The Houston Democracy Project was at the Pride Candidate Forum this morning put on by the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus.
There were maybe 20 Council and Controller candidates who took the two minutes allotted to introduce themselves.
The one candidate who identified his political party was At-Large 3 candidate Donnell Cooper.
Mr. Cooper said he was a Democrat.
Republicans don't treat municipal races as non-partisan. Neither should we. The Republican Party is authoritarian and anti-democratic.
Below you see a picture of Mr. Cooper today. He made a partisan statement in a city council race and all is still well with him. No bolt of lightning came.
Don't buy it when candidates tell you city races are non-partisan. Our candidates can use city elections to strengthen the Democratic Party and demand Republicans respect election results.
The Houston Democracy Project will make endorsements at some point and doesn't have a firm view of Mr. Cooper yet. But his willingness to make a partisan assertion in an open Council forum is appreciated.
The Houston Democracy Project is working hard to make protection and expansion of democracy a leading issue in 2023 Houston City elections. Please support the effort.
There are two events on the way where you can ask Houston City Council candidates and other municipal candidates where they stand on issues of expanding and protecting democracy in Houston.
The Houston Pride Forum is Saturday, July 15, 10 AM to 1 at the IBEW building located at 1475 N Loop W.
There will be a meet & greet starting at 10 for Council candidates and then a Mayoral forum.
This event is being put on by the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus.
On Monday, July 17 the Meyerland Area Democrats will hold a meet and greet & program for Mayoral candidates Gallegos, Garcia and Kaplan. There will also be a forum for at-large and controller candidates
The event starts at 6:30 PM at Faith Lutheran Gym at 4600 Bellaire.
The Houston Democracy Project will be at both forums.
You should go as well and get to know the candidates.
Ask them questions and hold them accountable.
The Houston Democracy Project is sending the letter below to every Democrat running for Houston City Council. Next up after this letter will be a similar letter to Democrats running for Mayor, Controller & the Houston Community College Board. Any responses to the letters will be detailed here on the Houston Democracy Project Blog.
Democracy is under assault in Harris County and the nation.
In Harris County, defeated Republicans have filed 21 lawsuits to undo 2022 Harris County Democratic election wins.
In Houston, we’ve lost our elected school board in what was just 60 years ago a Jim Crow city.
In response, I’ve started the Houston Democracy Project. I’ve served the Democratic Party as staff on campaigns and as an active volunteer. I’ve championed our candidates and am an organizer of the weekly protest at Senator Cornyn’s Houston office now in its sixth year.
The website for the Houston Democracy Project and the HDP blog can be found here:
The steady volunteer, the person involved in Democratic clubs and orgs, the small donor and the voter who never misses an election are the backbone of the Harris County Democratic Party.
We’ve done the work. We are demoralized by the Texas Legislature and the ceaseless attacks on Harris County elected officials including our judges. We are deeply concerned by the erosion of democracy.
But we are not always supported by candidates we boost, we don’t see Houston municipal candidates addressing the crisis, and Houston City Council members are often missing in action in even-year elections.
Candidates for all city offices, Mayor, Controller, City Council and the HCC board, must fully join the fight, speaking and acting. There is too much on the line in the most diverse city in America for municipal candidates to hide behind the tired and failed model of low-turnout elections often funded by special interests. Republicans don’t treat these races as non-partisan. Neither should we.
This approach to city campaigns is sometimes termed pragmatic or moderate. It’s neither. At best, it is a blind eye at political and racial extremism. At worst, it is collaboration with that extremism.
Discussing democracy is the right thing to do and a vote winner. That was the case for President Biden in 2020 & Democrats nationally in 2022. President Biden and Vice President Harris have made democracy a center point of their 2024 re-election campaign. U.S. Representative Collin Allred is focusing on Ted Cruz’s support of the January 6 insurrection in his 2024 U.S. Senate race.
It is moderate and mainstream to insist freedom be protected. Without democracy, there is no public safety. It is extremist to look the other way. Here is what the Houston Democracy Project asks:
Will you make democracy a top issue in the 2023 campaign?
Will you make clear you are a Democrat on the campaign trail and on campaign literature and websites?
What will you do if elected to increase turnout in Houston city elections?
Will you pledge to be active part of the 2024 Harris County Democratic campaign?
What efforts will you make to develop new Black and brown organizing strength and political talent in Houston?
If seeking police union endorsements, did you insist that any such union stop supporting people trying to overturn our elections like Dan Patrick and Alexandra Mealer. Do you see protecting democracy as a top of issue of public safety?
Through Election Day and into the runoffs, I’ll be working alongside active Democrats and all Houstonians concerned about the fate of democracy. After city elections, I’ll adapt the effort for the 2024 Harris County Democratic primary.
We’ve lost Roe. We’ve lost most of the Voting Rights Act. We’ve messed up the weather. We’ve lost our Houston school board. Free elections are not a given. What we are doing isn't working.
Whether out of conviction or simply self-interest, we must fight for a future rooted in an open and free society. Please join this fight.
Please feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss the Houston Democracy Project.
Houston Democracy Project
The Houston Democracy Project is committed to empowering rank & file Houstonians to fight to expand and protect democracy. Holding our candidates and elected officials accountable is an essential part of this mission. Please support the Houston Democracy Project.
The Houston Democracy Project was featured by independent media host Egberto Willies on his Politics Done Right show and also his Houston KPFT radio broadcast.
Here is the link to the interview.
In the five weeks since this effort was launched, the Houston Democracy Project has been written up by a leading Texas political substack, endorsed by a popular former member of Houston City Council, been the subject of a widely-viewed Facebook Live interview series and is looked to for accurate reports of the weekly pre-trial hearings for the Harris County Republican election-denial lawsuits. The Houston Democracy Project Blog is going strong as well.
Rank & file Houstonians have the capacity to change the culture of Houston municipal politics. We can work together to make the protection and expansion of democracy a leading issue in 2023 Houston city elections.
Please share word of the Houston Democracy Project with others and please support the work.
Casey Curry is running for Houston City Council At-Large Position 3
While Ms. Curry does not say what party she supports on her website, she was just endorsed by Democratic State Rep. Gene Wu.
I saw her campaigning once at a Houston LGBTQ Political Caucus monthly meeting.
So she is likely a Democrat.
Republicans don't view municipal elections as non-partisan and neither should we. Incumbent Houston City Council Republicans are out there fighting very partisan battles about our elections.
The reason Democrats should be upfront about party identification, is because Republicans are an authoritarian political party trying to overturn elections. We should oppose them at every level so we can be safe. There is no public safety without democracy.
There is no mention of issues of democracy on Ms. Curry's website. This even though the state has taken away our Houston elected school board in what just 60 years ago was a Jim Crow city. People marched, were arrested and died so everybody can vote.
Ms. Curry was a meteorologist on Channel 13.
A big topic on her website is "Flooding & Storm Resilience."
Ms. Curry has many points about what we should do about that & says she'll work for such projects to be fairly distributed across all city communities.
Ms. Curry does not use the words "climate change" on her website.
She could easily use those two words. Climate change is a huge problem that impacts Houston.
So often when the City of Houston gets out in front of what the State of Texas thinks cities should be doing, the state passes laws saying the city should stop whatever it is doing.
Ms. Curry--and all Democrats running for Houston city offices--could make a pledge to be an active part of supporting Harris County Democratic candidates in 2024.
Ms. Curry can't make progress on the things she values without a strong Democratic Party, without clear mention of climate change and without a focus on democracy. There is no future for any part of our agenda without a functioning democracy.
The Houston Democracy Project is here to put democracy on the agenda for 2023 Houston city elections & and to press candidates to be part of the fight.
Please be involved as a citizen & please follow and support the Houston Democracy Project.
Nick Hellyar is a candidate for Houston At-Large City Council Place 2.
Mr. Hellyar's website does not have a section where he discusses his position on issues.
I read someplace that no stated positions on issues is a trend in campaigns. Maybe a consultant suggested Mr. Hellyar proceed that way.
Mr. Hellyar says in his brief biography that he worked for State Senator Carol Alvarado. So that would suggest he is a Democrat.
Though Mr. Hellyar doesn't say what political party he supports on his website.
Republicans don't treat municipal elections as non-partisan. Neither should we.
With Republicans attacking democracy and attacking so many different people, it's a matter of public safety to fight back. There is no public safety without democracy.
Mr. Hellyar has a page of endorsements.
He is endorsed by an ideologically diverse crew.
For example, Mr. Hellyar is endorsed by both incumbent Democratic Councilwoman Sallie Alcorn and the right-wing Republican former Houston Councilmember Greg Travis.
Seems contradictory. The visions of the two major parties are difficult to reconcile at the moment.
There is an old saying that there is no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole.
But we don't need our potholes filled by people who support authoritarians or by people silent about authoritarians. We could find people fully committed to democracy to fill the potholes.
Issues Mr. Hellyar could address are the loss of an elected school board in what 60 years ago was a Jim Crow city, the 21 Republican lawsuits moving to the Texas Supreme Court seeking to undo hard-won 2022 Democratic Harris County election victories, the many restrictions on municipal autonomy imposed on Houston by the far-right state legislature and endless hostility from Texas Republicans directed at gay people, trans people and many other people.
Each day offers Mr. Hellyar the opportunity to say these are important issues.
You can be certain the Houston Democracy Project will bring up these important issues & will press municipal candidates to do the same.
Please share word of the Houston Democracy Project and please support the Project with your donation.
Mike Knox is one of the two Republican At-Large Councilmembers on Houston City Council. There are five At-large Councilmembers in Houston.
Why are there any Republican At-Large Councilmembers in a strongly majority Democratic city?
Maybe at one point such Republican Councilmembers would be a sign of a healthy political system. Maybe voters just wanted the best person.
Or maybe local Democratic Party officials and the Harris County Democratic Party have not fought hard enough in municipal elections. Maybe there is a lot of get along to go along even with democracy under threat.
Republicans have taken away our elected Houston School Board in what 60 years ago a Jim Crow city and are in court trying to undo 21 Harris County Democratic Party wins in 2022. The leading Republican candidate for President is Donald Trump.
Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick and the majority Republican state legislature are really just a lot of terrible people.
Councilmember Knox could walk away from all that. He could leave the Republican Party right now. It's that simple.
The Republican Party is a domestic security threat.
There is no public safety without democracy.
The picture with this post is Councilmember Knox testifying before a committee of the Texas Senate in April of this year.
The Councilmember was complaining about "water and snacks and things like that" being handed out to voters waiting in line. He said the election judges who work long hours at the polls as civic-minded citizens should be held accountable.
After he made this testimony, where were Houston City Council Democrats saying Mr. Knox's conduct was wrong?
Mr. Knox is running in the 2024 Republican primary for Harris County Sheriff. He'll run a competent and well-funded campaign.
Please stop voting for any Republicans. Ask municipal Democrats in Houston to defend democracy. Ask the Harris County Democratic Party to fight hard in 2023.
Republicans don't treat city elections as non-partisan. Neither should we. All elections are partisan.
Support the Houston Democracy Project. The Project is working hard to make certain protection and expansion of democracy is a top issue in 2023 Houston municipal elections.
Council Candidate Wolfthal Says Monitor Conditions Of Detained Migrants In Houston--It's Been Asked Before
Leah Wolfthal is a candidate for Houston City Council At-Large #1.
Ms. Wolfthal sent out a campaign e-mail about immigration detention centers in the City of Houston.
Here is what she said:
"Immigration reform and the quality of life of undocumented Houstonians isn’t a popular issue for politicians to talk about these days. At least one “detention center” (i.e. prison for undocumented immigrants) is in operation within the city of Houston’s geographic boundaries, and three others are nearby (two in Conroe and one in Livingston). The detention center in Houston currently jails 515 people, the majority of whom have either literally no criminal history other than entering this country without permission, or only non serious charges like traffic violations or trespassing (see 2019 stats for this center). These 515 people are part of Houston families, communities, longing for reunification. A local nonprofit advocacy organization, HILSC, noted that about 70% of immigrants detained did not have legal representation, and that such representation makes a significant difference in the outcomes of their cases (2020). HILSC also noted that human rights conditions at these centers need monitoring and improvement; multiple allegations of rape have produced no accountability, for example. This is not okay."
It's good that a candidate for Houston City Council is saying these things. The well-being of any person in Houston is an appropriate subject for Houston City Council.
Ms. Wolfthal's call for awareness about conditions impacting migrants was a consistent demand of the many protests at the 419 Emancipation Southwest Key youth immigration detention center. This place was also called the Baby Jail.
I attended many of those protests and organized some as well. These protests were between 2018 and 2021.
We asked elected Houston and Harris County officials to monitor the place and report publicly on what they saw.
The elected officials showed up briefly at first. Then no more. You could not get them to show up or talk about it.
Who did show up at the protests were the police. A few times there were also officers from the Texas state police. A lot of money was wasted over-policing those protests.
It is this experience that partly informs the Houston Democracy Project.
Candidates and elected officials tell you they care and they'll be all over an important issue.
But it is easy for them to ignore your calls and then send a lot of police when you protest.
It is misguided to think issues of democracy won't be handled the same way in Houston. Is there any incumbent member of Houston City Council you see showing leadership in opposing the many terrible actions of the Texas legislature, or being a meaningful part of opposition to the anti-democratic state takeover of HISD?
Ms. Wolfthal is no doubt sincere and I hope she follows up on her pledge if elected.
But the best way to get elected officials to do what they should, is to have strong rank and file advocates for important issues.
The Houston Democracy Project is calling upon candidates for Houston municipal office in '23 to take up the fight to protect and expand democracy.
Please support the effort.
Texas State Rep. John Bryant of Dallas says Democrats in the Texas House are not responding with needed energy and urgency to the anti-democratic threat of Texas Republicans.
Rep. Bryant returned to the Texas House after previous service in the House 1974-1983. He then served 14 years in the U.S. Congress.
Here is what Rep. Bryant said in Texas Monthly:
Texas Monthly: What made you want to come to the Legislature again? The pay's not great. Why come back, especially in this political environment?
John Bryant: Well, remember the filing for these offices is in December of the year preceding the election. So this was December 2021. It was only eleven months after the invasion of the Capitol. You know, there was a huge amount of talk—and there remains a lot of talk—about measures that would effectively bring about an authoritarian system. I just thought we could lose everything. And so, you know, I’m sitting here complaining about it, when I could just run again. Maybe I can put my finger in the dike for a while until we get things straightened out. So I did.
TM: And how’s that working out?
JB: No matter what about this authoritarianism, the absence of Democratic opposition in the House and Senate does a significant disservice to the state. You have to be willing to provide some leadership on the Democratic side. This is a state with thirty million people. We have major problems. Half our people don’t own anything. They have no assets. There is just an absence of Democratic opposition. Along with some other folks, I’ve tried to provide some this time. I think that’s important, and to that extent I’m glad I came back.
The point Rep. Bryant is making is very much what the Houston Democracy Project is about. Our Democratic Party elected officials are not fighting back in a way that meets the authoritarian challenge.
We cannot continue a Houston municipal politics of low voter turnout, special interest-funded, law enforcement union-driven politics. It doesn't offer meaningful opposition. It doesn't keep us safe. There is no public safety with democracy. There is no public safety without strong opposition to authoritarianism.
The leading Texas substack Lone Star Left recently wrote about a job fair held by far-right Texas Rep. Beth Van Duyne. Many elected Democrats signed up to be part of this job fair.
Here is some of what Lone Star Left says:
"...why would any patriotic red-blooded American who lives with the values of empathy and fairness want to be part of the same event as a women that once called a 14 year-old-child a "terrorist" on the Glen Beck Show. Why would any Democrat want to be part of anything Van Duyne does?"
It is more clear each day that it will be up to rank & file Democrats, and anybody who cares about democracy, to insist that the people we elect fight for our basic freedom and safety. Fight for a future where democracy can be extended to all.
This is the mission of the Houston Democracy Project. We must change the culture of elections in Houston. Please keep up with the Project throughout the '23 Houston election season and please consider donating.
The Houston Independent School District was late paying 2000 employees earlier this week.
Though there is nothing "independent" about the district. The district is occupied by our far-right state government.
Who can be held accountable for the failure to pay employees on time? Who can be held accountable for anything that takes place at HISD?
HISD is run by the state. The state has appointed a superintendent and a board of managers who all serve at the whim of the state.
Houston voters have lost an elected school board in what just 60 years ago was a Jim Crow city.
When things go wrong at HISD, it is unlikely Greg Abbott will be of much help.
The work of protecting and expanding democracy in Houston and Harris County is up to each of us as rank & file citizens.
This work is the mission of the Houston Democracy Project. Please support the effort.
I'm Neil Aquino