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Elections 2020

Beto O’Rourke Releases Plan for LGBTQ Equality

“We must ensure all Americans are treated equally no matter who they are or who they love,” the Democratic presidential candidate says in offering his sixth major policy proposal.

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Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke's supporters, including one holding a LGBTQ Pride flag, gather ahead of a rally in El Paso in March. Photo credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre / The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released a proposal Wednesday morning to achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans and reinstate protections abandoned by President Donald Trump.

The plan — O’Rourke’s sixth major policy rollout — is heavy on executive actions he would pursue to support the LGBTQ community. It also prescribes legislation he would champion and steps that can be taken on the global stage.

“We must ensure all Americans are treated equally no matter who they are or who they love,” the former El Paso congressman said in a statement on the proposal, which comes amid LGBTQ Pride Month and arrived hours before he was set to lead a “Pride Run” in New York City.

Among the executive actions that O’Rourke would take: overturning Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, reversing the “deploy or get out” policy that critics say discriminates against HIV-positive service members, and bringing back U.S. Education Department guidance that sought to protect LGBTQ students. O’Rourke would also act to crack down on conversion therapy, update blood donation requirements for LGBTQ people, increase LGBTQ representation in the census and install more pro-LGBTQ people in government, especially in the judiciary.

O’Rourke’s plan puts an emphasis on protecting transgender people — specifically transgender women of color — calling for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate crimes against them and making sure law enforcement agencies get the right training to respond. Dallas in particular has been roiled by a recent string of slayings involving transgender women of color.

When it comes to legislation, O’Rourke backs measures such as the Equality Act, a sweeping bill passed last month by the Democratic-led House that would overhaul the Civil Rights Act to protect LGBTQ Americans. O’Rourke also wants to make sure LGBTQ people have equal access to health care and insurance as part of any universal health care system that his administration would pursue in Congress.

And on the international front, O’Rourke proposes things like collaborating with allies to craft a global treaty through the International Law Commission of the United Nations that would shield LGBTQ people from persecution. O’Rourke also would create a “special envoy for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people” in the U.S. State Department.

Looking to stand out as his poll numbers remain low, O’Rourke has been producing policy papers at a steady rate. He previously released proposals on climate change, abortion rights, criminal justice, voting rights and immigration.

Immigration continues to be a focus in O’Rourke’s latest plan. His proposed executive actions include clarifying that LGBTQ people fleeing persecution are a “vulnerable population” that can use the U.S. asylum process.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders. Patrick logged countless miles on the 2016 campaign trail, covering the many Texas angles of the momentous presidential race. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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Elections 2020

Pegasus Owner Running For Congress as Republican

The gay, Trump-supporting Republican owner of the San Antonio Pegasus nightclub announced that he is running to represent Texas’ 20th congressional district.

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Mauro Garza announced he's running for Texas' 20th Congressional District during the Bexar County Republican Women Luncheon. Photo credit: Mauro Garza campaign website

Mauro Garza, owner of the Pegasus nightclub in San Antonio and Trump supporter, is running for Congress as a Republican. He is running for Texas’ 20th congressional district which includes western San Antonio. He made the announcement on Friday, August 9, 2019 during the Bexar County Republican Women Luncheon. If Garza wins the primary, he would face the Democratic incumbent and LGBT ally Rep. Joaquin Castro in the general election.

This isn’t his first attempt at running for office, though. In 2010, he ran for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 in Bexar County as a Democrat, losing in the primary by just 122 votes. The now self-proclaimed conservative Log Cabin Republican then ran again in 2018 in neighboring District 21, which includes parts of northern San Antonio along with a large portion of Austin and the Hill Country. In that crowded Republican primary to replace the retiring Lamar Smith, Garza self-funded his entire campaign with a personal loan of over $145K, only to net less than 1 percent of the votes.

According to Garza’s campaign website he is now pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment. Under ‘key issues’ he lists ‘Equality’; “I believe in EQUALITY. America is the land of the Free. I do not believe in discriminating against Race, Color, Religion, Sex, Age, Disability, Sexual Orientation, or National Origin.” Further, under “LGBT+ Rights’ he adds “I advocate for Marriage Equality, because the government has no right to be in our bedrooms. I advocate for Tax Equality for Domestic Partner Benefits. I will advocate Conservative Reform for the LGBT+ Community.”

Members of San Antonio’s LGBTQ+ community are taking a stand against Garza, with activists from Direct Action Network San Antonio calling for “a nationwide boycott in an effort to defund his contributions to anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians/platforms” with their #ProtestThePeg campaign.

“We must stand together to ensure that political attacks on our communities are denounced. We must work in unison to curtail monetary support of anti-LGBTQIA+ movements. Every time we spend our hard earned dollars at Pegasus Nightclub, we are paying to support our oppression. For this reason, we are making a nationwide call to anyone in our communities that are planning to visit the city of San Antonio to boycott the Pegasus.”

“We understand there are many artists who rely on the entertainment industry as their source of income,” the group said. “We are fully aware of the limits systemic oppression can impose on us to secure employment and meet our needs. We recognize that our spaces are the safest for LGBTQIA+ talent to work.However, the LGBTQIA+ entertainment industry provides different platforms that reach large audiences. We ask that you use those platforms responsibly and refrain from contracting talent to attend or perform at Pegasus Nightclub. We will continue the boycott and protests as long as Mr Garza sustains his support for politics and rhetoric that incite discrimination and violence against us and other vulnerable communities.”

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Elections 2020

Wendy Davis Announces Bid for Congress, Will Challenge U.S. Rep. Chip Roy

The former state senator is running for office for the first time since her unsuccessful campaign for Texas governor.

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Former state Sen. Wendy Davis is running against U.S. Rep. Chip Roy. Photo credit: Spencer Selvidge

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis is running for Congress..

Early Monday morning, Davis announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in Central Texas’ 21st District. She is challenging U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a freshman Republican from Austin.

She made her intentions known in a biographical video, narrated in part with archival footage from her late father, Jerry Russell.

“I’m running for Congress because people’s voices are still being silenced,” she said. “I’m running for our children and grandchildren, so they can live and love and fight for change themselves.”

The potential Davis-Roy matchup is likely to be among the most polarizing races the state has seen in recent years. Davis is a fierce national advocate for abortion rights, while Roy has built his reputation in his first six months in Congress as a conservative firebrand.

Davis lives in Austin but spent much of her adult life in Fort Worth, where she served on the City Council and in the state Senate. In 2013, Davis became a national figure when she filibustered an omnibus anti-abortion bill. Later that fall, she announced her campaign for Texas governor. Despite strong fundraising, she lost to Republican Greg Abbott by over 20 percentage points.

“Even in losing, we helped shape the future,” she said in the video.

Roy responded on Monday afternoon on Twitter.

“Wendy Davis’ radical & extreme views will no doubt excite the likes of Nancy Pelosi & other DC liberals,” he wrote. “I will continue fighting for the hardworking families of #Tx21 & the commonsense values that make Texas everything Washington is not. #Life, #Liberty, & #PursuitOfHappiness.”

In a Monday interview with the Tribune, Davis was emphatic that she would win this race and stressed that she would take a bipartisan approach to the prospect of serving in Congress.

She also stressed an intent to “work to end divisiveness and to create the kind of unity that really helps to solve problems.”

“I have a reputation of doing that in the Texas Senate,” she added.

She brought up education, the environment, health care and reducing the cost of prescription drugs and preserving social security as the issues she would prioritize in this race.

After moving to Austin several years ago, Davis started an organization called Deeds Not Words, campaigned around the country for Hillary Clinton and remained involved in state and national politics. Earlier this year, she mulled a run for U.S. Senate. National Democrats anticipate she will be a powerhouse fundraiser.

Davis declined to ballpark how much money she intends to raise for this race.

“I can’t put a dollar figure on it, but I know we’re going to need sufficient resources to get our message out there,” she said.

As for Roy, he had a healthy second fundraising quarter this year, raising over $400,000 and reporting over $650,000 in cash on hand. He is a longtime fixture in Texas Republican politics, serving as a staffer to both U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and state Attorney General Ken Paxton. In his first six months in Congress, he has had a knack for upending legislative procedure.

The 21st District begins in Austin, taking in neighborhoods on the south and southwest sides of town. It then runs south along the western side of Interstate 35 into San Antonio’s northern neighborhoods and into Alamo Heights. It then juts out west into the Hill Country, taking in Fredericksburg and Kerrville.

The House GOP campaign arm responded soon after Davis’ announcement.

“It’s beyond parody that Wendy Davis is attempting to make her political comeback in a district she lost by 20 points last time around,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera. “Texans resoundingly rejected Davis and her socialist agenda 5 years ago, and will do so again in 2020.”

The district’s previous incumbent, former U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, easily carried the seat to a Republican victory. In his final race in 2016, he won reelection by 21 points. But in that same year, Hillary Clinton outperformed President Barack Obama’s previous margins. In 2018, Democrat Joseph Kopser came within three points of Roy.

Davis isn’t alone in seeking to challenge Roy. Llano County Democratic Chairwoman Jennie Lou Leeder and educator Bruce Boville are among Democratic candidates who have filed Federal Election Commission finance reports. But there is little doubt that Davis will have the backing of important state and national Democrats. On Tuesday, nearly every member of House Democratic leadership and nine members of the Texas delegation will host a reception in Washington, D.C., for the newly announced candidate.

Inside Elections, a campaign analyst group, currently rates this race “likely Republican.”

Republicans publicly and privately reacted to the Davis campaign with jubilation, given her disappointing performance in 2014. She shrugged it off.

“That’s typical D.C. noise,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all, but again, we’re going to win because we’re going to talk about issues that matter, plain and simple.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Elections 2020

State Sen. Royce West Enters Democratic Primary to Challenge John Cornyn

West joins a crowded and unsettled Democratic field of candidates looking to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

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State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, has joined a crowded Democratic primary to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. Photo credit: Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

State Sen. Royce West made it official Monday: He’s running for U.S. Senate, joining a crowded and unsettled Democratic primary in the race to unseat Republican John Cornyn.

“I’m battle tested,” West told supporters at a campaign launch event. “You’ve seen me in battle, and I’m ready today to announce my candidacy for the United States Senate.”

The Dallas attorney has been viewed as a potential primary contender for some time now, but he remained mum publicly on his plans. In June, West met with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., where he reportedly had a “positive meeting” and signaled that he was likely to throw his hat in the ring. He filed the Federal Election Commission paperwork to formally launch his bid Friday.

West has served in the Texas Senate since 1993. He was elected to another four-year term in 2018 and will not have to give up his seat to challenge Cornyn. ​​​​​​

The Democrat formally launched his bid a block away from the Democratic Party’s headquarters in Dallas. Supporters — including colleagues, party leaders and elected officials — huddled at the Communications Workers of America Union Hall to give a nod of support to West’s U.S. Senate launch. During his kickoff speech, West said that, if elected, he would work on immigration reform, curbing the negative effects of climate change, ensuring Americans have “affordable universal health care” and promoting fair elections.

He also said that 10 of the 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate encouraged him to “move forward” and run for U.S. Senate. Forty-seven out of the 67 Democrats in the Texas House have done the same, he said.

“We need an individual who is seasoned, who knows what they’re doing and who has support from the state of Texas,” said state Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, D-San Antonio, who is the co-finance chair for West’s campaign. “Sen. West has a big voice, a big presence, has a lot of knowledge of the state, and I just think he can represent us really well up in D.C.”

A number of prominent Democrats — including U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk — also praised West for wading into the primary field.

“We are here to present today a change agent who will bring forth justice and fairness,” said Johnson, a Dallas Democrat. “We could use a lot of that in Texas.”

West’s announcement comes days after Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, another Democrat, launched her bid for U.S. Senate. The two enter a crowded primary that includes MJ Hegar, a 2018 U.S. House candidate and retired Air Force helicopter pilot, and Chris Bell, a former Houston congressman and 2006 gubernatorial nominee.

A group of Democratic progressive operatives is also working to draft Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, the founder and executive director of Jolt, a nonprofit she started three years ago to mobilize young Latinos in Texas politics.

“It’s going to be a long road,” West said. Still, he described the process as “healthy for the Democratic Party.”

Whoever wins the primary will square off against a well-established Republican incumbent who has already amassed a war chest topping $9 million. In the latest fundraising quarter, Cornyn raised more than $2.5 million, compared with Hegar’s $1 million haul.

Responding to West’s announcement on Twitter, Cornyn said West “stood with the most liberal wing of his party to support painful, late-term abortions.”

In an emailed statement, Cornyn campaign manager John Jackson said that “whoever limps out of the runoff will face a grassroots army motivated to elect John Cornyn and stop Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren’s agenda.”

Still, Democrats have remained hopeful in their ability to flip Cornyn’s seat after Beto O’Rourke’s hard-fought, nationally watched U.S. Senate race against incumbent Ted Cruz last year. The former El Paso congressman lost by a small margin of three points — a tighter race than Democrats have achieved in years. Several statewide Republican incumbents, meanwhile, were elected by mere single digits.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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