Mike Kueber's Blog

February 8, 2012

Annie’s List makes a move in San Antonio

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:15 am
Tags: , , ,

In yesterday’s San Antonio Express-News, Metro columnist Brian Chasnoff wrote an extensive piece on former city councilman Phil Cortez’s seemingly quixotic campaign for the Texas House of Representatives.  The piece reminded me of a highly favorable column written in 2010 by an earlier Metro columnist in favor of my opponent in a congressional primary, with the only exception that Chasnoff’s column was not a full-fledged puff piece because he declined to white-wash Cortez’s checkered past.

The information in Chasnoff’s column that most interested was the report that Cortez’s opponent, political neophyte Tina Torres has received a contribution of $50,000 from Annie’s List, a political action committee (PAC).  Incongruently, PACs can only give $5,000 to candidates for federal office, but they can give unlimited amounts to state candidates in Texas.  Prior to reading this article, I had never heard of Annie’s List, but I suspected it was some variation of the famous EMILY’s list.

EMILY’s List is a nationwide political action committee (PAC) that tries to help elect female candidates to political office. Its modus operandi is revealed by its name/acronym – Early Money Is Like Yeast – i.e., it raises dough.  The thought is that giving early money to promising female candidates will increase their credibility, which will enable them to obtain later money from practical, non-ideological contributors.  It was founded in 1985 and since then has given over $86 million to female candidates.

Annie’s list is a Texas-based imitation of EMILY’s List, and according to its website it was for founded in 2003 because:

  • In 2002, due to crafty Republican redistricting, the Texas House lost five Democratic women and our numbers stayed stagnant in the Texas Senate. Today, only 17 out of 181 Texas legislators are Democratic women. And in Texas history, only 132 women have ever served compared to approximately 6,000 men.”

The stated purposes of Annie’s List are as follows:

  • Target legislative and down-ballot statewide races;
  • Recruit, train and support progressive women to run for office;
  • Train and place professional campaign staff on targeted races;
  • Raise early money so that women become viable contenders; and
  • Engage and activate women voters on behalf of endorsed candidates

Thus, it would be accurate to say that Annie’s List is not looking just for women or progressives; it is looking for progressive women.  Further, it seems that it is more involved that EMILY’s List in controlling the candidates’ campaigns.  (Incidentally, the name Annie is not an acronym, but rather is the first name of the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas, Dr. Annie Webb Blanton, who in 1918 was elected State Superintendent for Public Instruction even though women were not yet allowed to vote.

Getting back to Chasnoff’s column, he reports that, although Cortez has previously represented much of District 117 on the City Council and he enjoys the support of the San Antonio political establishment, he is running an uphill race against political neophyte Tina Torres because of the money she has received from Annie’s List.  That is disturbing on two levels:

  • Unless a candidate has name recognition, pundits usually determine candidates’ viability on based on their cash.  This gives organizations like EMILY’s List and Annie’s List immense influence.
  • What has attorney Torres done to earn this largesse from Annie’s List?  According to Torres’s modest bio, her mom was a school teacher and her dad was a lawyer who served on San Antonio’s city council in the 1960s.  The Annie’s List website is a bit less modest – “Tina Torres is a seasoned and well-regarded attorney that comes from a legendary family of public servants in San Antonio. Her father, Pete Torres Jr., was one of the first Latinos elected to the San Antonio City Council in the 1960’s and her mother, Yolanda P. Torres, was the first Latina elected to the State Board of Education.”  She’s almost part of the aristocracy. 

In researching Torres a bit more, I came across an earlier column about the Torres/Cortez contest by the lead columnist in the Express-News Bruce Davidson.  In the column, Davidson commended Torres for taking on the so-called Boys Club in San Antonio politics.  That helps explain why the Chasnoff piece was as balanced as it was.

I wonder if Davidson is a supporter of Annie’s List.  I wish candidates would be evaluated by their values and abilities instead of their race, religion, or gender.

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