Houston Democracy Project Letter Being Sent To All Democrats Running For Houston Municipal Office In 2023
This is the text of the letter being sent from the Houston Democracy Project to all Democrats running for Houston City Council, City Controller and Mayor of Houston in 2023. The text will be slightly edited to reflect the three different offices.
I launched the Houston Democracy Project to change the culture of how Houston municipal campaigns are run. Democracy is on the line in Houston and Harris County, but city campaigns often put convention and short-sighted self-interest over the right of Houstonians to govern themselves and over the fate of democracy.
Find the Houston Democracy Project here: https://www.neilaquino.com
I’ve served the Democratic Party from the inside and the outside. I’ve been a staffer on campaigns, an active volunteer, and aggressively championed our candidates. I am also an organizer of the weekly protest at Senator Cornyn’s Houston office now in its sixth year. I’m convinced that in addition to voting, we must find new approaches to protecting and promoting democracy.
2023 Houston city elections offer an excellent opportunity for new approaches.
The way we conduct municipal elections in Houston doesn't work. Candidates run with expectations of low turnout and frequently with special-interest money. Democrats running for Mayor, Controller and Council often identify as Democrats when it serves them, and then shelter behind the failed fiction of non-partisanship if it benefits them. Republicans do not treat these elections as non-partisan.
This standard approach to campaigning is often termed pragmatic or moderate. It is neither. At best, it is a blind eye toward political and racial extremism. At worst, it is collaboration with a Republican Party and political right that has stripped Houston of an elected school board, attacked Houston in every way in the recent legislative session and is in court trying to undo 2022 Harris County election results.
A critical issue in 2023 is the relationship of local Democrats with police unions. It is essential that elected Democrats have constructive relationships with law enforcement.
Right-wing police unions are, however, not the same as a taxpayer-financed police department. It puts Houstonians at risk to accept police union endorsements if these unions endorse election-deniers and bypass municipal officials to get what they want from an extremist state government.
There is no public safety for Houstonians when police unions don’t respect the electoral decisions of our multi-racial and majority Democratic city. There is no public safety without democracy.
Is an authoritarian future for your and the people in your life worth a City Council seat?
The Houston Democracy project asks the following of candidates and incumbents running for municipal office in Houston in 2023:
Will you make democracy a top issue in your campaign? Will you speak up on the loss of our elected school board and continuing efforts in court to reverse Democratic wins in Harris County in 2022?
Will you identify as a Democrat on your website and campaign materials? Will you help elect Democrats in Harris County in 2024?
Will you use campaign funds and your influence to help develop and train non-white organizers? Progressive organizers? Will you use your resources to strengthen pro-democracy forces across Houston?
Will you insist police unions and any group you seek the endorsement from will always support free and fair elections in Texas and will not endorse election deniers?
What is your plan to increase turnout and involvement in Houston municipal elections?
I understand the pressures for business as usual. Consultants offer advice that may have worked in the past. Running for office is a significant investment of time and effort. Caution seems to make sense.
But old truths no longer apply. Business as usual has not protected multi-racial democracy and the Voting Rights Act any more than it protected Roe v. Wade. Houston and Harris County have been reduced to colonies of a white supremacist and authoritarian state government.
The current state of politics demands that you take the risks required of today’s elected officials: That means showing up for democracy.
Will you please act now before local, Texas and national Republicans are fully successful in taking our rights away here in the most diverse city in America?
I look forward to an ongoing conversation as we work together to protect ourselves and each other.
Houston Democracy Project
Here is the front page of the Houston Democracy Project.
The John Cornyn Houston Office Protest was out yesterday for Week 329. The purpose of the protest is make the point that in addition to voting, we must show up physically & non-conventionally for the conflicts ahead over democracy & white supremacy. Democracy is the at the center of what the Cornyn Protest is fighting for.
The protest meets each Tuesday, 11:30-1, at 5300 Memorial Drive. It’s a welcoming crew & there are always extra signs for all. Please join them.
HISD Takeover Almost Here--Still Don't Know Names of State-Appointed Board Of Managers Taking Away Democracy
We are just two days away from the official start of the wrongful takeover of Houston public schools by the State of Texas. Today is May 30. State control begins June 1.
So far we don't have the name of the new HISD superintendent or the Board of Managers the state is appointing to replace our elected officials.
All these plans are being made in secret with secret meetings. The contempt for democracy and for the meaningful input of the people of Houston could not be more clear.
Community Voices for Public Education has been leading the opposition to the suspension of democracy and seizure of Houston Public Schools by our far right-wing state government.
This is a matter all Houston City Council incumbents and candidates should be discussing. Houston was a Jim Crow City just 60 years ago. It is wrong to be silent about the removal of our elected officials by anti-democratic and hateful people such as Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick.
Many Terrible Texas Legislative Special Sessions Ahead--Houston City Council & Council Candidates Must Speak Up
Governor Abbott has called a special session of the Texas Legislature. He says he might call many special sessions in the months ahead. That's bad news. The more the Texas Legislature is in session the worse it goes for Texans. But this blog is not about the legislature.
Democrats on Houston City Council have the ability to rally and organize Houstonians for the fights ahead. The legislature is doing all it can to take away basic voting rights and control of elections in Houston and Harris County. Texas cities and counties have lost much of their power to enact local regulations. What is going has direct local impact for Houston. The legislature is taking us back to Jim Crow and removing freedoms people fought and died to obtain.
This is an urgent matter for our local elected Democrats. Where are their voices? Where is the leadership? We have a responsibility to ourselves to ask for more from the elected officials closest to us on the ground in Houston.
Each week I watch the weekly Thursday public hearing on Zoom today before Judge David Peeples in San Antonio about the 21 election re-do suits filed by Harris County Republicans defeated 2022 elections. Here is the most recent update from the May 17 hearing.
Here are weekly repeating points: Re-doing the elections is what is sought--Not declaring a new winner. /Judge Peeples will decide all cases. No jury./Judge Peeples is reported to be fair-minded and seems to be so in the hearings./The first trial will be Erin Lunceford seeking to commandeer the election away from Tamika Craft. It’s separated from the other cases because it was further along in discovery. Though that may not be so anymore after the recent death of witness Alan Vera who was a Republican who went around saying our elections were suspect. The Craft trial starts August 1/The other 20 cases will be heard in the fall. Maybe all 20 in a bundle. Maybe 2 separate trials./All cases are likely headed to the hyper-partisan Texas Supreme Court which is bad news for anybody who respects the rule of law.
Today’s 40 minute hearing had focus on the Judge Jason Cox/Rory Olsen case.
The attorney for defeated Olsen is Jared Woodfill. Google Jared Woodfill and see what you think & see what you think of this Rory Olsen individual for retaining him.
Cox beat Olsen by 33,000 votes. The Judge asked Woodfill about various claims he is making about dead voters and voters who no longer lived in the county on Election Day as he works to get to the needed vote totals to re-do the election. (There are also claims of voters allegedly turned away at the polls.)
It’ll take a lot of wrongful voters to make up a 33,000 vote gap. The margins of defeat by the 21 losers range from 429 votes up to 34,742. All but five of the cases have margins of 18,000 votes or more. Judge Hidalgo beat Ted Cruz-endorsed Mealer by 18,183.
Woodfill said his expert witnesses are out there rustling up proof of all these many thousands of improper voters.
Judge Peeples suggested that next week he’ll have questions about how the cases are being constructed by the plaintiffs. (There is nothing good or bad you can read into that as far as I can tell. The Judge does not tip his hand about much.)
The attorneys for the defendants will be making a motion to dismiss the cases in July. I’m uncertain why in July and not at some other time. But that’s the stated plan. Maybe that is when Judge Peeples will have enough information to see if the cases have merit enough for trial.
Two recent investigative reports, one by Jennifer Rice at the Houston Chronicle and the other by Andrew Schneider at KUHF 88.7 FM, have said the facts are not there to merit a re-do of the elections.
We’ve already lost our elected school board in Houston in what was only 60 years ago a Jim Crow city. At core this is not about the elected Democrats being challenged. It is about our right as citizens to be have free elections and for election results to be respected.
I encourage rank and file Democrats and people who care about democracy to discuss these assaults on freedom with others & insist that elected Democrats and Democrats running for any office to make the protection and promotion of democracy a central issue.
I'm Neil Aquino