ThinkProgress: Could a Democrat scientist fill this Texas congressional seat held by a climate denier for decades?

By E.A. Crunden

Lamar Smith is retiring. Joseph Kopser wants to offer TX-21 a new vision

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Crowded around a circular wooden table in a loud bar on Sunday night, Joseph Kopser raises his voice in an effort to be heard, as rock music duels with a football game on several large television screens.

Surrounded by energy and environmental experts, the Democrat campaigning to represent Texas’ 21st congressional district is trying to nail down what questions he should ask at an upcoming event. The gathering itself will focus on issues like renewable energy and sustainability, but as with everything else in this district, phrasing will be tricky.

“The term ‘climate change’ will shut them all down,” says Kopser pointedly. “What are the words I should use to keep the conversation going?”

“Stewardship,” one man suggests. “Emphasize preserving the land.” Kopser points and nods. Bingo.

To say that TX-21 is a Republican stronghold is an understatement. For progressives, the area is a shrine to the gerrymandering that has seen the state sliced and diced, largely to the benefit of conservative candidates. This district stretches from just north of the city of San Antonio all the way into Austin, an hour and a half away. It is over this extensive area that Rep. Lamar Smith (R) has held sway for more than three decades.

This year, Smith is retiring. During his time as a congressman, Smith has repeatedly rejected long-established climate science, earning a reputation as a climate denier among his peers.

Now, Kopser — an army veteran with a background in technology and renewable energy — wants to be the one to take his place, something his website makes very clear.

“The main motivation for my campaign was to unseat Congressman Lamar Smith, one of American politics’ principal opponents of objective reality and fact-based scientific inquiry,” the Democratic candidate states matter-of-factly, laying out his platform.

That goal predates Smith’s retirement announcement and Kopser is now facing Chip Roy, the former chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and an avowed hardline conservative. Cruz has repeatedly called his own opponent, Beto O’Rourke, a socialist, part of an effort to turn off conservative voters — and this is a tactic that Roy has employed as well, claiming Kopser is running a far-left campaign.

Kopser, who has run a campaign largely centered around drawing in voters of all political hues, scoffs at this. “He doesn’t want to debate me,” he says of Roy, who has largely shot down opportunities to face off publicly against Kopser. “He doesn’t want that contrast for moderates and independents.”

For some, Kopser is an unusual candidate. Conservatives have argued the tech entrepreneur and father of three daughters is too liberal; some progressives say he quietly leans to the right, a suspicion fueled by the Iraq War veteran’s military history and emphasis on reaching across the aisle.

That latter argument has followed him even after his victory in the state’s Democratic primary last spring. Kopser has taken more than a few controversial stances, including expressing support for heightened border control at a time when communities throughout Texas live in fear of both state and U.S. immigration crackdowns.

But he has also embraced a number of more progressive initiatives. Kopser has expressed strong support for Austin’s paid sick leave policy, which City Council members approved in February, making the city the first in the South to have such a requirement. In the time since, Kopser has pushed back against challenges to the policy by the state government.

Kopser also supports abortion rights and funding for Planned Parenthood, in addition to opposing Trump’s border wall and so-called “bathroom bills” targeting transgender Texans.

The candidate’s supporters say his nuances allow him to transcend partisan divisions, winning over more conservative voters. Above all, they say, he is a scientist.

That background has greatly influenced Kopser’s focus. He holds a degree in aerospace engineering from West Point and his interests in science and technology have largely shaped his platform.

Speaking to the potential for renewable energy, Kopser tells ThinkProgress, “The biggest priority I have is communicating to this district [that] we have a real chance, TX-21, to be a leader in this future economy.”

That’s a dramatic shift from what the district is used to. During his tenure in Washington, Smith has established himself as a thorn in the sides of environmentalists and scientists alike. The staunchly conservative lawmaker has pushed for regulation rollbacks at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in addition to overseeing a multi-year effort to undermine the use of confidential scientific data in U.S. policy-making, to the horror of health and green advocates alike.

For many, Smith personifies President Donald Trump’s signature opposition to both science and environmental regulations. His retirement offers an opening — one many hope Kopser can capitalize on.

Joshua Morrow, executive director of the group 314 Action, which encourages and empowers scientists to run for office, points to the Kopser campaign as a picture perfect example of science fighting back against Trump-era policies and rhetoric.

“In this race you have such a stark contrast on this issue. A guy who’s denying climate change even exists, [Roy] says we’re in a ‘cooling off’ period,” Morrow tells ThinkProgress. “He’s wrong on the science. Whereas someone like Joseph, he actually understands these issues.”

But understanding the issues may not be enough in TX-21, something Morrow readily acknowledges while remaining upbeat.

“[There are] certain races where you have candidates that are tailor-made for their districts, this is one of those races,” he says. “He’s an army vet, but also a scientist. He can speak to these issues with a real understanding. He’s not a career politician. Chip Roy has been in politics most of his life.”

While Kopser would move the district in a new direction, Roy would likely be more of the same. In addition to working for Cruz, Roy has also served under Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and former Gov. Rick Perry, now the U.S. energy secretary. And he most recently served as the director for the Center for Tenth Amendment Action at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The Austin-based conservative think tank, which endorses hardline anti-climate policies, has come to assert outsized influence over the Trump administration.

Kopser’s policies are a dramatic contrast from Roy, but the Democrat multitasks his messaging, even pointing to his military record as the source of his passion for renewable energy.

“The first time I went to Iraq, I realized just how addicted the world is to oil,” he tells ThinkProgress. “It just drove me crazy that we would send soldiers over, risk their lives to protect the free flow of oil, lose lives, lose limbs. And the American people don’t really comprehend that that’s why we’re there.”

And Kopser is sure to make his feelings about the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks very clear.

“They pulled out of the Paris accords, they pulled out of the Clean Power Plan. Basically if Obama touched it, they’re trying to pull out of it,” he says wryly.

Opposition to Trump-style rhetoric is growing more popular, even in deep-red Texas, and it’s yielding results. Pointing to fellow veterans Gina Ortiz Jones and MJ Hegar, both Texans running for other congressional districts, Kopser emphasizes the momentum in the state this year. But rather than using the term “blue wave,” so often trumpeted by national media, he instead nods to the need for new ideas in Washington, something he says is necessary for change.

Polishing his messaging on Sunday as the bar’s music winds down, Kopser returns to science before heading home. “I’m an innovator, I’m an engineer,” he says. “I like tinkering with things, I want to know what works, what makes things better.”

Original Article. 

ThinkProgress: In Texas, young voters rally around a scientist promising to unite left and right

By E.A. Crunden

In one deeply gerrymandered Texas district, Joseph Kopser's campaign is working to make inroads.

AUSTIN, TEXAS — On a muggy Sunday, student volunteers for Joseph Kopser’s Democratic congressional campaign doggedly assembled to lay out their plan of action.

“Remember to open with a question they can’t say no to,” said Katie Hindes, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. “Like, ‘do you believe in democracy?'”

A chorus of chuckles filled the room, along with a series of nods. Fifteen minutes later, they file out into cars and head out to their various destinations throughout Texas’ 21st congressional district, which extends from the suburbs north of San Antonio all the way into Austin, an hour and a half away.

It’s a deeply gerrymandered district, one that has been held by Republican Lamar Smith for decades. Running to replace Smith, who is retiring, is Kopser, an Iraq war veteran and a Democrat new to politics.

Kopser is up against Chip Roy, a Republican who once served as chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and who leads in the polls, albeit by an increasingly narrowing margin. Their match-up is a study in opposites: Roy is a hardline conservative in keeping with the legacy of Smith. Kopser, by contrast, is a tech entrepreneur with a background in renewable energy, who studied aerospace engineering while at West Point.

And while Roy would continue Smith’s lengthy history of support for rolling back environmental regulations and refuting climate science, Kopser has made his support for sustainability and belief in climate change a core pillar of his campaign.

“I was definitely drawn to his science background,” Vinit Shah, 17, told ThinkProgress while riding in the back of a car en route to his assigned canvassing addresses. “That’s very important to me. He believes in climate change, in science. Both [political parties] need to be better about that. I think he can bring people together across party lines.”

That’s a dramatic difference from Smith, who has actively supported President Donald Trump’s environmental regulation rollbacks, while working to limit the data available for federal science policy.

“Lamar Smith doesn’t believe in climate change, doesn’t believe in science,” said Shah, something he said is a “huge factor” when it comes to his support for candidates.

A college sophomore studying public health and history, Shah previously canvassed for Kopser during the Democratic primaries. He’s now actively supporting the candidate in the general election, but he told ThinkProgress his approach to engaging voters has changed.

“During the primaries I emphasized his progressive stances,” said Shah, nodding to Kopser’s support for a number of causes, like abortion rights and protections for LGBTQ Texans. “It’s not that I don’t do that now in the general, but I say it differently. Instead of single-payer, I say, ‘expanding health care access.’ Conservatives like access. On climate issues I don’t say ‘climate change,’ maybe, but more, ‘conservation.'”

TX-21 is an undeniably conservative district and Smith has comfortably retained power since 1987. But this election cycle has seen an unprecedented amount of support for Texas Democrats, aided by the star power of Beto O’Rourke, whose progressive run for the U.S. Senate against Cruz has mobilized and energized voters.

Students campaigning for Kopser typically caveat that Beto-mania takes center stage for young voters. “Everyone’s excited about Beto,” said Hindes.

But that doesn’t preclude investment in other candidates. Kopser, she eagerly notes, is “just the best guy. He’s always telling stories. Just so, so nice.”

Years ago, a friendly, personable scientist vocal about climate change would have been a blip on the radar in a district like TX-21. But in 2018 amid a surge of anti-Trump sentiment — even among conservative voters — Kopser’s married, father-of-three status and history of army service are enough to bring more than a few independents and moderate Republicans to the table, progressive platform or not.

Kopser’s young supporters note that knocking on doors in the district means visiting neighborhoods that are deep red and deep blue alike. And in doing so, they’ve found some surprises. “There are lots of Republicans with Beto signs,” said Shah, sounding a bit in awe.

There are a multitude of factors at play this year in TX-21. Apathy among conservative voters is merging with the district’s changing face. Young voters are moving in and the area is diversifying. Suburban Republican women, meanwhile, simply don’t like Trump, the students say, giving them an opening. And with a candidate like Kopser, they feel they’ve hit the jackpot. Now, they just have to reach as many people as possible.

That’s easier said than done, but Madison Kaigh, the campaign’s communications associate, lays out her pitch to voters plainly.

“We’re not running against Ted Cruz, we’re running against the guy who got him elected,” said Kaigh, with a nod to O’Rourke’s popularity while placing emphasis on her final point about Roy, Kopser’s opponent.

Still, there are hiccups. A competitive race hasn’t played out in the district in decades and voter lists aren’t up-to-date as a result. On their rounds, the students often find that residents have moved away. Others are apathetic.

“I don’t vote,” one man said curtly on Sunday, shutting the door.

At other intervals, there comes victory. Several residents indicated their interest in Kopser to the students as they canvassed. One long-time Republican said he plans to vote straight-ticket Democrat in November.

“Got one!” Shah yelled, before quickly moving on to the next house.

Original Article. 

San Antonio Express-News: Kavanaugh sex assault controversy looms over San Antonio-area congressional race

By Bill Lambrecht, Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The drama unfolding over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has sprung up in congressional races such as the contest for an open seat in the San Antonio area, a conservative district but one with segments of GOP suburban women.

The 21st Congressional District between Austin and north San Antonio has been held by conservatives since the 1970s, but it has trended younger and more diverse in recent years. It also has 11,000 more women than men, a disparity that could come into play if the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee ends up being viewed as treating Kavanaugh’s accuser unfairly.

Joseph Kopser, the Democrat in the race, is speaking out strongly in favor of slowing proceedings for a more thorough investigation of Christine Blasey Ford’s charge that Kavanaugh assaulted her when both were teenagers.

Kopser, an entrepreneur and Iraq war veteran, likely needs support from Republicans and independents if he is to defeat Chip Roy, the Republican in a district in GOP hands since the 1970s.

“It’s a lifetime appointment; there’s no reason to rush,” Kopser said in an interview. “Because it is 100 percent possible that a person, any person publicly could present himself or herself as an upstanding, forthright wonderful person and still have things in the past that are dark or terrible.”

Meanwhile, Roy, a protégé of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is decrying what he calls a “political spectacle” and “unconscionable” efforts by Democrats to slow the proceedings.

“The Democrats ought to be ashamed of making it a political issue and the entire Senate Judiciary Committee should be ashamed for allowing this to become such a show,” Roy said this week during an interview on KSAT radio in San Antonio.

Roy and Kopser, both of Austin, are competing in the district held by Lamar Smith of San Antonio, who is retiring after this term, his 16th.

The sexual assault allegation shows signs of becoming a significant political issue heading into the November election, with Democrats in Congress vowing to investigate Kavanaugh even if he is confirmed.

The controversy presents challenges both for Roy and Kopser. Roy and other GOP candidates could see blowback from supporters if the Senate doesn’t succeed in appointing a certifiably conservative Supreme Court, a long-sought prize.

Democrats pledge to keep issue alive til November

For Kopser, the task ahead is appealing successfully to women in the district who may be troubled by treatment in Washington of Christine Blasey Ford amid the effects of #MeToo movement politically and culturally.

In the broader election landscape, women already favor Democratic candidates for Congress over Republicans by a record margin — 20 percent, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

In addition, more women than ever before are running for Congress this fall: 235 women won nominations in House races and 22 women are on Senate ballots, according to a tally by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Among them is Gina Ortiz Jones of San Antonio, a Democrat seeking to unseat incumbent San Antonio Republican Will Hurd in a congressional district that stretches from San Antonio nearly to El Paso.

“Women like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who come forward should be heard, not threatened, bullied or rushed through a hearing without a proper investigation,” Jones said this week.

Kopser, 47, referred to a recent spate of high-profile cases in which women have come forward to describe attacks and improper advances in the past.

“This is a very complex problem that is not going to go away just because someone puts up a hashtag that says ‘MeToo’,” he said. “There are plenty of good reasons why a lot of women have been silent on this issue for 30 years, as she has. It does not negate the fact that we need to give every one of these people their day being heard and our best attempt to investigate what they are saying.”

Kopser was asked in a radio interview last week if Democrats were trying to push Kavanaugh’s nomination beyond the Nov. 6 election.

“You mean the same way McConnell did it in November 2016? Yes,” he responded, referring to Republicans’ success in denying a confirmation hearing of appeals court judge Merrick Garland, who was Barack Obama’s selection to fill the court vacancy after the death of Antonin Scalia.

Roy, 45, recalled working for Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn as a staff member on the Senate Judiciary Committee when, he said, matters like the allegations against Kavanaugh were handled differently and on a bipartisan basis.

“There is a process to handle any kinds of things that come up like this … to take in any issues that come up, on background checks or issues that are raised, and be able to deal with them behind closed doors and handle them in the proper way,” he said in the radio interview.

Senate leader to Republicans: ‘Don’t get rattled’

Derrick Crowe, who Kopser defeated in the primary, contended that Republican women in portions of the district could be a significant factor given the tepid support of this administration by women in general.

“And now Republicans in Congress are trying to hand wave past allegations of sexual assault, adding to what already exists out there that encourages suburban Republican women to stay home,” he said.

JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America-We The People and a key Roy backer, said she is aware of concerns by some GOP women about President Donald Trump.

“A lot of women may not like the way he speaks about something or what he tweets. They may not like those things, but they care about a Supreme Court appointment, about border security and they care very much about the future of their children,” she said.

Republicans hoped to enter the stretch run of the campaign with the fresh success of Kavanaugh’s confirmation to encourage the party’s base. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., on Friday told the GOP “don’t get rattled” and assured his party that the Senate will complete the confirmation.

Nonetheless, Fleming said that many conservatives in Texas are concerned about what they are seeing.

“People are expecting Republicans to get something done while they are in power,” she said. “Out of all of the noise that comes out of Washington, people can understand the lasting effect of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court.”

The political intensity continues to grow … Kavanaugh’s confirmation, thought for weeks to be a certainty, is drawing opposition from portions of the electorate who hadn’t bothered previously to weigh in.

On Friday, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, representing 45 Latino advocacy groups, declared opposition to Kavanaugh - the first time in its quarter-century existence that the Latino umbrella group has opposed a court nominee.

Thomas A. Saenz, who heads the organization, said Latinos acted because Kavanaugh’s nomination “has been unduly rushed and incomplete.”

On social media, the Kavanaugh nomination is triggering a torrent of activity. Cornyn’s tweet on Friday accusing Democrats of “more gamesmanship” for refusing to release Ford’s initial letter spelling out her allegations charges was met with a storm of biting comments, in addition to expressions of support.

In one response on Twitter a woman wrote: “Imagine if white men were as upset about sexual violence toward women as they are when men take a knee before a game.”

Original Article. 

Daily Texan: ‘The youngest person on the email thread’: students take to working on campaigns ahead of November


On the morning of primary elections last semester, Jacob Springer woke up at 7 a.m. On a normal Tuesday, he would have been attending classes until early afternoon. But on March 6, Springer ditched his classes and took to the streets of Austin to knock on doors and pass out campaign pamphlets for nine hours straight.

“This is what I care about more than school,” said Springer, a government political communications sophomore. “I care about the government and the elected officials that are representing me. And so I am often willing to put other things on the line to work on campaigns.”

As the midterm elections approach, “politics” has been a campus buzzword. For Springer and other like-minded students, voting is not enough to satisfy a deep interest in government and policy. So they turn to campaigns, finding positions as interns or volunteers and working alongside the potential lawmakers they support.

Springer is a field organizer for Joseph Kopser, the Democratic nominee for Congressional District 21. Last semester, he founded Students for Kopser, a UT political advocacy club, and now, he supervises all campus volunteering efforts for the Kopser campaign.

As someone interested in a political career, Springer said the practical experience is invaluable for him.

“You get to watch the entire campaign process develop to where you can see yourself running a campaign in the future,” Springer said.

Saurabh Sharma, chairman of UT’s chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas, said he takes civic engagement seriously. Sharma has worked for multiple Republican campaigns, including those of CD 21 candidate Chip Roy, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. He still does door-to-door canvassing on weekends and actively recruits interns for those campaigns.

Sharma said he believes merely talking about his political convictions is not productive. Pouring his own passion into campaign work was the next logical step, he said.

“For me, it was never enough to just talk about what I believe,” biochemistry senior Sharma said. “It’s kind of morally incumbent on me to go out and do what I can. It’s an obligation really … like if you really believe in your ideas so strongly, what are you doing sitting down and not doing anything about it?”

Like Springer and Sharma, Jared Hrebenar, an international relations and global studies senior, is also working on a campaign this election season. He is a co-digital director for Mike Collier, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Working for Collier’s campaign is a 24/7 commitment, Hrebenar said. A typical weekday for him starts with an 8 a.m. phone call with the campaign team. In between classes, Hrebenar said he’s constantly sending emails, setting up events, managing social media pages and keeping track of the campaign calendar.

Hrebenar said being “the youngest person on the email thread” has never been an issue in a setting where college students are scarce.

“It’s a really cool experience because no one is ever judged for being younger,” Hrebenar said. “We always work to show our worth, to show our value, but we’ve never really been handicapped by the fact that we’re younger. It’s just seen as a novelty sometimes.”

Students at UT can live in a bubble, Sharma said. Talking to voters and understanding the reasons behind their affinity for certain candidates can be enlightening, he said.

“We’re sitting in our ivory towers reading books about political philosophy, but when you go out and block walk, you realize that people don’t think about voting for candidates the way you do,” Sharma said. “It can just be a really humbling experience, and it keeps me grounded.”

Original Article. 

Austin American-Statesman: Will these Texas veterans help rebrand the Democratic Party?

By Maria Recio

When Joseph Kopser introduces himself to voters in the 21st Congressional District as a combat veteran, a successful entrepreneur and a Democrat, he gets double-takes.

“Young man, are you sure you’re not a Republican?” Kopser, who lives in Southwest Austin, said he is asked almost daily. He is running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in a district that stretches from Central Austin to the north side of San Antonio and encompasses six Hill Country counties.

Kopser, 47, is one of three military veterans and political newcomers running as Democrats in closely watched congressional races in Central and South Texas. MJ Hegar, 42, a decorated Air National Guard pilot, is running in the 31st Congressional District against U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock; and Gina Ortiz Jones, 37, a retired Air Force intelligence officer is in a tight race against U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, in the 23rd District.

They are among a new breed of Democrat running in Texas and elsewhere who are upending political party stereotypes and appealing to voters who traditionally vote Republican.

“This was our effort early-on,” said Rep. Ben Lujan, R-N.M., the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, explaining that recruiting military veterans was “part of our strategy” after the 2016 election.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a Marine elected in 2014, has been leading the effort to recruit veteran candidates and supports them through his Serve America PAC. “These veterans represent a new generation of leadership for our party and for our country,” he said.

Hegar, in particular, has captured the limelight with her compelling biography: She was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for saving the lives of her crew after being shot down during a helicopter rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2009. In a campaign ad, she touts her tattoos, which cover her shrapnel wounds.

“A lot of people think I’m a Republican at first because I’m a veteran,” Hegar told the American-Statesman.

But she tells voters in her district, which encompasses all of Williamson County and most of Bell County, including parts of Fort Hood: “I used to vote for John Carter, too. We’ve both been fooled.”

Disenchanted when Carter wouldn’t meet with her during her effort to force the Pentagon to allow women into combat, Hegar decided to take him on.

She has outraised Carter in the historically Republican district, putting her on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, which gives money and support to challengers.

Ortiz Jones, an Iraq war veteran, often brings up the challenges of being a lesbian and having to work under the so-called don’t ask, don’t tell policy that closeted gays in the military.

“It’s one of the very formative experiences of my life,” she said of her military service. “I was honored to wear our nation’s cloth.”

Why are veterans good candidates? “We need people to get things done,” she said. “We have a public service mindset. We took the oath to keep our country safe — that’s certainly shaped my desire to run for office.”

The race for the 23rd District, which stretches from the outskirts of San Antonio along the border to El Paso, is getting some high-level attention. Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who won the district in 2016, held a fundraiser Wednesday for Ortiz Jones and four other female congressional candidates in New York. The same day, former President George W. Bush, in one of his first forays into the 2018 elections, headlined a fundraiser for Hurd in Fort Worth.

Veterans and first-time Democratic congressional candidates from Texas to Kentucky are stressing a bipartisan approach.

“My military experience gives me a professionalism to put policy over partisanship and country over party,” Kopser said. “Voters being surprised that Democrats are veterans comes from stereotyping by far-right Republicans who have tried to wrap themselves in the flag.”

Kopser’s opponent is veteran GOP aide Chip Roy, who worked for Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The district is predominantly Republican.

Two Republican veterans from Texas are also making their first run at Congress: former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw in the 2nd District, in the Houston area, and state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, in the 3rd District, north of Dallas.

The six veterans from Texas currently serving in Congress are all Republicans: U.S. Reps Brian Babin of Woodville, Mike Conaway of Midland, Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Sam Johnson of Plano, Pete Olson of Sugar Land and Ted Poe of Humble. Johnson and Poe are retiring.

Crenshaw, who faces Democrat Todd Litton, said he identifies himself as a SEAL. “It’s introducing yourself to connect with somebody,” he said. “People don’t trust who they don’t know.”

Crenshaw was severely wounded in Afghanistan and lost his right eye — he usually wears an eye patch.

Taylor, who faces Democrat Lorie Burch, also stresses a bipartisan approach. The military, he says, “teaches you to work with whoever’s there.”

With Honor, a Super PAC supporting 33 congressional candidates nationwide from both parties and requiring a pledge that they will show integrity, civility and courage above politics, has endorsed Hegar, Ortiz Jones, Crenshaw and Taylor but not Kopser.

Democrats, though, believe their message of country over party will resonate in an increasingly polarized Washington run by Republicans.

“Veterans can win where Democrats haven’t traditionally won,” said Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran who co-chairs, a liberal political action committee that is supporting the three Texas Democratic veterans running for Congress. “Who can win over independents? A veteran. Not a career politician.”

Original Article. 

KUT: Turning Texas Blue Depends On Mobilizing Latinos. That’s Tougher Than It Sounds.


Texas Democrats see an opening during this year’s midterm election. They are hoping to pick up seats in Congress that they haven’t won in a long time, as well as a slew of seats down the ballot. To do that, though, the party will have to get Latinos in Texas – who don’t often go to the polls – to vote in higher numbers.

Joseph Kopser, a Democrat running for an open seat vacated by longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, recently held what he called an “immigration roundtable” in San Antonio.

“I want to learn from you all and I hope we learn from each other,” he told a small group of immigration activists.

The event was an effort to start reaching out to Latino voters in the district, which is a historically red district and includes parts of Austin, San Antonio and the Hill Country. Kopser’s opponent, Republican Chip Roy, is largely expected to win.

During the event, Kopser talked to folks who work with immigrant communities and asked them what they want to see change in the country’s immigration laws.

One of the people who attended this small meeting was Viridiana Carrizales. She grew up in Texas without documentation, but in recent years gained a legal status after getting married.

She said Congress should be looking at ways to give permanent statuses to undocumented immigrants. She said temporary programs like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) are not enough.

“It is inhuman for us to plan our lives in two-year increments,” Carrizales told Kopser. “I cannot ask any of my friends who have DACA status, ‘What do you hope to be in five years?’ Because they cannot think past the expiration date of their DACA.”

Despite the odds, Kopser’s bid for Congress is among several races national Democratic groups are watching. Their hope is higher Latino turnout will help candidates like Kopser this year.

“Latinos are everywhere in Texas,” said Manny Garcia, the Deputy Executive Director of the Texas Democratic Party. “So, the ultimate goal is to bring up turnout everywhere in the state. It’s the only way you win.’

Garcia said this year’s midterms are “an all hands on deck” situation for the party. He said among Democrats there’s a large effort underway to get Latinos mobilized, which is has been an ongoing issue for the party.

People of color make up a majority of the state’s population, but that hasn’t yet translated into Democratic political power in Texas. Garcia said engaging those voters hasn’t been taken seriously enough.

“For a couple of decades now there has been a ‘demographics is destiny’ narrative that has existed,” he said. “And sadly for many of those years, it seems like … communities of color were taken for granted – that basically they were expected to show up whether or not we are producing results.”

Texas has had a growing population of young people and people of color – groups who are more likely to vote for democrats, but Republicans continue to win big in Texas.

In 2016, Republicans won all the statewide offices and President Donald Trump won the state by nine percentage points.

Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez is the executive director of Jolt, a group that’s trying to get young Latinos to vote in Texas, and she says it’s not a given that demographic shifts in Texas will help Democrats.

“Demographics alone are not destiny,” she said. “If they were, Texas would already be a very different place.”

Ramirez said Democrats need to do a better job of reaching Latino voters on the issues that are important to them. She said that’s immigration, education, health care and livable wages.

Furthermore, Democratic candidates and progressive groups around the country need to spend more money registering and engaging Latino nonvoters.

Ramirez said the lack of financial investment in Latino outreach in Texas is one of the biggest reasons the state is still red.

“Too many times Texas serves as an ATM,” she said. “Progressive dollars and dollars invested in the Latino community are sent to places like Florida and they are not invested here in Texas because people don’t see it as a competitive state.

But if national groups actually spent money on Texas, she said, Texas would be a competitive state. And groups would be starting basically from scratch because there’s so little existing infrastructure for getting out the Latino vote. Data from heavily Latino areas, such as the Rio Grande valley, show voter registration numbers are not up a significant amount right now.

“I think there has been a lack of acceptance that who this state is is black and brown people and that they are primarily young,” she Ramirez said, citing projections that one in three voters will be under the age of 30 by 2022.

“That is going to be, and is right now, the largest, the most diverse and the most progressive voting bloc,” Ramirez said. “But the answer that candidates give is, ‘well they don’t vote.’ So they don’t spend money and it’s a cyclical problem. So, the candidates and the party that isn’t willing to spend money on young voters color – are part of the problem.”

Original Article. 

Texas Public Radio: Candidates Vying For CD21 Seat Face Off In San Antonio


The race to replace long-standing Texas Congressman Lamar Smith is heating up between Republican Chip Roy and his Democratic rival Joseph Kopser. They faced off in a debate on Wednesday at Pearl Studios, hosted by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

With topics ranging from immigration to trade, both candidates were asked what they felt should be done about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Roy supports Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s position that the federal program is unconstitutional.

“We need border security, and we need an immigration system that works that is merit-based so that people can have the labor that they need,” Roy said.

Kopser told the crowd his comprehensive immigration plan would include a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

“We owe Dreamers the promise that we have made to them. It is not their fault that they are here,” Kopser said.

When asked about ongoing discussions that aim to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, both Kopser and Roy agreed that any deal must be a pact that includes both Mexico and Canada.

Congressional District 21 runs through parts of the city, the Hill Country and into Austin.

The race between Kopser and Roy has attracted national attention because Texas Democrats believe they can end the Republicans' hold on the seat during the November midterm election.

Original Article. 

KSAT: U.S. Rep. District 21 candidates face off in debate

By David Ibanez

Winner between Chip Roy (R), Joseph Kopser (D) to replace Rep. Lamar Smith

SAN ANTONIO - The two candidates hoping to fill the District 21 congressional seat held by longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, of San Antonio, participated Thursday in a debate.

The San Antonio Chamber Of Commerce hosted a debate between Republican candidate Chip Roy and Democratic candidate Joseph Kopser.

The two talked about issues important to the business community, including the economy, transportation and health care.

Among the questions the candidates were asked if they are elected, what role should the government play in boosting the U.S. economy?

"What I want to see the federal government do is provide the conditions for a level playing field to make sure education is the great equalizer, that infrastructure is in place to move commerce and trade, to make sure immigration is reformed in a way that can add new Americans to the workforce to keep this economic miracle alive," Kopser said.

"Get more regulations out of the way, to provide more power for Texas to govern and see and do best what we can do. It's also to provide health care freedom, so we are no longer strangling businesses and people with the unbelievably high cost of health care. These are things we can achieve if the federal government gets out of the way of Texas," Roy said.

The candidates will face off in the Nov. 6 election.

Original Article. 

TribTalk: Six Texas races could determine whether Democrats flip the House


Control of the U.S. House hangs in the balance of the outcome of dozens of races across the country, including a half dozen in Texas. For those who believe this election will in many respects be a referendum on the Trump presidency and who place great stock in the quality and ability of individual candidates to alter the course of a race, the prospects of flipping several Texas GOP-held seats are bright. But, for those who believe the partisan demographics of a district tend to be paramount and tend to discount the extent to which candidates can swim against a strong partisan tide in Texas, the GOP’s prospects of retaining at least five of the six seats are bright.

Democrats are hopeful President Donald Trump's unpopularity as well as the high quality of the Democratic candidates will help flip as many as six of the 25 U.S. House seats that make up the largest GOP state delegation in the House (Florida is next with 16). Republicans are hopeful the significant natural Republican advantage in five of the six districts combined with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's long coattails will help keep most if not all of these seats in GOP hands.

The table contains information on the six races identified by the leading Beltway pundits (CNN, The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, Sabato’s Crystal Ball) as potentially in play, as well as lists the combined pundit rating for the district. In addition to the Republican and Democratic candidates’ names and incumbent status (I) the table provides four metrics useful in assessing the likelihood the district will turn blue in November.

Partisan Voting Index (PVI): The average difference in 2014 and in 2016 between the percentage of the vote won by the median Republican and median Democratic statewide judicial candidates in the district.

Trump Voting Index (TVI): Trump's margin of victory in the district over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Abbott Voting Index (AVI): Abbott's margin of victory in the district over Democrat Wendy Davis in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Current Cash on Hand (R/D COH July): The ratio of the cash on hand held by the Republican to that held by the Democrat (negative values indicate the Democrat held the advantage by that ratio).

The Beltway Pundits believe CD-7 is the Texas GOP district most likely to flip in November, followed closely by CD-23CD-32 is seen as the next most vulnerable, followed by a pair (CD-21 and CD-31) still projected to remain red, but where the GOP candidate is not out of the woods. CD-2 is seen as a safe Republican district by all but one pundit.

CD-7 is rated as heavily in play as a result of, among other factors, Clinton's defeat of Trump in the district by 1.4 percent. There’s also the high concentration of centrist Republican, college-educated Anglos who disapprove of the Trump presidency in the district and the accurate belief by the pundits that Democrat Lizzie Fletcher is a higher quality candidate than incumbent Republican John Culberson. The pundits tend to discount the district’s natural Republican lean (PVI of 22.9) as well as the reality that the 2014 AVI (21.8) and current gubernatorial campaign dynamics suggest Abbott will defeat Democrat Lupe Valdez in CD-7 by between 15 and 20 points. This built in GOP advantage and Abbott dominance suggest one out of every seven or eight Abbott voters will have to cross over to Fletcher if she is to defeat Culberson; this in a district where two out of three voters utilize the straight-ticket voting option.

Just as Michael J. Fox is the Anti-Elvis, CD-23 is the antithesis of CD-7, in that Republican incumbent Will Hurd is given a slightly better than even chance to win by the pundits in spite of the district's low PVI, Trump's loss by 3.5 percent, and the president's rising unpopularity with Latinos who account for half of CD-23’s voters. Contrary to CD-7, Hurd is accurately considered by the pundits to be a superior candidate to his Democratic rival, Gina Ortiz Jones, which they believe may allow him to survive in spite of the millstone Trump has placed around his neck.

CD-32, CD-7's DFW doppelgänger, is seen as having a potential to flip due to Trump's loss in the district in 2016 combined with its larger than average share of centrist college-educated Anglo Republicans. CD-32 has a lower PVI and AVI than CD-7, but is considered less vulnerable by the pundits based on the correct assessment that Republican incumbent Pete Sessions is a better candidate than Culberson and will have a greater campaign resource advantage over his Democratic rival, Collin Allred.

The pundits view CD-21 (Republican Chip Roy vs. Democrat Joseph Kopser) and CD-31 (Republican incumbent John Carter vs. Democrat MJ Hegar) as long shots for Democrats, but potentially winnable in a perfect storm due to the weight they place on the superior quality of the Democrat, especially in CD-31. From a pure district fundamentals perspective however, based on their PVI (22.1 & 23.9), TVI (9.8 & 12.5) and AVI (19.5 & 25.5), neither race should be considered in play. The most likely scenario is Roy and Carter win by double-digit margins.

Only The Cook Political Report considers the CD-2 faceoff between Republican Dan Crenshaw and Democrat Todd Litton to not be a lock for the GOP. The Safe Republican designation given by the other pundits stems from the overwhelming advantage any Republican would have in CD-2 (PVI of 27.2) combined with Crenshaw’s popular appeal due to his decorated service as a Navy SEAL and overall impressive resume (though Litton also is a compelling candidate).

Original Article. 

New York Times: Democrats Calling for New Leadership

About 60 Democratic House candidates have said that they prefer new leadership if the party wins back the House in November. Some have specifically said they would not support Representative Nancy Pelosi as speaker. Many are in districts that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hopes to flip from red to blue.

Incumbents who have won primaries
Bill Pascrell Jr. NJ-9 “I would expect that we would have, win or lose, new leadership by January 1, 2019.”
Brian Higgins NY-26 “She's listening, but this is my conclusion: She's aloof, frenetic and misguided.”
Conor Lamb PA-17 “I’ve already said on the front page of the newspaper that I don’t support Nancy Pelosi.”
Filemon Vela TX-34 “Running against Nancy Pelosi is going to help you a lot more than running with her.”
Jim Cooper TN-5 “... The House needs a new generation of leaders who can appeal to a broad swath of the American electorate.” (through a spokesman)
Kathleen Rice NY-4 “She has been a great leader, but like every leader, time immemorial, it's time for people to know when to go.”
Kurt Schrader OR-5 “The Republicans are the ones who are her biggest advocates.”
Linda Sánchez CA-38 “I think there comes a time when you need to pass that torch. And I think it's time.”
Ron Kind WI-3 “I think someone new would be a breath of fresh air.”
Tim Ryan OH-13 “The focus is on 2018, but I think there is going to be some change, whether it’s newer members or maybe someone not in leadership right now.”

Other nominees
Districts currently held by a Republican that the D.C.C.C. hopes to flip in November are highlighted in red.
Abigail Spanberger VA-7 “We need new leadership in Washington, on both sides of the aisle ... under no circumstances would I vote for Nancy Pelosi to again be speaker of the House.”
Aftab Pureval OH-1 “I’m running for Congress because I genuinely believe we need a new generation of leadership. Washington is broken. It’s toxic, and it’s on both sides.”
Ammar Campa-Najjar CA-50 “I think we need new leadership.”
Andrew Janz CA-22 “I think it's time for a new generation of leaders to go to Washington ... I think the country, and my district in particular, is hungry for change.”
Andy Kim NJ-3 “As I’m now working to help my community here in New Jersey, it’s time we have new leadership on both sides of the aisle in Washington to get the job done.”
Anthony Brindisi NY-22 “It's something that I decided early on by talking to voters in the district. I believe it's time for new leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
Ben McAdams UT-4 “It’s time for new leadership. I’d be looking at who’s running and what they bring to the table.”
Brendan Kelly IL-12 “I think we need new leadership in both parties and that’s just how I feel and I feel that way because the way it’s currently going in D.C. has not served the people of Southern Illinois.”
Clarke Tucker AR-2 “... I won't vote for Nancy Pelosi. We're better than that.”
Dan Kohl WI-6 "If I'm elected to Congress, I would not vote for Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democrats. It’s time for a new generation of leadership in Washington."
Dan McCready NC-9 “The fact is leaders of both parties have let us down. It’s time for a change. And that starts at the top.”
Danielle Mitchell TN-3 “I admire Pelosi and deeply appreciate all she has accomplished, but I wouldn’t back her for another term as speaker of the House.”
Elissa Slotkin MI-8 “If I am elected and I am in a position to vote for speaker, I’m going to vote for the person who’s going to do the most for Michigan, for our community, and, at this point, I think that’s someone else.”
Gil Cisneros CA-39 “While I respect Representative Pelosi’s years of advocacy on behalf of California and the Democratic party, new leadership is needed.”
Haley Stevens MI-11 Said she would not support Ms. Pelosi as speaker.
J.D. Scholten IA-4 “I definitely think it’s time for new leadership.”
James Thompson KS-4 “I like Nancy ... But I think that we need new, fresh leadership in there that has a progressive vision, and Nancy’s a corporate centrist.”
Janet Garrett OH-4 “I look at the leadership, I think we should vote them all out.”
Jared Golden ME-2 “... No intention of voting for Nancy Pelosi. None at all.”
Jason Crow CO-6 “I want new leadership to set up and move this country forward.”
Portrait: Jeff Van Drew Jeff Van Drew NJ-2 “We need to change the leadership in Washington."
Portrait: Jess King Jess King PA-11 “Congress already has too many career politicians in leadership ... We need to make Washington D.C. work for all of us, instead of just working for the political establishment.”
Portrait: Jill Schiller Jill Schiller OH-2 “I plan to vote for a new generation of leaders.”
Portrait: Joe Cunningham Joe Cunningham SC-1 “It’s not a knock on Pelosi. But all across the board, people we’re talking to realize that we need new leadership, and that’s what we represent.”
Joseph Kopser TX-21 “I'm not supporting Nancy Pelosi as leader in any vote because I believe there are people who can better take the Democratic Party and our country forward.”
Joshua Welle NJ-4 “It’s clear that Congress is not working for everyday people, and now is the time for new leadership in Washington with fresh ideas on moving our country forward and united.”
Kara Eastman NE-2 “Democrats must have term limits like the Republicans have for their Congressional leaders. I would support a new House leader in 2019!”
Kathleen Williams MT-at-large “Unfortunately, this Congress is stuck in endless dysfunction and partisan gridlock. That’s why I won’t be voting for Nancy Pelosi for leader.”
Kathy Manning NC-13 “I cannot vote for more of the same, and I cannot support Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan to lead Congress. We need fresh faces and bold ideas leading both parties.”
Ken Harbaugh OH-7 “We are overdue for a new generation of leadership ... We have a remarkable opportunity in front of us, and it’s going to take new thinking and new leadership to capitalize on it.”
Liz Watson IN-9 “I won't vote for Nancy Pelosi because we need new leadership in Washington. I've been out across the district listening to folks and they know that Washington is broken.”
Mac Schneider ND-at-large “I think we need someone who can deliver an economic message — someone who can come out to North Dakota and talk to farmers and ranchers and explain why Democratic policies are better for their pocketbooks.”
Max Rose NY-11 “If the Democratic Party is going to earn back the trust of the American people then we need to show them that we are serious about changing our politics — and that means we need a change in leadership.”
Mel Hall IN-2 “Washington is broken — and career politicians in both parties are to blame.”
Mikie Sherrill NJ-11 “We know that the next 50 years aren’t going to look like the last 50 years, and we need a new generation of leaders who are going to bring forward fresh ideas as to how we move this country forward.”
Nate McMurray NY-27 “I think it’s time to move on.”
Paul Davis KS-2 “This is a broken Congress right now, and I think the leaders of both political parties bear responsibility for that. And I think that we need new leadership in both political parties.”
Rashida Tlaib MI-13 “I need someone that ... is connected with, just the different levels of poverty that's going on, the fact that there are structures and barriers for working families in my district that need to be dismantled.”
Richard Ojeda WV-3 “I think that Nancy is bad for our party; I think we need some working-class Democrats that actually know what it’s like for the average citizen out there.”
Ron DiNicola PA-16 “I respect the contributions that have been made by the Democratic leadership in the past, but I think it's time for a change on both sides of the aisle.”
Theresa Gasper OH-10 “Although this discussion is premature, I would support new leadership in the House.”
Tim Bjorkman SD-at-large “I will not support Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House or any other leadership position.”
Candidates in upcoming primaries
Deaglan McEachern NH-1 “Though I am thankful for Nancy Pelosi's service to our party and country, I do not see her as a representative leading us into the future.”
Maura Sullivan NH-1 “I will not be supporting Leader Pelosi because I think we need a new generation of leadership. We need new leadership to move the country forward.”
Mindi Messmer NH-1 “It’s time to empower younger people to step up as leaders in Congress to inspire our youth everywhere.”
Nancy Soderberg FL-6 “No, I believe you need new leadership in Congress if you’re going to change the dysfunction in Washington.”
Terence O'Rourke NH-1 “It’s time for the nation to turn the page on that tired, failed political generation.”
Seth Moulton MA-6 (Incumbent) “At the end of the day this just wasn’t leadership that we saw from our Democratic party leaders, and that's why I'm calling for a new generation of leaders in our party.”

Original Article