Why I’m voting for Sarah Eckhardt, too. (Original post by Jessica W. Luther)

Today I read an excellent post by Jessica Luther about the race for Travis County Judge and the upcoming March 4 primary. The Democratic candidates for Travis County Judge, Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt, are both fairly well-known political figures in Austin. I have met them both at numerous events around town, and they are both respected members of the progressive community.

Deciding who to support, especially publicly, has been difficult. How do you pick a favorite between two people you like? And what do you do when you reach a decision that will likely be unpopular with even more people you like? It’s not easy to criticize people you respect, but in this case I think it’s more important to come out in support of the best person for the job than to avoid some anxiety-inducing social situations. This is a democratic election for an influential position in local government, and it shouldn’t be a popularity contest.

Ultimately, Andy Brown is  is better funded and has key endorsements from plenty of Austin-area progressive groups. He seems to be the popular choice among Travis County politicos. I think Andy is a talented campaigner and skillful activist,  but Sarah is an experienced and proven public servant, and I’m voting for her because she is just better qualified for the position. I was planning to write an entire post about the Travis County Judge race, but Jessica W. Luther’s detailed, thorough post perfectly sums up my thoughts on the matter. You can read her original post on her website, and I’ve also posted it below in it’s entirety.


Catching illegal immigrants on UT campus (story of the week)

The UT chapter of the Texas Young Conservatives is attracting national attention (and scrutiny) since Monday’s announcement of their “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event. The event, scheduled for today, invited all UT students to seek and capture “illegal immigrants” hiding around campus in exchange for $25 gift cards. In light of the subsequent media firestorm, the event has been cancelled.

Lorenzo Garcia, the event’s organizer and Chairman of the UT Young Conservatives, issued this public statement about the event’s cancellation. It cites fear of University backlash and concerns for volunteer safety as factors in the decision to scrap the event. Garcia, a former Abbott staffer and current UT student, faces excessive vilification, and harassment from friends and opponents alike.

The event was vulgar, demeaning, and indelicate. I found it offensive, and many other people did too. But is that a good enough reason to call it off? Probably not. Is it a good enough reason to send obscenity-laced death threats to a student’s personal social media accounts? Again, probably not. This was a misguided student organization’s botched publicity stunt, not a discriminatory piece of legislation our an outrageous court ruling. I value my right to speak freely, and it would be hypocritical not to value the Texas Young Conservative’s and Garcia’s right to do the same. If they were making policy, that would be a different story.

And with that, I direct your attention to the real story of the week. (via the Texas Tribune)

Jessica and Texas Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) at the Texas Tribune Festival

Highlights of the Texas Tribune Festival

I spent this weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival, which is basically a music festival with politicians instead of bands. Tribune Fest was chock full of major players in Texas politics and, let me tell ya, I was in heaven! Here’s my list of the 15 best (and worst) moments from the weekend, in mostly chronological order:

  • When Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott  tried to convince everyone that the Affordable Care Act is the product of voter fraud, and the crowd laughed at him. 
  • When Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said “Texas is going to turn blue over my dead, cold, bloated butt.”
  • When David Dewhurst busted out his 8th grade Spanish (“Yo sabo…el gobern…seguridad por el futuro”) and everyone was confused.
  • When David Dewhurst said “We already have universal healthcare, it’s called the Emergency Room.” and the crowd laughed at him.
  • When David Dewhurst decided that 5 months is plenty of time for a woman to decide what to do with her pregnancy, but has never been pregnant himself. When Texas Rep. Sarah Davis rolled her eyes every time Rep. Donna Campbell answered a question with “I am a physician…”
  • When a lady in the audience recommended humanely sucking fetuses out of women and growing them in artificial uterueses as a middle ground in the abortion debate.
  • When a Republican turned out to be the voice of reason on the Women’s Health Panel (Sarah Davis, you are amazing! Preach!)
  • When Donna Campbell said there is nothing in the legislation that would shut down women’s health facilities and I was part of the unruly mob for the few seconds before the next question. Jess with Texas Representative Jessica Farrar, her personal hero! (She's smiling!)
  • When Texas Senator Eddie Lucio (he’s a Democrat, btw) tripped over a chair trying to get away from questions about his opposition to all forms of birth control.
  • When Rep. Jessica Farrar said that political wars can’t be fought on the backs of women.
  • When I got to hang out with Jessica Farrar.
  • When Evan Smith said “Welcome to Politics Church.” at the beginning of Sunday morning’s session.
  • When the room was so packed with people waiting to see Wendy that we had to use bathroom passes to get in and out
  • When the Longhorn Band came in and there was a pep-rally for Wendy Davis at the end of the day.

Those are my favorite moments, but I wasn’t at every session. Did I leave something out? Leave a comment to share your favorite moments from Tribune Fest, too!

I’m Alive!

Hi everyone. Just wanted to write a quick post to let you all know I’m alive and well, just really, really, really busy. In case you haven’t been following Australian politics, we’ve recently changed Prime Ministers, which means we’ve had to re-build the campaign almost from the ground up. It also means we don’t know when the election will actually be, since the PM gets to decide election dates and the new one, Kevin Rudd, hasn’t decided yet. We’re campaigning 13+ hours a day– organizing events, writing and testing scripts, training our teams on persuasion and neighborhood team models and layered voter contact, and, most of all, talking to voters–but we don’t know if the election will be in four weeks or four months.

I was invited to stay on longer to continue working on this whirlwind of a campaign, which is why I’m obviously not home yet. I’m doing my best to keep up with Texas politics from afar, and I think a lot of the people I work with are starting to love Wendy Davis almost as much as I do (or getting tired of hearing me talk about her). I’ll be back-mid August with plenty of stories to tell and a lot more listening to do. I’ve been in Australia for almost 3 months, and I’ve never been prouder call Texas home.

Australia Update

Texans, I’ve been busy! There’s been so much going on that I’ve barely had a chance to catch my breath, but I’m having fun and learning so much that breathing seems a little overrated anyway.

The candidate training I mentioned in the last post was a huge undertaking, but well worth the effort. Candidates and their staff joined us to go over some general strategy in the morning and then attended some smaller specialized sessions in the afternoon, so each campaign was able to tailor the training to their needs. Before we got down to business, Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed the room and reminded everyone what we’re fighting for. I met the Prime Minister after she spoke, and it was the highlight of my day.

Jess and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard enjoying delicious tea at the New South Wales Candidate Training Day in Parramatta

In addition to helping run nightly phone banks and organizing some really cool volunteer events at Campaign HQ I’ve also been involved in rolling out our new campaign website, ImIn2013.com.au, and setting up the Whitlam Fellowship Program. I’m very excited about both of these projects and I think they’re going to help drive volunteer involvement here even more.

If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out the video on the home page of the website–one of the stars might look familiar! I’m also writing for the I’m In! blog, so you can read more about what we’re up to and see some pictures of where I’m working if you’re interested.

Organizing in Australia

I probably won’t be posting much about Texas in the next month or so because I’m currently campaigning overseas in the land down under! Organizing in Australia is completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, and I’ve already learned so much in the few short days I’ve been here.

First day in Sydney

First day in Sydney. Yes, that is a Texas for Obama shirt I’m wearing!

After a day of sight-seeing and a 10-hour jet lag induced coma, it was time to get down to business. I’m working in the NSW Labor Party campaign headquarters, which would be about the equivalent of working in the Chicago OFA office during the Obama campaign. I spent the entire first day sitting in a corner getting familiar with their voter file (it’s not VAN!) and trying not to look too foreign. About halfway through day two I realized there’s not much a Texas girl can do to blend in, so I gave up on that completely. On my third day in the office I met the Prime Minister of Australia for the first time.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard shakes hands and meets volunteers at the Labor Party Headquarters in Sydney, Australia

Tuesday was a National Day of Action, and over 100 volunteers turned up to make calls for the Labor Party that night. Prime Minister Gillard came by the phone bank to help make calls and thank everyone for their hard work. Australian Prime Minister Julia GIllard makes calls alongside volunteers at a large phone bank in the Labor Party Campaign Headquarters in Parramatta, Australia

One of the big differences here is that the Prime Minister is elected by members of Parliament instead of by the voters directly so, instead of campaigning for Julia Gillard, everyone in this office is working on separate campaigns for individual local members. The campaigns all share some general Labor Party messaging, but each operates independently of all the others and is highly targeted to specific constituents and issues. Each call list was for a different member of Parliament, or MP, so instead of writing lots of different scripts and trying to keep track of wich script went with which list, we just made a generic one and had volunteers fill in the candidate’s name as they were calling. All the volunteers know which local member went with which area, but I have absolutely no idea and would have been completely lost if I had picked up a phone that night!

I’ll do my best to post as much as possible while I’m here, and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with everyone back home.