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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.”

Chase is the founder and Creative Director of therepubliq.com, former host and Executive Producer of OutCast Austin, an award-winning LGBT weekly radio program on KOOP 91.7 FM in Austin. In 2011, he was named the Critics Pick for 'Most Gaybiquitous' in the Austin Chronicle's Best of Austin. In 2012, CultureMap Austin named him one of Austin's Top LGBT bloggers and he received the AGLCC's Chamber Award for Social Media Diva.

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Elections 2020

Key Goal for Texans Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke in Tuesday’s Debate: Make the Next One

If the two candidates don’t show improvement in the polls, they won’t make it to the November debate stage.

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Democratic 2020 presidential candidates former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke participate in the first U.S. 2020 presidential election Democratic candidates' debate in Miami, Florida on June 26, 2019. Photo credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

The two Democratic presidential candidates from Texas are set to appear Tuesday evening in what threatens to be their last debate, a high-stakes opportunity to propel their campaigns out of the lower tier and prove they deserve their spots onstage.

Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke are among 12 candidates who will take the stage at 7 p.m. at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. Hosted by CNN and The New York Times, it is the fourth debate of the primary, and the last one before qualification requirements go up again, potentially leaving the Texans on the sidelines.

In the short term, though, both Texans are being closely watched for their potential collisions with other candidates Tuesday evening. O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman, is heading into the debate on the heels of his latest clash with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, while Castro’s reputation precedes him after he stood out in the first three debates for his unflinching interrogations of some rivals.

“Some folks have thought that I’ve been somewhat assertive on the debate stage,” Castro said late last month at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. “I can tell you that whoever’s on the debate stage [in the general election] … Donald Trump is not gonna be nice.”

Still, the debates have proven to be somewhat frustrating experiences for the Texans. Both have had standout moments and enjoyed some fundraising success afterward. But neither has received a discernible boost in the polls as a result.

The latest debate falls on the last day for candidates to report their third-quarter fundraising to the Federal Election Commission. Four days ago, O’Rourke announced he raised $4.5 million over the period, while Castro has not released his numbers yet but offered other fundraising details over the weekend that indicated he took in at least $3.2 million.

Both hauls are improvements over the Texans’ second-quarter fundraising but still far behind many of their competitors, especially those that will share the stage with them Tuesday.

The 12-candidate lineup is the biggest for a single night yet, and opportunities abound for conflict. For O’Rourke, that may mean a direct confrontation with Buttigieg, who he has traded barbs with in a series of media appearances and tweets over recent weeks.

The two tangled anew Monday over O’Rourke’s crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons. Buttigieg has suggested the idea plays into Republicans’ hands, and O’Rourke has countered that Buttigieg is being too cautious and calculating.

“I get it,” Buttigieg said in a Snapchat interview published Monday morning. “He needs to pick a fight in order to stay relevant, but this is about a difference on policy.”

O’Rourke shot back on Twitter: “[Buttigieg] can say whatever he wants, but guns kill 40,000 people each year. Those people deserve action. I’ll be fighting for them.”

O’Rourke has also faced scrutiny in recent days for saying that religious institutions that oppose gay marriage should lose their tax-exempt status. His campaign later walked back the position, saying O’Rourke was referring to institutions that discriminate, but that did not stop at least two rivals, Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, from plainly expressing their disagreement, not to mention an avalanche of GOP criticism.

Castro has not been at the center of as much controversy in recent days, though his aggressive debate style is well known at this point. During the last debate, his questioning of Joe Biden’s memory hit on a sensitive subject — the former vice president’s mental acuity — that was one of the more dramatic storylines to come out of the event.

Beyond the Ohio debate, though, both Texans are staring down the possibility that they do not qualify for the next one, which is scheduled for Nov. 20 in Georgia. Both candidates have the 165,000 donors required for that debate, according to their campaigns, but neither is close to satisfying the most realistic polling requirement for them: 3% in four national or early voting state polls. Castro has none of the qualifying surveys, while O’Rourke has one.

They have until Nov. 13 to hit the threshold, though neither has been on a promising trajectory lately.

Faced with the November cutoff, Castro has taken a somewhat alarmist approach, sending out a fundraising email late last month warning it would be the “end of my campaign” if he did not qualify for the November debate. Meanwhile, a confident O’Rourke and his campaign have sought to reassure backers not to sweat the November cutoff.

“There is a lot of things to be worried about in the world, and qualifying for the debates is not something that you need to carry on your shoulders,” O’Rourke campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillion said in a recent weekly update for supporters, responding to someone asking how worried they should be about making it on the November debate stage. “Don’t worry — we got this one.”

Failure to qualify for the November debate could force a fresh round of speculation about the political futures of Castro and O’Rourke. The filing deadline for the Texas primary is just a few weeks later — Dec. 9 — and while both Texans have insisted they will not return home to run for U.S. Senate, the timeline could create a new urgency among their supporters.

A day before the debate, Castro projected the image of a candidate not going anywhere, unveiling 58 endorsements, including at least 14 from Texas. One of them, former El Paso state Rep. Norma Chávez, gave a potential preview of the Ohio debate in explaining her support for Castro.

“Julián is not a lightweight,” she told Politico. “He can deliver a power punch and take one.”

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

Beto O’Rourke Says Religious Institutions That Oppose Gay Marriage Should Lose Tax-Exempt Status

The Democratic presidential candidate gave an unequivocal answer Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights, drawing intense criticism from Republicans and religious groups.

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Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is shown during a Sept. 28, 2019, appearance at The Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said religious institutions should be stripped of their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, a position that sparked swift and fierce criticism from social conservatives.

The former El Paso congressman made the comment Thursday night during a CNN town hall on LGBTQ rights. Anchor Don Lemon asked O’Rourke, “Do you think religious institutions — like colleges, churches, charities — should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”

“Yes,” O’Rourke replied without hesitating, drawing a round of applause. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us, and so as president, we are going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

In taking the stance, O’Rourke again staked out politically explosive territory with few allies in the primary field, much like his crusade for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons following the deadly El Paso shooting in August. He did not immediately back down from the position on tax-exempt status, tweeting his quote on the topic minutes after he was done at the town hall.

By Friday, GOP reaction had intensified, with U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, issuing a statement denouncing O’Rourke for “extreme intolerance” and “bigoted nonsense.”

“O’Rourke and some Democrats have declared war on churches,” Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz said in a statement. “We say come and take it. This unconstitutional threat of using the government to punish churches for their Biblical beliefs on marriage must end and will be vigorously opposed. This is just another example of leftists that want to effectively ban the Bible and destroy our US Constitution.”

Calling O’Rourke’s position a “direct affront to the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty,” the Plano-based First Liberty Institute said it was prepared to take legal action if O’Rourke or any future president sought to carry out the idea.

Earlier in the town hall, which was in Los Angeles, one of O’Rourke’s primary rivals, Cory Booker, did not go nearly as far in response to a similar question. Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, emphasized that there needs to be “consequences for discrimination” but repeatedly declined to say if he believed religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status over opposition to gay marriage.

O’Rourke released a plan for LGBTQ equality in June. Lemon cited it as he asked O’Rourke the question Thursday night, noting it said, “Freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it should not be used to discriminate.”

O’Rourke has previously targeted tax-exempt status for the National Rifle Association, calling for its revocation in response to a report by U.S. Senate Democrats that it served as a “foreign asset” for Russia ahead of the 2016 election.

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

Elizabeth Warren Hires Texas State Director

The Democratic presidential hopeful is the first non-Texan candidate to announce a hire in the state.

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Gina Ortiz Lopez raised $1 million in the third quarter of 2019 for her second run at the 23rd Congressional District. Photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has hired a Texas state director, the first such move by a non-Texan candidate in the primary.

The Warren campaign told The Texas Tribune on Monday that longtime Texas organizer Jenn Longoria will lead its efforts in the state, which holds its primary on Super Tuesday, or March 3. Longoria, a San Antonian who sits on the board of Battleground Texas, has extensive organizing experience in a range of races for everything from statewide office to city council.

Longoria has also worked for presidential campaigns, serving as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 run and as a full-time volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid.

Warren’s campaign is the second in the primary to announce a Texas state director. In early September, one of the candidates from Texas, Beto O’Rourke, named a Texas state director, Delilah Agho-Otoghile, as well as four other staffers dedicated to the state.

Some other campaigns have regional staffers, both based in Texas and elsewhere, that focus on groups of states including Texas. For example, Pete Buttigieg has a regional organizing director, Michelle Hutchinson, who is based in Austin and oversees organizers working in Texas as well as other southwest states.

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has risen in Texas primary polls as she has ascended nationally. In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released early last month, Warren overtook O’Rourke for second place in the state, behind Joe Biden.

Warren has come to Texas four times this cycle, making her one of the more frequent visitors in the primary beyond O’Rourke and the other Texan in the race, Julían Castro. Her latest trip, which was in mid-September, featured an Austin rally where she was joined by Jessica Cisneros, the primary challenger to Laredo U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar who Warren had endorsed days earlier.

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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