Central Texans still need to decide who their candidates will be in several races

(RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
(RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Have you noticed those “Vote Here” signs hanging outside a public library, grocery stores or public schools? No, they aren’t simply leftovers from the Uber/Lyft ordinance election that took place earlier this month. They’re evidence that the job of an involved voter is never done.

Those signs are there to remind us that Tuesday’s Runoff Election Day will determine several Republican and Democrat nominees for state and county offices. Those signs are there to remind you that your voice needs to be heard.

Yes, most of Austin is either chattering about the failed Proposition 1 Transportation Network Company ordinance — like most of the tech world, for that matter — or talking of the upcoming presidential election. It’s easy to understand how Tuesday’s runoff election may have slipped some minds.

Never the less, it is important for voters to show up to the polls. After all, there’s still plenty of business to take care of locally – and it’s this business that most directly affects the lives of Texans. Because a larger than usual number of incumbent officeholders locally have chosen not to run for re-election, the there will be plenty of new faces.

The good news is the ballot is short since only a few items from the March primaries went unresolved, including a very tight primary race for Texas Rail Road Commissioner for both parties, the Democratic race for Travis County Commissioner Precinct 1 and the Republican race for Williamson County Commissioner Precinct 1.

Today, the surviving candidates in each of those races face off in their party’s runoff. And there is plenty to consider.

In the Railroad Commissioner race, for instance, Texans have the opportunity to elect a moderate candidate. Back in March, seven Republicans and three Democrats ran for an open seat on the three-member Commission. Now, it’s down to the final four: Two in each race. While the Editorial Board has endorsed Gary Gates, one of the two Republicans left standing. The board chose not to endorse either of the Democrats left in the race.

Why, you ask, does the Railroad Commission even matter? Simple. The incorrectly named agency regulates the oil and gas industry, and as such the decisions made here determine the state’s energy and environmental future. That’s a huge responsibility. And yet, the agency is not one with controversies including growing criticism for its close ties to the oil and gas industry.

A progressive candidate, some experts say, would be a welcome change.

Even closer to home are the Travis County Commissioner Pct. 1 and Williamson County Pct. 1 races. The candidates in each position will help shape how their respective county handles transportation, health care, criminal justice and other challenges wrought by explosive population growth in those areas. Experience will go far in these seats.

Earlier this month, the editorial board made the following endorsements in those races:

  • Democrat Jeff Travillion for Travis County Commissioner Precinct 1.
  • Republican Landy Warren for Williamson County Commissioner Precinct 1.

Victories in these races will be determined by those who take the time to vote.

A USA Today poll from 2012 showed that 59 percent of nonvoters said they were frustrated because “nothing ever gets done” in government, while 54 percent cited “corruption” and 42 percent pointed to the lack of difference between the Democratic and Republican parties as their reasons for not voting. That same year, voter turnout was lower than in 2008, dropping from 62.3 percent of eligible citizens voting to 57.5 percent in 2012.

Today, voter confidence only deteriorated. Only 2 percent of Americans said they were “very satisfied” with the way things are going in the country, while 71 percent of Americans said they were dissatisfied with the state of the nation, according to a 2015 Quinnipiac poll.

With so much change in leadership coming to Central Texas, this is not the time to be disgruntled and removed from the polls.  People say they don’t vote because they feel elected officials don’t serve their interests. But elected officials can only reflect the interests of those constituents who actually show up to vote.

The solution is simple. If you want change, make yourself heard at the polls.

Yes, eligible and soon-to-be-eligible voters are already looking forward to November’s big show, but pressing matters in our own back yard need your attention.   Don’t miss your opportunity to have your voice heard. Go vote.

Can wave of citizenship applications hurt Trump? Maybe.

Julio Leon, left, collects study materials from Jose Franco during a naturalization workshop in Denver, Feb. 27, 2016. Donald Trump, a Republican presidential hopeful, has used harsh language against Mexican immigrants, compelling legal residents to seek citizenship in time to vote against him in November. (Theo Stroomer/The New York Times)
Julio Leon, left, collects study materials from Jose Franco during a naturalization workshop in Denver, Feb. 27, 2016. Donald Trump, a Republican presidential hopeful, has used harsh language against Mexican immigrants, compelling legal residents to seek citizenship in time to vote against him in November. (Theo Stroomer/The New York Times)

While the number of applications for naturalization generally rises during presidential election years, Donald Trump has provided an extra boost for just such efforts this year. All across the nation, the fear of a Trump presidency and its possible accompanying anti-immigrant policies have created urgency for thousands of immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

Throughout his campaign, Trump — despite describing Mexicans as drug-traffickers and rapists, pledging to build a border wall and vowing to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. — has assured us all that he has the Latino vote in his pocket because, well,  Latinos know he is a job creator. Really? A surge in naturalization applications suggests otherwise.

Motivated by the fear rooted in the harsh immigration rhetoric that’s become all too common in GOP presidential race, many Latino immigrants are taking the steps to become voters. [Now if only all Latinos eligible to vote in the U.S. felt as compelled, Latinos would finally be that force so many politicians fear. (I’ll come back to that point in a separate commentary at a later date.)]

Figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show a 14.5 percent jump in naturalization applications between June-December of 2015 compared with the same six months in the previous year. And that pace speeds up every week. Advocates estimate applications could approach one million in 2016, about 200,000 more than the average in recent years, reported the New York Times.

While much of the citizenship movement have been reported in Colorado, Florida and California, there has been a significant uptick in applications in Texas as well.

In San Antonio, a citizenship workshop in September drew approximately 400 people — up from the 150 to 200 that normally show up, Liliana Mireles, a regional program manager of civic engagement for the NALEO Educational Fund told Texas Tribune reporter Alexa Ura.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Proyecto Inmigrante, which typically helps about 1,000 legal residents apply for naturalization each year, has already has already helped 900 in 2016, the group’s director told Ura.

There is no hard deadline to apply for immigrants set on  voting in November, but with approval of naturalization applications taking about five months, immigrant groups in Texas are urging folks to get applications in by April 15 to allow new citizens time to register to vote.

Those who become citizens by then will then have to clear two more hurdles: registering to vote and showing up to the poll. Until each one of those ‘must-do’ boxes are checked, the opportunity to have a voice will go unheard.

 

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Republican debate

Shameful. Disgraceful. Embarrassing. Sickening.

I suppose there are viewers who found Thursday night’s Republican debate in Detroit entertaining, but halfway through last night’s carnival of personal, childish insults, I actually felt nauseous. One of the four men on the debate stage — well, three of the four men on stage last night; I feel for you, John Kasich, I really do — will be the Republican nominee for president, and thus potentially will be president.

To compare Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump to the Three Stooges is to insult the Three Stooges. Nonetheless:

The debate was also insufferable, but that adjective applies mostly to the live audience — booing, hissing and cheering — and, as usual, Cruz.

Though Cruz’s insufferableness did set up the only moment of genuine wit in a debate that began with Trump bragging about the size of his penis:

“Donald, please. I know it’s hard not to interrupt. But try. Breathe, breathe, breathe,” Cruz told Trump as Trump talked over him. “You can do it. You can breathe. I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard.”

Rubio, off camera and delivering the night’s second-best line: “When they’re done with the yoga, can I answer a question?”

Cruz: “I really hope that we don’t see yoga on this stage.”

Rubio, with the night’s best line, referencing an earlier answer by Trump: “Well, he’s very flexible, so you never know.”

Fox News has been solid through all the debates it has hosted. Last night’s moderators — Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace — were prepared, knowledgeable and obviously had watched John Oliver’s takedown of “Donald Drumpf” earlier in the week:

Kelly was especially sharp. Her exchange with Trump, in which she pushed Trump to explain his statements in three video clips showing him contradicting himself on Afghanistan and other issues, was the kind of debate question we should see more often.

And yet, as much as I appreciated the questions asked by Fox’s panel, a point arrived where it seemed as though Fox was doing the hapless Republican establishment’s bidding and trying to take down Trump. The moderators didn’t press Rubio and Cruz with the same detail or vigor. For example, Cruz repeated his pants-on-fire claim about Obamacare as a killer of millions of jobs and no one challenged him on it.

Trump is winning, but as The Associated Press reported, he’s not yet on track to secure the Republican nomination. The Republican establishment desperately continues to search for a way to stop Trump without suffering severe blowback from Trump’s voters, who already suffer, not entirely unreasonably, from the sense of betrayal.

And yet, despite all the fretting — despite the #NeverTrump movement on Twitter — if Trump wins the nomination, Republicans will be there to rally behind him. At the end of last night’s debate, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich (listed here in order of the begrudging enthusiasm, from least to most, with which they answered the question) said they would back Trump if Trump were the nominee.

Trump might be a phony and a fraud and a con artist. But he’s the Republicans’ phony and fraud and con artist. So the personal insults may not prove to be so personal after all. It’s just politics.

In an economically segregated city, Super Tuesday voting makes sense

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Early voters wait in line at the Travis County Clerk’s office at Airport Boulevard. Who county voters chose in the primary depended largely on where they live and where they fall on the socioeconomic spectrum. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Politics are local, and if you doubt that, just take a look at the maps of Travis County’s Super Tuesday polling results.

Recall for a minute that Austin is one of the most economically segregated cities in America. That fact alone makes maps like these that show how precincts broke in Tuesday’s primary races very compelling.

Let’s take the Democrats first.

Who is “Feeling the Bern” in Travis County? Well, they are the folks living in the tight corridor between Interstate 35 and Mopac Boulevard. The same Austinites who are screaming the loudest about skyrocketing property taxes and rents. They are not as wealthy as their neighbors to the west — in West Lake Hills, Lost Creek and Steiner Ranch — who also grouse about their bills, but have more of a cushion to absorb the financial hit.

At the same time, the precincts that went for Sen. Bernie Sanders are also generally better educated and less ethnically diverse than their neighbors to the east, who appear to believe that Hillary Clinton is the better, safer bet.

And the economic realities don’t just apply to Democrats. Take a look at Travis County Republicans and you see a three-way split. Marco Rubio took Travis County to the tune of 29 percent with Ted Cruz coming in second with 28 percent — one big reason Travis County tracked differently than the rest of the state had to do with economics (and maybe a little bit of Democrats trying to damage Donald Trump by voting in the the opposite party primary according to anecdotal reports.)

Looking at the same precinct map on the Republican side, wealthier voters in the center city and increasingly gentrified areas of East Austin went for Rubio (plus Circle C, Westlake Hills and Lakeway) and Ted Cruz held strong with suburban voters from Pflugerville to Lago Vista. Trump’s constituency is in the less affluent corners of the county — the rural far northeast corner and the corridor along U.S. 183 between I-35 and the airport. The precinct that tied with Ted Cruz? Home to Circuit of the Americas. The one area that breaks the economic mold? Steiner Ranch which appears to be Trump country for reasons that are still unclear.

So how do such dynamics play out in local races? Just look at the Democratic race for Travis County commissioner in Precinct 1. The two front-runners, Jeff Travillion and Arthur Sampson are headed to a runoff in May, but the votes from this week are telling about where their base lies, especially in a race where all five candidates were African American men.

Travillion, a City of Austin division  manager who is deeply connected and lives in Pflugerville, did well in the more diverse areas of the precinct, which have relatively higher incomes and and more education — Pflugerville, Manor and near East Austin. He and James Nortey, who lives in Mueller, were essentially fighting for the same voter, especially in the precincts closer to the heart of Austin which were more familiar with his neighborhood association work and efforts on the city’s planning commission.

Arthur Sampson did better in City of Austin neighborhoods that have not felt the effects of gentrification as strongly and are hungry for economic development that will not speed the exodus of African Americans from the city. They represent some of the poorest families in the city with the fewest college graduates. The third place candidate, Richard Franklin, succeeded in his home turf of Del Valle, where he is known for his work on the school board. It’s an area that is more than 60 percent Hispanic and relies the most heavily on Travis County for public safety and other services.

For those casting about trying to make sense of this crazy election cycle, some things have not changed. Voters still cast their ballots based on their common interests and the view is very different from where one sits  on the wage and education spectrum. Clearly, Austin’s economic segregation in Austin can make it hard to see that other political point of view.

 

 

 

Trump sealed the Latino vote? Not quite

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 23: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus night watch party at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino on February 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The New York businessman won his third state victory in a row in the "first in the West" caucuses. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV – FEBRUARY 23: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus night watch party at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino on February 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The New York businessman won his third state victory in a row in the “first in the West” caucuses. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Hold on, not so fast Mr. Trump. On Tuesday, during your victory speech after winning the Nevada caucuses you proudly proclaimed winning 46 percent of the Latino vote. However, that very impressive number does not tell the true and whole tale of the Nevada Latino vote — nor does it stand up to the rest of the U.S. Latino vote.

“Forty-six percent! Number one with Hispanics!” You said. I beg to differ.

Sure, there is no denying that entrance polls showed you won a significant percent of Latinos who were polled — while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz only garnered 28 percent and 18 percent respectively of that vote.

Beating the two Latino candidates in the race is reason enough to gloat. But, a win would also mean you had proven wrong all those who said your hateful anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric would cost you the Latino vote. Revel you should…unless of course, your win was no win at all.

As a businessman, Mr. Trump, you know the truth is in the numbers. And in this case, 46 percent is but a very small portion of a much larger whole.

It is no secret that, like the majority of Latinos in the U.S., Nevada’s Latino voters mostly support Democrats. That’s not likely to change this presidential election. With that claim, I can almost hear you heckle: “That’s not what Tuesday’s exit poll say.” What do those numbers really say, exactly? Not much.

Here, David Damore, a Senior Analyst at Latino Decisions, explains the Nevada ‘win’ best:

“In a recent poll asking about party identification, 55 percent of Latinos said they were Democrats, 29 percent said Independents and just 16 percent said they were Republicans. Assuming the entrance poll is correct (a very big assumption) and Trump won 44 percent of Latino Republicans, that means he was supported by about 7 percent of Latinos in Nevada (44 percent of 16 = 7.04). What that means is that most likely, 93 percent of Latinos in Nevada did not vote for Trump,” David Damore wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.

And, if the 2012 presidential race is any indicator, things won’t look much better in November. If you recall, President Obama won the Hispanic vote 70 percent to Mitt Romney’s 25 percent in Nevada, according to the Pew Research Center. Yes, it’s true, that year Obama votes were down from the 76 percent share he won in 2008, but experts don’t expect much to change in how Latinos in Nevada or other states vote in November.

Still, if you are to seal the Latino vote as you’ve said many times during your campaign, time is ticking.

Texas already predicts to be a loss for you. And while Republican governors Rick Perry and Greg Abbott were able to wrangle the Latino vote here in significant numbers – 38 percent in 2010 and 44 percent in 2014, respectively – Republican presidential candidates have not fared well in this state with Latinos. In 2012, much like in Nevada, Obama won 70 percent of the Latino vote to Romney’s 29 percent.

That’s not to say you can’t still win our vote. In fact, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette believes you can do it and is one of the few who see your Nevada win as real.

But to say you’ve already won us over… well, that’s not really the case at all. When, if ever, you’ve won real numbers —not just parts of parts —then let’s talk.

From the notebook: Travis County Sheriff candidates’ platform on ICE detainers

Candidates look on as they hear from community members who have experienced the impact of sheriff’s policies firsthand about the issues they have deemed most critical at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin on Saturday, Feb 13, 2016. from left to right: Todd Radford,Don Rios, Debbie Russell and John Sisson. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Candidates look on as they hear from community members who have experienced the impact of sheriff’s policies firsthand about the issues they have deemed most critical at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin on Saturday, Feb 13, 2016. from left to right: Todd Radford, Don Rios, Debbie Russell and John Sisson. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

At a public forum last week, Democratic candidates for Travis County Sheriff traded barbs over whether they would fully comply with a controversial federal immigrant detention program.

One candidate even invoked a conversation during the candidates’ endorsement interview with the Statesman’s editorial board, where the candidates were also asked what their position was on cooperating with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in detaining immigrants, American-Statesman’s Nicole Barrios reported. Of the six candidates seeking to succeed Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, only one said he would keep the sheriff’s most controversial policy.

During the forum held at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin on Saturday, former Austin police Lt. John Sisson, a Democratic candidate, told the audience that he’s been advocating to end Travis County’s participation in the ICE program since 2007, when he ran against Hamilton.

“I was sitting with the editorial board, and the question was, ‘Will you cooperate with immigration officials?’ Todd (Radford) and Sally (Hernandez) said yes, they would, except for minor violations; Don (Rios) and I said no,” Sisson said at the forum. “You cannot pick and choose who goes and who stays.”

Two things from Barrios’ story stood out to me: Hernandez taking offense to Sisson’s claim and Rios’ telling Saturday’s audience that the first goal of his campaign was to end ICE detainers.

So, I listened to my recording of the interview to see where Sisson’s memory (or notes) and mine didn’t match and to see if Rios made it clear to us his intention with ICE detainers.

To Sisson’s point, he and Rios were the only two candidates who stated that they would not comply with ICE at all, while Radford and Hernandez said they would draw a line in certain cases.  But Rios never mentioned his position on ICE detainers until he was asked directly.

Yes, the topic of ICE came up several times, but it was during a specific portion of our hour-long conversation where each candidate gave details to their position on the issue. Sisson was the only candidate who made the issue part of his introduction.

Off the bat, answering a question of why he was running for the position, Sisson said: “What I want to do for Travis County is end our collaboration with immigration officials, I want to put body cameras on all deputies and consistent training, de-escalation training, sensitivity training cultural diversity training , mental health training.” No other candidate referenced ICE in their answer to the same question.

Later in our conversation, the candidates were asked to name three important planks of their criminal justice reform or platform. Rios was the only candidate who did not mention cooperation with ICE as a reform. The others mentioned cooperation to some degree in their platforms.

When editorial board member Alberta Phillips asked John Sisson to name any sheriffs in Texas who are not currently cooperating with ICE officials, Sisson pointed to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who as Sisson explained, is “cooperating somewhat, she’s just not holding (immigrants) for minor violations.” And when asked if he would cooperate at all, Sission responded, “No ma’am”.

Hernandez told us her platform would mirror Sheriff Valdez’s program in Dallas.

When asked the same question, Radford replied, “this broad brush stroke effect that we’re going to send everybody to ICE and cooperate in that fashion doesn’t make sense to me.”

Since Rios was the only candidate who had shared his views on cooperating with ICE, we him directly if he would. His answer: “ I would not cooperate at all.”

The candidates then were given the opportunity to explain their position on ICE detainers. Their responses included:

Radford: “The issue for me is [that] it’s not equitable. When we start to infringe upon issues of inequity, that’s when we have to take a stance. For me there are two issues: One, crossing: coming into our state which is an illegal act and federal illegal act. But the issue staying past, is more an administrative issue, more of a civil issue. ..if we have people in our facilities who have answered for our state issues and they’re ready to be released (but aren’t because of an ICE retainer), it would be very much akin to someone calling and saying the person violated the tenants of their contract I need you to hold them 28 more hours. I wouldn’t do that to anybody else nor should I be expected to do so with this one person just based on their immigrant status.”

Rios: “It’s not a criminal act it’s actually a civil violation of the immigration law. That’s what we’re talking about. We are also talking about people who have been arrested but not convicted of anything…We are talking about who are innocent. We are not talking about people who are guilty. Those people who are guilty will get deported.”

Rios continued: “When a judge has that affidavit, it is his or her responsibility to ensure the safety of our community and that particular bond setting of what they feel that crime…This comes truly down to a violation of the Fourth Amendment, for me. If ICE would have probable cause and get that reviewed by a judge, having judicial review, then we wouldn’t be talking about this issue.”

Hernandez said her choice of non-cooperating with ICE was about making everyone in the community feel safe, including the immigrant community. Sisson agreed with Rios’ response.

Sisson was correct to say that during our endorsement meeting he and Rios were the only candidates to take a firm stance against cooperating with ICE detainers, while Hernandez and Radford suggested they would cooperate with ICE in violent criminal cases. But it took reading Barrios’ story for me to understand that eliminating ICE from the Sheriff’s office was a priority for Rios.

 

 

Here’s why we are not endorsing in the presidential race

GOP 2016 Debate
In the Republican primary races, Texas’ largest newspapers split endorsements last weekend between  Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, pictured here during the CBS News Republican presidential debate in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Over the weekend editorial boards in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio weighed in with their presidential primary endorsements. On the Democratic side, the message was unanimous — vote for Hillary Clinton, warts and all.

On  the Republican side, the results were more varied: The Dallas Morning News made its case for Ohio Gov. John Kasich; while San Antonio and Houston picked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But one message unified the three: Please, please, for the love of God, don’t pick Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, and let pragmatism prevail.

Here’s a bit from the Dallas Morning News endorsement that hit the internet on Friday and was printed on Sunday:

As much as we’d like to see a Texan in the White House, we fear that Cruz’s brand of politics is more about disruption than governing and threatens to take the Republican Party to a dark place. As we’ve written before, continuing obstructionist paths might excite primary voters, but it won’t benefit the nation or the conservative cause.

All the hubbub left those who watch such things wondering where the American-Statesman’s presidential endorsement might be. The short answer is that there won’t be one.

We didn’t endorse in 2012, and we won’t be endorsing in the presidential races in March or in November.

Why? In a political cycle that has already generated more heat than light, even with the talents of our writers, it is unlikely that we would unearth any new nugget that might sway readers from one candidate to the other. The presidential candidates do not sit down with our editorial board, so we are operating off the same sources of information and sound bites as the average voter. This year, very few of the presidential campaigns even bothered to fill out our voters guide.

Anyone who has read our columns and blogs over the past two years may not know for sure what primary we may vote in as individuals, but our institutional values are fairly clear. And in a world where national commentary and presidential election news are produced daily by the truckload, I have great confidence that our readers will be able to sort out where and who they stand with on the presidential race.

So, to that end, we’ve doubled down on what we do best — provide insight on our state and local races. Our last endorsement, on the area’s Congressional races will run in print Tuesday, coinciding with the start of early voting.

The choice has allowed us to dig deep into the Travis County and Williamson County District Attorney’s races, as well as the race to replace State Rep. Elliott Naishtat. The past two election cycles our endorsements have tried to shed as much light as possible on the rationale behind our choices, which is just as important for voters as the choices themselves.

One of the first-time candidates we interviewed this election season asked, “How do you decide?”

We decide based on the values you see on these pages on a daily basis: a commitment to transparency, fiscal responsibility, voter accountability, leadership, experience, knowledge of the community, respect for the rule of law, an orientation toward social justice, decisions based on verifiable information rather pure ideology, a strong work ethic, trustworthiness and an understanding of the responsibilities of representative government.

We don’t always get it right; but that’s the lens we use. It’s not a secret formula; there is no secret handshake. These are the qualities that have served Central Texas well. And it provides a clear framework in this very messy business of politics.

Click here for links to all of our endorsements for the March 1 primary

As Dixville Notch goes so goes (maybe) the GOP; plus, Trump’s vulgarity

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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, campaigning Tuesday in Manchester, N.H. (Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images)

Voting in today’s New Hampshire Democratic and Republican primaries comes to a close in a couple of hours — at 6 p.m. Central, with about 20 of 319 polling locations remaining open until 7 p.m. Three tiny communities — Dixville Notch, Hart’s Location and Millsfield — voted at midnight and reported their results this morning. So with 65 votes counted already in New Hampshire, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Donald Trump are in a three-way tie in the Republican primary, with nine votes each. In the Democratic primary, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leads former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 17 votes to nine, with two votes recorded for Mark Stewart Greenstein. (Who? It doesn’t matter.)

Dixville Notch (population 12, with nine votes) is the best known of New Hampshire’s early-voting tiny places, and in Dixville Notch’s Republican primary, Kasich got three votes to Trump’s two, while Sanders took all four votes in the Democratic primary. Lest you think early results in Dixville Notch are meaningless, I’ll just mention, for what it’s worth, that in every contested Republican primary since 1976, the winner of Dixville Notch has gone on to win the party’s nomination. (This streak includes two first-place ties — between Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in 1980 and between Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2012.) Dixville Notch’s record picking Republican nominees is better than Iowa’s. Just sayin’.

The same predictive ability fails Dixville Notch’s Democratic voters. They’ve picked the eventual Democratic nominee only about half the time over the past 40 years.

Observers will be tracking various storylines as New Hampshire’s results come in tonight, from whether Trump emerges the winner he thought he would be in Iowa, to whether Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush attract enough votes to justify continuing their campaigns, to how close Clinton can come to Sanders, who’s expected to win New Hampshire’s Democratic vote easily. I’ll be following results on Twitter at @jodyseaborn.

* * *

Just when you think Trump or some of his supporters couldn’t get any lower, he repeats a vulgar term a woman said about Cruz during a rally Monday night in New Hampshire. If you don’t know already what Trump said and must find out, you can follow this link or you can find it readily elsewhere online. But Trump’s vulgar remark, or rather his repetition of a supporter’s vulgar remark, doesn’t interest me as much as the subject that prompted the vulgarity.

Trump has defended waterboarding throughout his campaign. During Saturday’s Republican debate in New Hampshire he went further, saying he would bring back “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” to interrogate terrorism suspects. Cruz, when asked, also defended waterboarding — “It is vigorous interrogation, but it does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture,” he said — but he also said he would not bring it back “in any sort of widespread use.” So Monday night in New Hampshire, Trump was criticizing Cruz’s response to Saturday’s waterboarding question as weak and cowardly when his supporter crudely agreed. Trump repeated the woman’s remark so everyone in the audience could hear it. Then he mockingly reprimanded the woman for saying what she said.

First, Cruz is wrong. The United States considers waterboarding to be torture and that consideration goes back decades. The George W. Bush administration worked around the United States’ longstanding ban against waterboarding by euphemistically creating a category of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to excuse its use.

The CIA and supporters of the Bush administration’s interrogation methods insist they worked and allowed intelligence officials to collect information about terrorists that saved American lives. The evidence suggests otherwise. But even if you could establish beyond doubt that torture works — and if it works and saves lives, then why not do a hell of a lot worse, as Trump says he would do — questions about its legality, morality and compatibility with American values would remain.

It’s unfortunate that so many candidates in a party that likes to define itself as the defender of American morals and values trust the methods of the Spanish Inquisition, the Japanese Imperial Army, the Khmer Rouge and military dictatorships throughout the world more than the values and laws of the United States.

Support Reed Williams for Texas Senate District 24

State Senate 24 Republican candidate Reed Williams on Monday, February 1, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
State Senate 24 Republican candidate Reed Williams. PHOTOS BY DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Texas Senate District 24 seat once occupied by Troy Fraser is up for grabs. In June, the senator from Horseshoe Bay announced he would be stepping down after 19 years. Vying to replace him are six ready and capable Republican candidates.

As expected, the contenders agree on a variety of issues that would resonate with Republican party politics, including limiting government, opposing immigration and supporting anti-abortion policies. On the matter of Austin Energy, most of the candidates would support the deregulation of the city owned public utility provider, as did Fraser.

After taking a closer look at each candidate, we urge voters to choose Reed Williams in the March Republican primary race.

What sets Williams apart from the others is his elected office experience and willingness to look at a much broader picture, which would be an asset for constituents of this  solidly Republican district that stretches about 20,000 square miles, from Abilene to the northwest suburbs of Austin. Williams, a retired oil executive who now grows grapes for wineries,  amassed valuable experience on the issues of energy, water and budgetary planning during his six-year tenure as a San Antonio public servant. He spent four years as a councilman representing North Side and two years as a San Antonio Water System board trustee. Williams’ knowledge on of the issues that affect both urban and rural residents would make him  an effective voice for Senate District 24.

State Senate 24 Republican candidate Dawn Buckingham on Monday, February 1, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
State Senate 24 Republican candidate Dawn Buckingham.
State Senate 24 Republican candidate Ryan Downton on Monday, February 1, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
State Senate 24 Republican candidate Ryan Downton.

That said, this is a crowded race and Republican voters have a capable group of candidates from which to choose.

Also running are Dr. Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway, Ryan Downton of Temple, Jon Cobb of Lakeway, State Rep. Susan King of Abilene and Dr. Brent Mayes of Fredericksburg.

Buckingham, an Austin ophthalmologist, served on the Lake Travis Independent School District’s board and as vice chair of the State Board of Educator Certification. Buckingham also served as a lieutenant governor appointee to the Sunset Advisory Commission in the past legislative session and has the backing of former Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Charles Schwertner.

Downton, a businessman and lawyer, ran for the 2012 Republican nomination for Texas House District 47.

Mayes is a small businessman and former radiologist. Cobb owns a small business.

State Senate 24 Republican candidate Jon Cobb on Monday, February 1, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
State Senate 24 Republican candidate Jon Cobb.
State Senate 24 Republican candidate Brent Mayes on Monday, February 1, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
State Senate 24 Republican candidate Brent Mayes.

Williams is not the only candidate in the group with experience in an elected role.  King — who did not accept our invitation for a meeting — has served five two-year terms in the Texas House. King, R-Abilene, suspended her House race to run for Fraser’s empty seat. In her tenure in the House, King has consistently championed conservative policies, especially with regard to immigration. Last session she authored a bill that would have pushed chronically ill immigrant children down on a growing waiting list for services through a state and federally funded program. The bill died in the Senate.

Never having held a legislative post shouldn’t slow down Williams. His knowledge of the issues facing District 24 and beyond will ease his transition into the Texas Legislature.

In San Antonio he earned a reputation as a strong unifying voice on the council. His colleagues and critics praise his ability to tackle complicated and controversial issues, including successfully taking on prominent issues like rate increases at CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System. Voters should take note of such experience.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Virginia “Jennie Lou” Leeder of Llano in November. Early voting begins Feb. 16.

Latino voters are watching

(RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
(RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

If the results of the Iowa caucuses are any indication, candidates may want to start changing their tunes a little and focusing more of their attention on Latinos.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, one of several groups nationwide trying to increase Latino voter participation, said Monday they hit their goal of getting at least 10,000 Latino Iowans to pledge to participate, reported NBC Latino.

And just as analysts and media experts use the Iowa caucuses as a guide to predict how the rest of the nation will vote, so do candidates use the caucuses to woo more voters. Candidates who have waged anti-Hispanic rhetoric or who have chosen to err on the side of caution by avoiding specific topics important to Latinos may want to reconsider their strategies. From the looks of it, Latinos will be coming out to vote, and in droves.

Ten thousand Latinos showed up to have their voices heard in Iowa, up from 1,000 in 2012. And if efforts continue, the number will be even higher on election day in November as the League of United Latin American Citizens has identified 50,000 Latino registered voters in that state. Mind you, Hispanics make up only 5.6 percent, or 174,000 individuals, of the Iowa state population. Those may seem like small numbers next to Texas, where one of every four eligible voters is Hispanic (and where the Hispanic population tops 10 million). So Iowa’s results should not go unnoticed.

How did Latinos in Iowa vote? Exit polls showed that Latinos were 4 percent — 6,840 of 171,000 — of Democratic caucus participants and 2 percent — 3,700 of 185,000 — of Republican participants. The total: 10,540.

Which Democratic or Republican candidates Latino Iowans voted for is still unclear. What is known is that the one candidate who could have connected solidly with Latinos, as my American-Statesman colleague James Barragan pointed out, is no longer in the running: Democrat Martin O’Malley.

A former governor of Maryland, O’Malley called for criminal justice reforms in areas that disproportionately affect people of color and proposed investing more in job-training programs and restoring voting rights to people with felony records who had served their penalties. And, unlike other candidates — Democrats and Republicans — O’Malley offered the most immigrant friendly agenda, including proposing expanding due process protections in the immigration system. Yet, he was able to win only 0.6 percent of the Democratic caucus.

In tight primary races and caucuses, every vote will matter. The Latino vote could make a difference. Various Hispanic voter registration and “get-out-and-vote” drives have been ongoing throughout the country, including in Texas. Those efforts should help improve the number of Latinos who make it to the polls.

To win those votes, however, candidates will have to make a more concerted effort to reach Hispanic voters.

In 2013, 25 percent of Texas Hispanic voters said they were contacted by campaigns or organizations encouraging them to vote, according to a 2014 report from the polling company Latino Decisions. The national average was 31 percent that same year.

Then there is the issue of language. Candidates who refuse to connect with voters in Spanish are making a big mistake. The Pew Research Center reported that 25 percent of Hispanics speak “only English,” and 30 percent of Latinos speak both English and Spanish, while 38 percent speak primarily in Spanish.

With plenty of time to garner Latino support, Marco Rubio, whose parents immigrated from Cuba, and Jeb Bush, whose wife was born in Mexico, have an edge over other candidates with their Spanish fluency. Though he is Latino, Ted Cruz — whose father also immigrated from Cuba — may have a harder time, not for his lack of Spanish fluency (he speaks none at all), but for what some consider anti-Latino policies. The opposite effect may occur if Hillary Clinton were to win the Democratic candidacy and, as rumors suggest, select Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro as her running mate. Castro does not speak Spanish but can effectively connect voters through his personal Mexican American experience.

Hispanic millennials will account for nearly half or 44 percent of the record 27.3 million Hispanic eligible voters projected for 2016, according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. For that set of voters, that number is greater than any other comparable group of voters of any racial or ethnic group, according to the report. Parental influence undoubtedly will play a role in how some of these young adults, many of whom come from Spanish-speaking households, will vote. After all, the majority of young Americans share their parents’ social and political ideology, or so says a Gallup study.

Make no mistake, Latinos are taking notice of who is listening to them.