home state has the highest number of uninsured women .

>> yeah.

photo source: AP

>> do you think this is going to become a mobilizing force?

>> absolutely. the election is going to be about choice and pretty clear for womenwho’s on their side. there is an attack on women ‘s health care and president obama ‘s policies are the only ones that are going to move the agenda for women ‘s rights. there’s so much dismantling of what we’ve accomplished as women by the right side. so i’m going to be out there and campaigning for him. i think one of the things about the affordable care act that just came out was that the gender rating for women , we’re charged more because we go to the doctors more. the affordable care act will eliminate the gender rating for insurers. women need to be educated on everything that obama has done in his first term regarding their rights and access to health care .

>> now, one of the striking things that is quite noticeable is that there are seven co-chair co-chairs who are latino .

>> that’s not a mistake, you know?

>> that is absolutely targeting 16.3% of the population. mitt romney had this to say after winning puerto rico on his chances of doing very well with hispanic voters.

>> those people who don’t think that latinos need to vote for a republican need to look in puerto rico and see there the conservative principles and latino voters go together and hispanic voters are going to vote for republicans if we stand for something, conservative principles that bring growth and good jobs and rising home values. that’s why we’re going to get latino voters to help us out.

>> now, george bush did very well in his first election with hispanic voters.

2011 Eva Longoria / WhoSay

>> right.

>> and that has gone down.

>> he’s also from the state of texas . .

>> do you think that immigration reform is the issue that has —


>> the clip is interesting. he makes a huge generalization because he won the primary so puerto rico voters, republicans who live in puerto rico voted for him is a huge generalization he’s going to get the latino vote. 63% of latinos in america are mexican-american. there’s central americans and of all the candidates, pitt romney is probably the one on the wrong side of every issue pertaining to latinos , education, the economy. he’s campaigning with — he’s causing the anti- immigration law from arizona a model law for the rest of the country. he’s campaigning with the author of it. that is polarizing to latinos . he wants to veto the d.r.e.a.m. act if he was in office. that is dangerous for our community. obama for me is the only one that understands that the success of the future of america is intricately tied to the success of the hispanic community.

>> there have been many hispanic leaders in the last couple years who have been disappointed in the president for not doing more on immigration reform .

>> its an a problem. reform has been on the national agenda for three administrations.

>> even longer.

[photo source: Judy Eddy/WENN.] via Perez Hilton

>> and it does need to be fixed. it’s broken. nobody wants illegal immigration . the misconception is latinos are for illegal immigration . that is not true. i know there’s disappointment in the latino community but what he has done, what he can do, he’s proposed changes to keep families together. he has reallocated resources from thedepartment of homeland security to focus on deporting criminals, not students. so i think also because the gop primary has been so long, all we’ve heard is attacks on his record and that’s what i’m going to be doing is getting out there and showing the great things about what he’s done in his first term. latinos need to hear it.


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Speaking to the RJC, the candidates all promised to strengthen the alliance with Israel. | AP Photos

With the Texas primary still more than two months away, and no assurances that the GOP presidential nominating process will have been decided by then, folks in the Lone Star State are anxiously preparing for company.

Some state officials are bemoaning the fact that Texas elections have been delayed until May 29 because of redistricting court battles, forcing the state to miss March’s much-heralded “Super Tuesday,” when 10 other states participated in primaries and caucuses.

The concern was that the nation’s second-largest state would have no real say in choosing the next Republican nominee for president.

But after Rick Santorum chalked up wins in Alabama and Mississippi last week, although still greatly trailing front-runner Mitt Romney in the delegate count, there is a feeling among many party faithful and political pundits that the momentum is with him. “True conservatives” are giddy about the prospect of Santorum winning enough races between now and June to cause a brokered convention in August.

The trail to the convention would become more interesting in Texas, where Republicans are armed with the second-most delegates in the country (155). Even Californians, whose primary is in June, are holding out hope that their 172 delegates will be the ones to really decide the nominee to face President Barack Obama in the general election.

If there truly is a contested campaign in this state, it could have ramifications for others on the ballot as the GOP old guard battles Tea Party upstarts. And depending how much money the candidates and their supporting super political action committees spend on advertising, it could get dirty real quick.

Former first lady Barbara Bush, a Romney supporter, is on record voicing her disgust with this year’s campaign.

“I think it’s been the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life,” Bush said during an appearance this month with daughter-in-law Laura at Southern Methodist University.

Intra-party battle lines have been drawn for a while as the elder Bushes and other GOP heavyweights backed Romney, and Gov. Rick Perry, after a failed presidential bid, threw his staunch support behind Newt Gingrich.

That leaves Santorum — with his growing Tea Party, social conservative and evangelical support — and Rep. Ron Paul, who has a following of Libertarians and other big-government haters.

A new poll out last week by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, a GOP survey group, showed Santorum ahead of Romney in Texas by 8 percentage points, 35 percent to 27 percent, followed by Gingrich with 20 percent and Paul with 8 percent.

Should Santorum hang on to that lead, who knows what impact his voters will have on down-ballot races — statewide, congressional and legislative and even county elections.

A lot will depend on who can get their message and their voters out. This is not Kansas or Mississippi.

Texas has 20 media markets, including the fifth- and 10th-largest in the country (Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, respectively). That means candidates will have to spend a lot of money on advertising and a lot of face-time in the state.

And, based on what we’ve seen in other primary and caucus states, it’s sure to get downright nasty.

The candidates, however, will try to balance their mean streaks with their softer personas demonstrated by imitating local accents, holding babies and eating down-home food like grits, biscuits and barbecue. Of course, in Texas they’ll have to add tamales to that list — and I trust none will eat the Mexican staple with corn husk still on it.

After the Alabama and Mississippi contests, The Associated Press tabulated the delegate count at 495 for Romney, 252 for Santorum, 131 for Gingrich and 48 for Paul. It takes 1,144 to win.

Because Gingrich and Santorum have vowed to take their campaigns all the way to the convention in Florida regardless of delegate count, Texans can expect to see quite a bit of the candidates here in the next few weeks.

So, get out the welcome mats, y’all. While you’re at it, you might want to stock up on some bicarbonate of soda.

Read more here: Star-Telegram

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Analyzing Minority Turnout After Voter ID

Minnesota currently has a proposed constitutional amendment moving through its legislature to impose strict photo ID restrictions on voters and possibly eliminate Election Day registration. I take great pride in the fact that my home state of Minnesota consistently has the highest turnout in the country, and I’m pained by this legislation that is sure to reduce opportunities for voter participation across the state.

I want to correct a common misperception that came up during show, suggesting that voter turnout among Hispanic voters in Georgia has increased since the passage of its restrictive no-photo, no-vote photo ID law.

Motivation for voter turnout is notoriously difficult to measure. It’s a moving target, not lending itself easily to empirical methods of evaluation. But in this case, any assertion that voter turnout among Hispanics increased in Georgia following enactment of its strict voter ID law is simply not true.

According to the GA Secretary of State,Georgia’s Hispanic turnout (calculated as a percentage of registered voters) was lower in 2010 than in 2006, and it was lower in 2008 than in 2004. See table below:

Registered Hispanic Voters Actual Hispanic Voters Hispanic Turnout %
2004 30,148 18,240 60.5%
2006 43,514 11,601 26.7%
2008 73,375 43,717 59.6%
2010 75,658 19,320 25.5%

The number of Hispanic voters was greater in the 2010 election than in the 2006 election, and in the 2008 election than in the 2004 election, as the total population of registered Hispanic voters increased by 73.9 percent and 144 percent, respectively. However, there was a slight reduction in the percentage of voter turnout for Hispanics between presidential election years 2004 and 2008 and non-presidential election years 2006 and 2010.

While simple turnout numbers from a single state cannot tell us exactly what impact new voter restrictions have on voter turnout, it’s clear that in Georgia, the percentage of minority voter turnout has not increased following enactment of its strict voter ID law.

Strict voter ID laws are absolutely the wrong policy direction for this country. Voter participation rates across all racial, ethnic and socio-economic are dropping each election year. Georgia has seen voter participation rates in the fastest growing ethnic population over the past decade stay flat or decline.  As we consider what is best for America, increased voter participation is essential to restoring faith in our democracy and strict voter ID laws that fail to solve any real problems are wrong for America.


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Latina leader to her Girl Scouts: Prepare to lead

When 10-year-old Anna Maria Chavez joined Girl Scout Troop 304 in the small town of Eloy, Arizona, she never thought the experience would eventually lead her to occupy a colorful office just off Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan.

While about half of all women in the United States were Girl Scouts at some point in their lives,  today, one in 10 of those girls are Latina. One of them is Chavez, who last year became the first Hispanic CEO of the organization.

At the headquarters of Girls Scouts Inc., Chavez is celebrating the organization’s 100th anniversary surrounded by apple-green walls and shelves of memorabilia. Instead of magazines in the small waiting area, there are cookie jars.

“I never ever imagined that I would become the national CEO of Girl Scouts,” she said. “You need to understand where I came from.”

In This Photo: Anna Maria Chavez Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images North America)

Chavez was the only daughter in a Mexican immigrant family that came to the U.S. to work on farms. Hers was the first generation in the family to attend college.

Chavez said when she was a girl her own family had no knowledge about Girl Scouts and what they do. “I went home to my abuelita, my nana, and I said, ‘Nana I’m gonna be a Girl Scout,’ and she said ‘Y eso? Que hacen?’ you know, ‘What do they do?’” Chavez recalled.

For a young Chavez, camping and meeting girls from different backgrounds helped her to become more confident and independent. That helped in her teen years, when she moved from Eloy to Phoenix, and entered a large school where she was one of about a dozen Mexican students.

Her undergraduate education was at Yale, where a high SAT score helped her get accepted and earn a scholarship.

“When I got in, people were shocked and dismayed because nobody in our high school had gotten into this school. ‘You’re Latina, don’t you think you should stay in state?’” she said. “And I was like ‘Wait a minute, I have no boundaries!’”  She credits her Girl Scouts experience with helping her to make that decision.

Gallery: The first Girl Scout: Daisy Gordon Lawrence

Her tenure in the Girl Scouts also helped her make her career choice. Chavez remembered a family picnic during childhood, when she discovered a cave with Native American drawings that had been scribbled over with graffiti. Her outrage, she recalled, turned into a desire to become an attorney and “make laws” to stop things like this from happening.

“Only the Girl Scouts could charge me in a way to understand that even as a small girl, I could make a difference…” she said.

So after Yale, she returned to Phoenix to get a law degree and went on to become a successful attorney, eventually working for former Arizona Governor – and Girl Scouts alumna – Janet Napolitano. Later, she took up regional direction of Girl Scouts in San Antonio, Texas.

The position paved the way for her current job at the helm of the organization in New York.  “Girl Scouts and my family taught me to dream big,” she said. “Nothing was impossible.”

Now, she’s on a mission: To help the Girl Scouts of today become the leaders of tomorrow, like she did.

“If you look across the country, the top 10 job sectors, only 18 percent of leadership positions in those sectors are held by women,” she said, citing a survey conducted by Girl Scouts. “What were saying is, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could increase women in these leadership roles?’”

That message of leadership especially resonates with Latina mothers, who “want their daughters to succeed; they want their daughters to explore other options in their lives,” Chavez said.

According to the Girl Scouts, there are three million girls and women volunteers in the United States alone. The organization is present in 90 countries and claims to have made an impact in the lives of more than 59 million members in the course of its history.

As the scouts turn a century old, Chavez is intent on revamping the organization’s image. “People love Girl Scouts… they see our brand and they smile and think cookies, camp and crafts, but we want them to see premier leadership organization for girls in this country, if not this world,” she said.

Her vision for the future was already working in Queens Village, New York, where several troops met to commemorate World Thinking Day, a celebration of Girl Scouts around the world and a chance for scouts to pin new badges to their vests.


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