Austin’s Gerrymandered House Districts Are Not As Safe as the GOP Thinks

On March 13, 2018 Democrat Conor Lamb won the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District—which Trump carried by almost 20 points. Running for an open seat is generally easier than running against an incumbent, but it’s worth noting that Trump won by a smaller margin in every one of Austin’s “safe” GOP House districts.

Let’s break it down.

PA-18 was more Republican than any of Austin's GOP districts

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PA-18 was more Republican than any of Austin's GOP districts

PA-18 was more Republican than any of Austin's GOP districts

PA-18 was more Republican than any of Austin's GOP districts

PA-18 was more Republican than any of Austin's GOP districts

PA-18 was more Republican than any of Austin's GOP districts

Of course, none of this matters if people don’t get out and vote, beginning with the runoff elections in May and then the midterms in November.

Primary Election Runoff

Be a Texas Voter(NOTE: When you vote in the runoff you must vote in the same party election as you did in the primary. You cannot switch to vote in the other party’s election.)

Last day to register to vote: April 23

Early voting: May 14 – May 18

Election day: May 22

Midterm Elections

Last Day to Register to Vote: Tuesday, October 9, 2018

First Day of Early Voting: Monday, October 22, 2018

Last Day of Early Voting: Friday, November 2, 2018

Election Day: Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Data Sources:

Daily Kos (Google Sheet)

Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump (FiveThirtyEight)

How Your Voices are Making a Difference: Texas Turns Out to Vote

In the last week’s primaries in Texas, Democrats turned out at the highest levels in 16 years. Beto O’Rourke is going head-to-head with Ted Cruz, and poses one of the most credible challenges from a Democrat in Texas in years.

Florida legislators defied the NRA and responded to public demands for sensible gun control by voting in a three-day waiting period for most purchases of long guns and raising the minimum age to buy one to 21. (The legislation also creates a program to arm teachers; but the Hillsborough County School Board in Florida on Tuesday unanimously opposed a motion to arm school employees.) Governor Rick Scott, who has an A-plus NRA rating, defied the organization to sign it into law on Friday.

gun show in Illinois banned sales of AR-15 assault weapons.

Senator John Cornyn, of all people, says he has the votes to pass a bipartisan bill he sponsored beefing up background checks.

Meanwhile the kids are more than all right—in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, they continue to organize and mobilize to bring change to Washington, and refused to let Betsy DeVos whitewash or evade the issue of gun control on her visit to the school. Don’t forget the March for Our Lives on March 24 to rally for sensible gun reform—find the Austin arm here.

Former Donald aide Sam Nunberg was subpoenaed by Mueller to appear before a grand jury…and said he would refuse to go, Nunberg, who clearly learned reality-TV showmanship from his former boss, said he planned to go on Bloomberg TV and tear up the subpoena, and going on quite the cable tear, making ever more incendiary statements on several networks and finally prompting a CNN host to ask—on air—whether he’d been drinking. Twenty-four hours later, Nunberg stated on CNN that he planned to cooperate and was assembling the subpoenaed materials, after which he will apparently seek treatment.

Mueller is said to have uncovered evidence that a secret meeting in Seychelles in January of last year was an attempt to establish a back channel of communication between the White House and the Kremlin, when a Lebanese American businessman (George Nader, a former Trump aide and adviser to the United Arab Emirates) who helped organize the meeting—and initially denied its purpose—began cooperating with Mueller’s investigation and testified last week before a grand jury.

A Panama hotel finally succeeded in wresting control of the Trump-branded hotel property from Donald—and its first act was tochisel off Donald’s name from the sign.

A U.S. appeals court ruled that Title VII, covering sex bias in the workplace, covers transgender workers.

Stormy Daniels is suing Donald—since he failed to sign the nondisclosure agreement with his payout to the porn-film actress, the suit says, she’s at liberty to spill the beans. These should be very interesting beans. Remarks from Donald’s lawyer Gary Cohn reveal that Donald may be directly implicated in the payout to Daniels for his extramarital affair with her just after Melania had given birth—and it may also violate federal election laws.

The Office of the Special Counsel (unrelated to Robert Mueller’s investigation) has found that Donald’s adviser Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act twice by advocating for/against political candidates in her official role. The office has referred the matter to Donald for discipline, as is protocol, so don’t expect action on it, but the violations add up.

Martin Shkreli—the “Pharma Bro” who infamously raised the price for an AIDS drug 5000 percent as head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, has been sentenced to seven years in prison (and not for that morally bankrupt action, but for defrauding investors as a hedge-fund manager).

Donald’s legal counsel Gary Cohn resigned, citing differences over trade policy, ostensibly. But this reality-TV revolving door of staff isn’t indicative of chaos in the White House, the Very Stable Genius assured the country, simply a trial period in Donald’s quest for perfection. (I know…I’m laughing too.) Meanwhile Republican senator Jeff Flake has vowed to introduce a bill in the Senate to block Donald from raising tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Finally, Texas makes us proud yet again: Donald’s lowest ratings in a Republican state are right here in the Lone Star State.

Calling BS

The teenagers from Stoneman Douglas High are teaching us a lesson in calling BS.

Politicians—and, frankly, advocacy groups—can get hung up on the wonky details of the gun debate. Rather than haggling over the definition of “assault weapon” or what the framers of the constitution meant by “well regulated,” how about we speak in blunter terms?

For example, ask your reps:

  • What is the acceptable number of shootings per year?
  • What is an appropriate number of school children murdered by guns per year?
  • How many gun-deaths by suicide does our society consider healthy?

As a nation, we’ve made progress on another epidemic by addressing it in similar terms: Auto fatalities. With improved safety standards and education, fatalities per vehicle-miles-traveled have steadily declined.

Traffic fatalities over time


While overall gun violence has declined since the 90s, the suicide rate is edging upward, and our levels of gun violence are off the charts when compared to those of other countries

Since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America — an average of about one a week.

Let’s follow the lead of the Stoneman Douglas survivors and call BS on any “argument” that deflects from what’s really going on.

When a politician employs one of these phrases:

“Stop politicizing a tragedy!”

“We have a constitutional right to bear arms!”

“We need to arm teachers!”

You say:

“I’m calling BS. We’ve failed our children. It’s long past time for common sense gun control measures. Get to work.”

When a politician proposes a policy other than gun control, like:

“We need to address mental health!”

“We need better background checks!”

“We need better enforcement of current laws!”

You say:

“I’m calling BS. We can do those things, too. But we mostly need common sense gun control. So get to work.”

We seem to have finally reached a tipping point in the gun debate. But only Congress and state lawmakers can bring about real change. And it’s up to us to apply pressure on them until laws are passed and lives are saved. We can do that, by calling BS.


Send Out the Clowns!

Participants in the second annual “March 4 Trump” in Austin were met with the scariest form of resistance: clowns.

Calling themselves the LOLt-Right Marching Band, these clowns showed up with costumes and kazoos to confuse and roast the Trump supporters. Fun fact: these clowns were trained in nonviolent, de-escalation tactics to help people channel their energy in safe and affirming ways in the face of hatred.

You can follow these clowns’ shenanigans on Twitter: @loltrightband. And support the Clown Resistance through their GoFundMe page.

Two clowns in front of the Austin capitol

Ban Muslin banner

Clowns in front of the Capitol

Bubble Blowing clown on the Capitol

Animated GIF of a bubble-blowing clown

How Your Voices Are Making a Difference: Hang in there and keep at it, warriors!

This week Dems flipped two more legislative seats—in New Hampshire and Connecticut (the latter in a state House seat that had been held by the GOP for 40 years)…bringing the total since Donald’s inauguration to 39, if you’re keeping track.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the DACA appeal the White House brought against federal rulings stopping Donald from ending the program, meaning that for now they will stand. Meanwhile the Koch brothers—the Koch brothers!—have launched an extensive ad campaign to push Congress to act to legally protect Dreamers from another challenge. More than eighty percent of Americans support continuing DACA, and hold Donald and the GOP responsible for threatening it.

There are signs of a turning tide across the country—even in Texas, where the Catholic Bishops cut ties with Texas Right to Life, citing misleading attacks on politicians, lies, and opposing church-supported bills for not going far enough. The Catholic Bishops directed churches across the state to refrain from working with the hard-right pro-birth group. And a Texas Wesleyan University football recruiter was fired for “discriminatory remarks”after rejecting a player from Colorado because “in the past players [from your state] have had trouble passing our drug test… You can thank your liberal politicians.”

On the East Coast it was a rough week for Georgia. Disney and Marvel have threatened to stop filming in Georgia if the anti-LGBTQ bill that recently passed, allowing “faith-based” entities to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, is signed into law by governor Nathan Deal. And after Delta Airlines, the state’s largest employer, responded to public outcry against the NRA and discontinued its discount policy for the gun lobby, Georgia legislators rescinded a $50 million tax benefit for the company, the lieutenant governor decrying Delta’s actions as an attack on conservatives (former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell called it blackmail)—so plenty of other cities stepped in to let them know they’d be more than welcome to relocate. Amid all this, shots were fired at a Dalton high school by an armed teacher inside a classroom, and the students were quickly evacuated.

Lehigh University professors overwhelmingly voted to revoke the honorary degree the college granted Donald in 1988.

NBA champs the Golden State Warriors eschewed the traditional White House visit in favor of visiting the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture with a group of students.

And out West, Oakland, CA, mayor Libby Schaaf tipped off immigrants about an ICE raid in her sanctuary city, calling herself “part of the resistance.”

The Gun Control Report:

Following Rick Scott’s reluctant, long-delayed lead, governors across the country are showing willingness to instigate tougher gun laws. But even as Congress continues to drag its feet on legislating sensible gun laws, organizations, companies, and individuals are stepping into the leadership void. Dick’s Sporting Goods has announced it will no longer sell assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines, and will no longer sell firearms of any kind to anyone under 21. (Want to offer them your support? Shop there, and call directly to thank them: 724-273-3400.) Walmart shortly thereafter announced it too will raise the age for gun purchases to 21, followed by LLBean, and REI cut ties with Camelback, a company heavily involved with the gun industry.

Meanwhile, in a head-spinning reversal, Donald on Wednesday suddenly pivoted 180 degrees to support bipartisan gun-control legislation introduced after Sandy Hook—and swiftly suppressed at that time by the GOP and the NRA. In a roomful of stunned Republicans and confused but delighted Democrats, Donald called for expanded background checks, measures to keep guns from the mentally ill, making schools secure, and restricting gun sales from some young adults—as well as forgoing due process to confiscate guns from those believed to be mentally ill. Read the full surreal transcript here (which Donald and Sarah Sanders promptly walked back on here).

The Russia Report:

Robert Mueller, after carefully building a case for indicting Rick Gates, has moved to dismiss 22 fraud charges against Gates…a consideration that smells a lot like a plea bargain for incriminating information about other targets of the investigation. In fact as part of this dismissal and his guilty plea, Gates has agreed to cooperate in “any and all matters” deemed relevant to the Russia investigation.

Mueller is also reported to be looking into Donald’s attempts to oust Sessions this past summer, as part of an inquiry in whether he attempted to obstruct justice, and sources say he’s asking lots of juicy questions about what the administration knew about Russian hacking and when it knew it. (Remind you of anything?)

And the busy special counsel is also looking into whether Kushner’s business ties affected White House policies. Experts say Mueller may be moving up the food chain all the way to the Oval Office.

A new USA Today poll indicates that, by wide margins, more Americans have confidence in Bob Mueller and his Russia investigation than in Donald’s denials of his involvement.

The White House Chaos and Corruption Report:

Along with more than 30 other White House staffers, Jared Kushner lost his access to top-secret intelligence—which he should never have had, as he’d never received the proper security clearances. Jared’s business dealings are being closely looked into by the FBI, and so are Ivanka’s.

The White House continues to hemorrhage staffers—White House communications director Hope Hicks resigned, one day after telling the House Intel Committee that she sometimes tells “white lies” for Donald. National security adviser McMaster is said to be on the chopping block (that’ll make #2 in that position to go by the wayside within the first two years of the administration); AG Jeff Sessions continues to receive abuse from his boss; but Chief of Staff John Kelly seems to be sticking it out because “God punished him.”

Ben Carson wants to cancel his $31K custom-made dining set that replaced the one he said was “unsafe” now that it’s been revealed that he threatened the chief HUD admin officer’s job when she tried repeatedly to limit his redecorating to the $5K allotted for it.

Scott Pruitt is considering stopping flying first-class after massive public uproar over his high-dollar travel costs because someone yelled at him once in coach.

Meanwhile Donald is losing it. I mean seriously, y’all. Many pundits and political analysts are seeing things coming to a tipping point, and Donald’s behavior—even more out of control than usual—indicates that he’s feeling that squeeze too. So hang in there and keep at it, warriors! The (blue) tide is turning.

One simple Twitter trick to help our vision-impaired friends

People with vision impairment sometimes use screen-reading software to help them navigate the web.  The software dictates audio based upon what’s on the screen. This works best when the information is text-based, and when it’s organized well. Unfortunately, not all webpages fit this description.

Images, especially, are hard to parse with a screen reader. It’s long been considered a best practice to add additional “meta” information to images so that they can be read by screen readers (and also by search engines, but that’s another story). Unfortunately, the meta information requires manual input, and most people posting images online either don’t do it, or do it poorly. We are guilty of this, and will strive to do better.

Twitter has a feature that makes adding image descriptions easier. By default, though, this feature is disabled—which is a real shame. Since discovering this feature, we have used it on most of our tweets that contain images. (Further down we’ll explain why we’re not 100% consistent.)

To enable Twitter image descriptions, follow these steps (full instructions are here):

  1. Click on your profile icon and select Settings and privacy from the dropdown (or press the “g” key quickly, followed by the “s” key).
  2. Click Accessibility from the list of settings.
  3. Find the Compose image descriptions checkbox.
  4. Check the box to turn the setting on or off.
  5. Click Save changes.

Once you enable the feature, you’ll have an additional option to add a description to any image you post. Take the time to do this, and don’t be lazy about it. When writing your description of the image, imagine you are describing it to someone over the phone. If you’re posting a screen-shot of text (like someone’s Facebook post, or another tweet), post that same text into the image description. Otherwise, people with vision impairment have no idea what you are posting.

This feature is not foolproof, but it’s a start. Since we enabled it, we’ve noticed a few things that can prevent you from making your images fully accessible:

  • It takes more time. If you’re in a hurry, you can be tempted to bypass the image description or to be lazy about it. Resist that temptation!
  • The mobile app applies the same description to multiple images. On iOS at least, if you post multiple images in the same tweet, you get only one description field that applies to all images in the tweet. Until Twitter changes this, you’ll have to write a description that can be applied to all images in your tweet. (Or tweet the images separately, or use Twitter from a desktop browser.)
  • Third-party apps don’t include image descriptions. If you’re using something like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to schedule tweets, there is no place to add image descriptions. This is unfortunate. We don’t schedule many tweets in advance, but when we need to, image-tweets will be missing descriptions.

Accessibility on the web is always evolving, and mistakes will always happen. Adding image descriptions is a simple way to start being a better ally to our friends in the disability community, but it’s only a start. We would love to hear how we can do better in the comments.

Example of Twitter description field

Example of a Twitter image description

How Your Voice Are Making a Difference: Record-Level Voter Turnout in Texas!

As the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high and other students and protesters like them continue to be vocal and visible in their demands for real gun-control legislation, there are reasons to believe that this latest tragic mass shooting in Parkland may finally jump-start action in Congress. Students are organizing a March for Our Lives rally nationwide for March 24, 2018, to demand action from lawmakers on sensible gun-legislation reform. Sign up—and show up—for the Austin rally here.

Many teens from the school traveled to the state capital to meet with lawmakers, who refused to see them, and subsequently refused to even debate gun-control legislation. So thousands of students and protesters rallied to the Capitol to demand sensible gun reform. As a panicked GOP and NRA begin trying to discredit the students’ voices and mitigate their powerful impact by implying they’re paid actors and pawns of the media, the left, and even George Soros (really, this is a theory they are floating), anaide to a Florida legislator was fired for propagating these conspiracy theories.

More than 60 percent of Americans in a recent survey believe Donald and Congress aren’t doing enough to prevent mass shootings. Sixty-six percent of Americans and 50 percent of gun owners believe there should be stricter gun laws. The Dallas mayor pro tem—Dallas!—asked the NRA to take its annual convention elsewhere. The First National Bank of Omaha, which issues the NRA-branded credit cards, has announced it will end its relationship with the NRA based on overwhelming public and consumer outcry. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has put two of the largest gun manufacturers on notice that it’s reevaluating its investments as it speaks to weapons manufacturers and distributors to “understand its response” to the Parkland shooting. Enterprise, Alamo, and National car rental companies have stated that they are ending a discount program they offered to the NRA, swiftly followed by an avalanche of other companies: Delta and United Air Lines, MetLife, Allied Van Lines, Best Western and Wyndham hotels, and others.

Resistbot has a new feature—text “NRA” to the easy text-to-fax app for faxing your MoCs and it will inform you how much the NRA has spent for—or against—your elected officials.

Donald called for a ban on “bump stocks”—which weren’t involved in the Parkland shooting and doesn’t address the outcry against military-style automatic weapons for civilians, but rather would ban the device that allows semiautomatic weapons to be fired more quickly. It’s something, but it’s like banning matches while continuing to sell cigarettes. He’s also suggested he’s open to strengthening the national system for background checks (despite, as one of Donald’s first acts in office, having overturned Obama’s mental health regulation on gun purchases), which the NRA also supports. Now the man stripping funding and tax breaks for schools wants to arm teachers as his way of addressing mass shootings in schools. (You’re not alone if this administration feels like a Fellini film to you.)

Pennsylvania Republican governor Patrick Toomey, who has spearheaded bipartisan gun legislation efforts in the past, plans tointroduce legislation to expand background checks for firearms purchases. Even Florida governor Rick Scott, who normally lives in the NRA’s pocket, finally came out of hiding long enough to buck the opinions of his sugar daddy and concur with banning bump stocks and raising the minimum purchase age for firearms to 21 from 18 a position also taken by NRA-backed Kansas senator Pat Roberts.

On to Russia. Let me explain. No, there is too much—let me sum up.

In other political progress:

In the first days of early voting for Texas primaries, voter turnout is at record levels, most notably Democratic, but for both parties (hopefully more moderate voices in the GOP are turning out as well).

new House map in PA drawn after a federal court ruled that old ones were unfairly and illegally gerrymandered creates much more realistic and fair districts that reflect the electorate more accurately and will even the playing field in the 2018 elections. In fear losing if they can’t cheat, the GOP, of course, has vowed to sue to stop the new districts.

In Kentucky’s 49th House District, a district Donald won 72-23 in 2016, Democrat Linda Belcher snatched a GOP-held seat with nearly 70 percent of the vote—the 37th Democratic victory in a Republican-held state legislative seat since the start of 2017.

Legal action by green organizations opposing Scott Pruitt’s rollback of EPA regulations to protect the environment are slowing and in some cases even reversing Pruitt’s reckless edicts—like the one allowing mercury into our waterways, or loosening restrictions governing pollution from power plants, vehicles, and pesticides. A slew of federal courts have ruled against Pruitt in recent hearings.

Jared Kushner and John Kelly may be headed for a showdown after Kelly tightened the laces on security clearances (subsequent to revelations of how many White House staff lack permanent top-secret clearance), and Kushner is pushing back and insisting he continue to have full access despite not having permanent clearance. Sources have suggested clearance may be held up because of Mueller’s investigation.

Missouri’s Republican governor, Eric Greitens, has been indicted on felony charges for invasion of privacy, regarding blackmail threats he’s alleged to have made to his mistress to publish a nude photo of her if she revealed their extramarital affair. Greitens is refusing to step down. Brought to you by the family values party.

Donald had a big win in a recent poll, taking home the gold for Worst President Ever, as well as Most Polarizing President (even among only Republican scholars he ranked fifth-worst). He received an overall grade of F across the board, and even his Republican-leaning supporters polled gave him a C as their highest ranking (for foreign policy). So much winning, Donald. So much.

Finally, under “Random Crazy Shit That Has Become Commonplace,” a new dating site for Donald supporters you’ve no doubt heard about not only prohibits LGBTQ membership while allowing “happily married” folks on board, but also featured a convicted sex offender as part of the poster couple on its site—a man convicted of filming a sex act with a 15-year-old when he was 25. Make America Creepy Again.

How your voices are making a difference: Stay strong, warriors

It’s hard to find any positive news on a week where 17 people lost their lives in yet another school shooting.

But vocal and sustained public outcry—including moving public statements from victims, their families, and the students at the Parkland, FL, high school, and a stunningly impactful display of three billboards reminiscent of the Oscar-nominated movie about a woman confronting the sheriff about his lack of investigation into her daughter’s rape and murder, in front of the Miami office of Marco Rubio, the senator who is one of the biggest NRA campaign-fund recipients, for his inaction—may actually effect some much-needed overhaul of gun laws. A prominent GOP donor has issued an ultimatum that he will not contribute to any politicians or election groups that do not support the banning of sales of military-style weapons to civilians. Even Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post splashed an editorial on its front page calling on Donald to enact an assault-weapons ban—an idea the same paper said made sense “only to the ignorant” four months ago. And students across the country are planning nationwide sit-ins and walkout in protest to demand more sensible gun laws (feel free to share on social media to help spread the word).

In the wake of the deadly Texas church shooting outside San Antonio by a dishonorably discharged Air Force veteran with guns he shouldn’t have been able to buy, the military has finally added the records of 4,000 dishonorably discharged veterans to the national background check system.

Public outcry continues from both sides of the aisle, and this mass shooting may be the tragic tipping point to force Congress and the administration to act beyond the useless “thoughts and prayers” of those who are funded so heavily by the NRA.

On to our progress.

Austin became the first southern city to mandate paid sick leave for workers.

Florida State House district 72 flipped blue in a special election, the 36th legislative red-to-blue switch nationwide since 2017.

Yet another federal judge has ruled to temporarily block the current administration from ending the DACA program.

And a second federal court has ruled that Donald’s Muslim travel ban is unlawful, additionally ruling it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will hear the case in a few months.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted by a wide margin—and despite the opposition of AG Jeff Sessions, to advance legislation for the criminal justice reform that would reduce some federal sentences and implement reforms in the federal prison system.

New York senator Kristen Gillibrand joins three other sitting senators (all Democrats) who have sworn not to accept corporate PAC contributions.

But outside the Parkland tragedy, the week’s biggest news is Robert Mueller’s investigation, which took a huge leap forward this week, withthirteen suspects who worked in a Russian troll factory being indicted for interfering in the 2016 election to influence it in favor of Donald Trump—by the DOJ, it’s worth noting, the Department of Justice of the administration of the president who vociferously denies that there was Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Awkward…!) Here are USA Today’s rather stunning takeaways from the indictments. Last Tuesday, all four of America’s top intelligence officials—all of whom were appointed by Donald—told Congress that not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, but it is already meddling in the 2018 election by using a digital strategy to exacerbate the country’s political and social divisions. Even FOX News weighed in with a stunningly frank news lead by Shepard Smith that unambiguously states that there is no further dismissing that the investigation as a “hoax,” and that Russians meddled in our election, including directly with members of the Trump campaign. This was on FOX, y’all (though elsewhere on their site the story is buried and, when mentioned at all, focuses on attacks on the FBI). Even Donald’s own national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, said Russian meddling is “now really incontrovertible.”

Donald seems to be publicly panicking, with a nine-hour tweetstorm Sunday morning featuring profanity, and attacking the FBI, the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, Senator Charles Schumer, CNN, and his own security adviser, H. R. McMaster. (While his own top officials tell the world to ignore his tweets.)

Rick Gates, former Donald campaign adviser and Paul Manafort’s codefendant, may be ready to enter a plea deal with Robert Mueller. Bannon, on the verge of a subpoena for refusal to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, finally showed up, though he still clammed up. However, he spent more than twenty hours this week closeted with Mueller. That’s a lot of hours for a guy who since having his umbilical to Donald severed has been singing like a canary.

As part of its response to libel suits based on its publication of the infamous “pee files,” BuzzFeed is rumored to have hired an unofficial investigator to look into the Steele dossier and verify its findings.

The controversy report for this week is broad, even for an administration with 40 percent of cabinet appointees having racked up ethics and legal controversies. Let’s bullet-point this week’s:

One possible silver lining of this misogynistic, patriarchal culture Donald and his minions have brought to the White House, according to this thoughtful New Yorker op-ed, is that it has prompted the awakening of women and the ascendancy of women’s rights.

Finally, a not insignificant percentage of Republicans appear to be identifying as independents in a continuing upward trend. And a blue wave of small-dollar contributions to Democratic candidates might help win those voters in upcoming elections.

Stay strong, warriors. No progress was ever made without pain and struggle, but our progress is real and, like Donald’s security adviser McMaster’s assessment of Russian interference that helped elect Donald, it’s incontrovertible.

Now is the Time to Combat Gun Violence

Indivisible Austin statement on the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

Another day, another massacre in America and what we said after the Las Vegas shooting is still true:

“Thoughts and prayers are never going to stop these murderous acts of domestic terrorism. Senseless gun deaths will keep happening as long as Congress refuses to take action. What we need are common-sense gun control laws, which the public overwhelmingly supports.”

What’s different this time is that it’s an election year, with a groundswell of new activists ready to cast their ballots. Something else feels different: students who are not quite yet old enough to vote are speaking loudly to their representatives and letting them know that they will no longer stand for Congressional inaction in protecting our schools and our children.

We must vote out those who will not act to solve the deadly epidemic of gun violence that is sweeping our nation. Here’s a guide to where our current members of Congress stand on a number of recent issues related to the epidemic of gun violence.

“But Mental Health…!”

The GOP raises the specter of “mental health” every time there’s a mass murder, while simultaneously voting to gut the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and other mental health services. This is not a solution, it’s an excuse to do nothing.

On Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump signed HJ Resolution 40, a bill that made it easier for people with mental illness to obtain guns. Cosponsors of the bill included:

  • Michael McCaul (TX-10)
  • Bill Flores (TX-17)
  • Lamar Smith (TX-21)
  • Roger Williams (TX-25)
  • John Carter (TX-31)

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-35) voted No. Senators Cornyn and Cruz voted for the Senate version. The bill passed largely on party lines.

People with mental illness are unfairly stigmatized in the gun control debate, and in fact some disability-rights organizations backed this bill. However, the GOP lacks any credibility on this issue, using it as a mechanism to deflect from the real solutions that they find politically impossible.

Concealed Carry Reciprocity

In December 2017, all our GOP House representatives also voted for “concealed-carry reciprocity”—which is a disingenuous way of saying that the least restrictive, most “gun-friendly” laws would be recognized across state lines. This would cause a race to the bottom on gun safety standards. All the reps listed above are co-sponsors of this legislation as well. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this year.

Bump Stocks

Remember that “bump stock ban” that several of our Representatives and senators appeared to favor after October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas? It never happened.

The Gun Lobby

It’s no surprise that the NRA and other Second Amendment absolutists have given money to all of our GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate. But what is surprising is how cheaply our MoCs were bought. Except for Ted Cruz—who was a presidential candidate—our guys were all bought for less than the cost of a new Toyota.

Member of Congress 2016 gun lobby donations NRA rating
Ted Cruz $360,727 A+
John Cornyn $16,200 A+
Bill Flores $10,700 A
Michael McCaul $10,150 A
John Carter $9,500 A+
Roger Williams $4,750 A
Lamar Smith $9,650 A+
Lloyd Doggett $0 F

We can assume that these lawmakers, many of whom are millionaires, were not simply bought off by NRA donations, but by the backing of the NRA’s endorsement and rating. They believe, deeply, that there should be almost no restrictions on access to AR-15s and other weapons designed to kill other humans in large numbers. Are these the people you want representing you in Congress? Do they reflect your values?

Letter from NRA to Wisconsin Judicial candidat
This is what candidates fear from the NRA


Texas has the first primary in the nation, with early elections beginning on Tuesday, February 20. Now is the time to look at candidates’ positions on gun control and vote accordingly.

And even more importantly, we need to carry forward to November the hurt and rage we all feel about the massacres at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, in Las Vegas last year, and the inevitable shootings that will occur between now and the general election.

We really, absolutely cannot wait any longer to address the epidemic of gun violence in America.

From Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, the grassroots army of Everytown for Gun Safety:

“The millions of dollars and thousands of hours it takes to organize a march are better spent defeating @NRA darlings in the midterms, which are only 263 days away. 90% of Americans agree with us: it’s the lawmakers persuaded by money, not emotion, that we must defeat.”

Three more ways to combat gun violence in America

  1. Tell Members of Congress that thoughts and prayers are not enough
  2. Donate to Everytown for Gun Safety
  3. Read “Throw Them Out: An Action Plan to Kick out Lawmakers Beholden to the Gun Lobby”

Indivisible Austin 2018 Primary Endorsements

When Indivisible Austin was founded in December 2016, we were purely a resistance movement. The reality of Donald J. Trump as our president forced us into action, and the Indivisible Guide showed us the way.

Now, a little more than a year later, the energy of the resistance movement is clearly shifting toward electoral strategy, and rightfully so. Part of that strategy is endorsing candidates.

For the 2018 primaries, we opted to examine statewide races on the top of the ballot. We declined to endorse in every race, instead only endorsing those candidates that received unanimous approval by Indivisible Austin’s Board of Directors. We will consider broadening the races we will endorse in—including campaigns for congressional and state legislative seats—in the coming months.

The Board looked at Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian candidates. We made our selections based on who most aligned with our mission to defend democracy and resist authoritarianism—and on one of our guiding principles: to be vocal allies for marginalized communities.

From that group, we chose three candidates that we are enthusiastic about endorsing.

The Board of Directors of Indivisible Austin voted unanimously to endorse:

  1. Lt. Governor – Mike Collier

  2. Comptroller – Joi Chevalier

  3. Agriculture Commissioner – Kim Olson

More detailed notes on our endorsement decisions follow.

Lt. Governor

Mike Collier supports comprehensive finance reform, opposes gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement, and supports policies that promote closing the income inequality gap. His commitment to affordable health care for Texans, a top priority for Indivisible Austin, was a deciding factor in our endorsement.

We endorsed in the Lt. Governor’s race, in part, in recognition of the importance of this election to the Texas Legislature. Dan Patrick, with his fervent desire to discriminate against immigrants and the LGBTQ community and to restrict the economic security of all Texans, must go, and Collier is our pick to defeat him.


For Comptroller, small-business owner Joi Chevalier would bring experience and humanity to the important role of managing the state budget.

Rather than waste our money on bathroom bills, further militarizing our border, and breaking up families, Joi Chevalier will focus on the role the state budget can play in fostering more, not less, opportunity in the state. For example, her commitment to diversifying revenue sources suggests Chevalier will bring new creativity and life into the Comptroller role, an energy that is sorely needed.

Agriculture Commissioner

For Agriculture Commissioner, where Sid Miller has been a national embarrassment since 2014, Kim Olson gets our nod. Kim is a retired Air Force pilot and an organic farmer who is listening to the concerns of Texans in all of our 254 counties. Her campaign has demonstrated she is eager to listen to the concerns of both those who grow our food as well as the families that purchase it.

Her life has been one of service—often in a trailblazing manner—both during her military career and afterwards, as she worked in education and on behalf of veterans. In 2014, she was rightly inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame and we are proud to offer our endorsement to her race.

5 things you can do to support these candidates

  1. VOTE! Early voting is Feb. 20 to March 2, with election day on March 6.

  2. Volunteer your time—candidates need people to make phone calls, stuff envelopes, knock on doors, and all sorts of other things.

  3. Promote candidates on social media.

  4. Give money to the candidates who most share your values!

  5. Be vocal! Tell your friends and family about your choices and remind them to vote.

A note on the Senate race

We feel it is important to recognize that Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s name is not listed above. We are impressed with Rep. O’Rourke’s dynamic campaign. However, he voted for a budget that did not include protections for Dreamers and seems to lack any reasonable strategy for protecting immigrant youth moving forward. As such, the Board declined to endorse at this time.

We recognize that the budget contained funding for a number of important items, but the uncertain fate of so many young Texans cannot be ignored. We look forward to hearing more from the Representative on his strategy to protect Dreamers and revisiting this endorsement in the future.

We’ll have more to say on this topic soon.