Castro rises in poll, outrage over Texas immigration detention centers grows, new Dallas voting plan
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Good morning and Happy Independence Day!
Here are the top political headlines from the campaign trail, Washington, Austin and Dallas.
Points from the Trail
1. Within 48 hours of the first Democratic debate last week, former housing secretary Julián Castro was in Austin, boasting that he’s no longer the other Texan running for president. Now he’s "the Texan," he said. Todd Gillman reports that a poll released Wednesday showed that Castro is indeed on the move, passing former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke and into a tie for 5th place — a distant 5th but still his best showing yet since his first appearance in Iowa last August. The ABC/Washington Poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden still on top, though the ground seems to be shifting under him.
2. Republicans are stocking the campaign coffers of Oprah’s spiritual guru, Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. Madeleine Ngo reports that’s not because they’re rooting for the self-help author to win, but in hopes of keeping her on stage in future debates. Republicans say they’re just enjoying a bit of campaign fun. Williamson declined to respond, and it’s impossible to know how much money she’s received from people who don’t actually want her to win the White House.
3. Incumbent Democrat Colin Allred has raised more than $1 million for his re-election bid as Republicans look for a candidate to wrestle back the Dallas-area seat once held by Pete Sessions. Gromer Jeffers Jr. reports that for the second quarter of this year, Allred raised $575,000 for his campaign, with none coming from corporate political action committees. Allred has hauled in more than $1 million this year and has $950,000 in the bank, according to totals provided by his campaign Tuesday. Allred, the former NFL player turned congressman, beat Sessions in one of the most critical contests in the nation. Sessions was chairman of the House Rules Committee and his ouster was a symbol of the Democratic takeover of the House. But Republicans are expected to fight hard to regain District 32, the largely north and east suburban Dallas seat in what’s considered a swing district.
4. Former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell is running for the Democratic nomination for Senate, joining what could be a crowded field of candidates looking to oust incumbent Republican John Cornyn, Gromer Jeffers reports. Bell on Tuesday filed a fundraising committee with the Federal Elections Committee, signaling that he’s off and running in what will be Texas’ marquee race in 2020. "I’m definitely running, but I won’t make an official announcement until later," Bell told The Dallas Morning News. "This allows me to raise money." He’ll join former Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar in the Democratic field. State Sen. Royce West of Dallas and Houston council member Amanda Edwards are considering jumping into the race.
Dallas-based HKS won a design competition a few years ago for a high-profile horticulture expo in Qingdoa, China, only to have its plans ripped off without compensation, said Ralph Hawkins, the firm’s chairman emeritus. A side-by-side rendering of HKS’ design and the one ultimately done by a local design institute in China shows the similarities.
Points from Washington
1. Tom Benning reports that unfair trading practices in China are at the core of President Donald Trump’s high-dollar trade war against America’s economic rival, particularly when it comes to longstanding complaints over intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer and other costly problems. The underlying issue often gets lost in the cacophony of concern that’s emerged from the business community over Trump’s reliance on tariffs as a way to force Beijing’s hand.
An example of those practices includes what happened to Dallas-based architecture giant HKS, which entered — and won — a high-profile competition to design the centerpiece of a horticulture expo in Qingdoa, a coastal Chinese metropolis. But the firm couldn’t reach a fee agreement with local officials, who cut off negotiations without explanation or compensation. Then an HKS partner saw the expo that came to fruition. The venue featured a pale facsimile — ripped off by a local design institute — of the firm’s plans for a striking conservatory filled with lush biomes, recalled Ralph Hawkins, HKS’ chairman emeritus.
2. Days after the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration hadn’t provided enough evidence to back adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the administration backed off its last-gasp effort to delay the census to seek a new avenue to add the question. But Obed Manuel reports that even without the question’s presence, the Census Bureau still faces the possibility of undercounts, particularly of children, immigrants and communities of color.
3. A delegation of more than a dozen U.S. lawmakers toured two Border Patrol holding facilities in Texas earlier this week and condemned the treatment of migrant children and adults who reportedly had been detained in squalid conditions. Alfredo Corchado reports that some children told stories of toilets with no running water. One mother in a facility in El Paso said she drank water from a toilet, according to the lawmakers. After the tour, the lawmakers held a news conference but were mostly drowned out by about two dozen supporters of President Donald Trump, whose immigration policies the Democratic lawmakers largely blamed for the situation. The tour came hours after the nonprofit ProPublica news organization reported that a private Facebook group with many current and former Border Patrol agents as members was riddled with sexist and degrading posts about migrants and liberal lawmakers, including Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Veronica Escobar of El Paso.
Corchado also reports that four pediatricians who volunteer their services to care for migrant families said the government keeps them in the dark about patients’ medical histories and what medications they may need. The doctors recounted treating children who were still sick and asked for access to the federal shelters. The pediatricians said they have been denied access to Border Patrol facilities, including the one in Clint toured by the Congressional delegation.
4. Farther south in Carrizo Springs, James Barragan reports that three people were arrested Wednesday following a protest at a recently opened facility for unaccompanied migrant children. about 100 people attended a rally at the newly opened facility to protest the detention of migrant children and their separation from their families. At the rally, organized by the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas and the Texas Organizing Project, speakers denounced the horrid conditions recently reported by lawyers and doctors who have spoken to migrant children in Border Patrol facilities, including children walking around with mucus-stained clothing and teen girls caring for younger children. During the rally, Dimmit County Sheriff’s deputies told protesters to clear the road leading into the facility. The arrests happened after the rally, as people were leaving. A sheriff’s deputy on the scene said the three people were arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with arrest.
5. Sen. Ted Cruz and former rival Beto O’Rourke are clashing over the American flag again, this time over a controversial Nike sneaker featuring an early version of the flag, Madeleine Ngo reports. O’Rourke, stumping in Iowa on Wednesday, lauded the company for pulling the shoe over complaints from former NFL player Colin Kaepernick and others. Cruz has blasted Nike for its "snide disdain for the American flag" and called for a boycott. It was reminiscent of a major spat during last year’s Texas Senate campaign, when O’Rourke’s defense of NFL players who refuse to stand for the National Anthem drew viral attention, and Cruz used it to question his patriotism.
Todd Gillman is the Washington bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News. He has covered government and politics for decades, from Dallas to D.C., and is a White House Correspondents’ Association board member. Here, Todd offers his take from Washington.
The big fireworks show in DC comes Thursday night, replete with Abrams tanks, flyovers by stealth jets – a B-2 bomber, F-22 Raptor and F-35 fighter –and a presidential speech that the White House pinky-swears won’t be overtly partisan.
But there are other sorts of explosive moments in Washington. One of those came late Wednesday afternoon via Twitter, naturally, when President Donald Trump announced that the 2020 census will include a citizenship question after all.
That came as a surprise at the Justice Department, which had already announced that the government would abide by last week’s U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that barred a question asking U.S. residents if they are citizens.
It seems like there’s plenty of time to figure this out. The once-a-decade census has taken place on April 1 since 1930, and the Commerce Department had cited a July 1 deadline to start printing – that’s nine months.
But consider the mad scramble in Iowa this Fourth of July, with at least seven presidential contenders vying for attention and more on the way in coming days. And the caucuses are still seven months away.
There’s never as much time as you think.
The Texas state capitol building in Austin, Texas on May 14, 2019.(Julia Robinson/Special Contributor)
Points from Austin
1. Retailers, bakeries and other food and beverage companies have lobbied the Legislature for years to create penalties to help prevent the theft of plastic delivery crates. Plastic tray thefts are costing U.S. companies tens of millions of dollars a year because thieves have found a way to turn them into cash. Maria Halkias reports that the new law, which goes into effect Sept. 1, will try to dry up the market. Laws against stealing cover the thieves, but this law goes after the buyers of the stolen goods. Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 4584, which sets penalties for recyclers who purchase stolen crates and pellets. The law requires recyclers to get proof of ownership of the crates and a government-issued identification from the sellers. Recyclers can no longer pay cash on the spot.
2. Gov. Greg Abbott set a special election for Nov. 5 to fill the Texas House seat left vacant by former Rep. Eric Johnson, a Democrat who was recently sworn in as Dallas mayor. Candidates must file with the Secretary of State’s office by Sept. 4. Early voting starts Oct. 21. A crowded field is expected.
Points from Dallas
1. Dana Branham reports that Dallas County commissioners voted unanimously to allow the elections department to apply for state approval of its plans to launch countywide polling places in November. The vote came after a public hearing in which speakers voiced support for voting centers but expressed fears that the county could later decide to reduce its number of polling locations. Dallas County will keep all of its polling places for all elections in 2019 and 2020. After that, the county will use data from those elections to decide whether to reduce the number of polling locations. That possibility raised concerns for some of the people who came to support voting centers at the hearing Tuesday.
2. Dallas’ Confederate War Memorial must stay in the historic cemetery in front of the downtown convention center, according to an order issued Monday by Justice Bill Whitehill of the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals at Dallas. Robert Wilonsky reports the order came only days after Arlington attorney Warren Norred filed an emergency stay in yet another legal effort to stop Dallas from removing the 122-year-old Frank Teitch sculpture from its second home in Pioneer Park Cemetery near City Hall. The appeal stems from a case filed in April 2018, when a group called Return to Lee Park — founded by recent Dallas City Council candidate Warren Johnson — went to court to force the city to return Alexander Phimister Proctor’s 1935 sculpture Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Soldier to the Oak Lawn park from which it was removed in September 2017.
3. Robert Wilonsky also reports that the city Dallas reached a settlement with Arlington’s Schrickel, Rollins and Associates Inc., designer of the whitewater feature the federal government said made the Trinity River unnavigable. City officials let the landscape architecture firm for the project off the hook for less than $1 million, according to documents obtained by The News.
Curious Texas, an ongoing project from The Dallas Morning News, invites you to join our reporting process. You can ask us questions about politics, the Texas Legislature or elections, and we’ll have our reporters answer them. Submit your questions here.
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