Monday, June 21, 2004

Texas Democrats call for the state government to declare a moratorium on use of the death penalty

More Convention Coverage

Texas Democrats gather in Houston
Edwards, Kucinich speak at convention
By Rachna Sheth
The Daily Texan
June 21, 2004

Texas Democrats rallied around presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and called for the state government to declare a moratorium on use of the death penalty until a better system can be implemented at the biennial Texas Democratic State Convention, held in Houston this weekend.

The convention resulted in resolutions by the delegates to support research on the use of medical marijuana, create a federal Department of Peace and reaffirm core party values such as abortion rights.

Republicans held their biennial state convention earlier this month in San Antonio.

The defiance of the 52 Texas House Democrats, also known as the Killer Ds, who fled to Ardmore, Okla. to block redistricting during the 2003 regular session, garnered admiration at the convention with supporters sporting signs saying, "I'm a Killer D fan."

The appearances by potential vice-presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., and former presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, incited enthusiasm among the state convention delegates. UT University Democrat Emily Cadik said it was exciting to be able to see Democratic candidates. National Democrats usually don't come to Texas because "they don't consider it a battleground state," Cadik said.

Former presidential candidate and potential Kerry running mate Edwards gave a speech to a crowd of 8,000 on Friday.

"I want the rest of the country to see what kind of strong Texan Democrats are here. Thank you, Texas," Edwards said. "How proud were you, and all Democrats across America, to see the Killer Ds in Texas stand up to [U.S. Rep.] Tom DeLay?"

In his address, Edwards criticized President George W. Bush for telling the press in a recent interview that he could not think of a single mistake his administration has made since taking office in November 2000.

Edwards said the administration has not sufficiently addressed disparity of education in public schools, healed the racial divisions within the country, properly handled national defense or taken care of the homeless.

Edwards said his vision for the United States includes a more equal public school system and an economy in which people who work full-time for minimum wage do not fall below the poverty line.

The solution to these problems, he said, would be the election of Kerry to the White House this November. 

"When Senator Kerry was down, when his back was against the wall, he showed what a leader he was," Edwards said about his former opponent in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. "What he showed in this campaign is what he's shown America his entire life. He has strength, he has courage, he has determination, he has a real vision for America, and he will win America for everybody."

The crowd chanted "VP, VP, VP" in support of Kerry's possible selection of Edwards as his running mate, but Edwards did not comment on the possibility to the press or the audience.

Not all Democrats displayed enthusiastic support for Sen. Kerry's presidential campaign. State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, who claimed to be the only state representative to vote against a pro-war resolution in the legislature, said he believes Kucinich is the only Democratic presidential candidate who is "dedicated to international world peace."

Kucinich said the war in Iraq was not justified and called for a peace plan with an "exit strategy." Kucinich also called for the repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act, and voiced opposition to amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex unions. 

Both Kucinich and Edwards said they believe Texas could possibly pull an upset in November.

"This state is going to surprise America," Kucinich said.

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Texas Democrats Endorse Moratorium in Party Platform


June 21, 2004

Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle 

Texas Democrats meeting here Saturday approved a platform that reaffirms their support for legal abortion, proposes a temporary moratorium on state executions and calls for the repeal of parts of the U.S. Patriot Act. 

"Texas Democrats believe we must work with people from all walks of life to make our communities stronger, safer, more just and more secure," the platform begins. "Our state and nation are strongest when government works for all the people and guarantees open and fair participation in the democratic process." The 29-page platform, approved at the Democrats' state convention in Houston, essentially is a document laying out the party's basic principles. It is intentionally vague in some portions and precise in others. 

Under the five-paragraph "Choice and Family Planning" section, the platform never mentions abortion. It does, however, say that Democrats "trust the women of Texas to make their own decisions about personal matters, such as when or whether to bear children. No government, no politician and no bureaucrat should interfere in an individual's private and personal decisions." 

The platform's authors haggled a bit over the document's wording in the capital punishment section. Although not calling for the abolition of the death penalty, the platform says "the people must be assured that it is fairly administered." 

The party called for a "temporary moratorium (on) executions" until a Texas Capital Punishment Commission can be created to study the state's death penalty system and report back. Party members also called on the commission to consider recommending state laws banning execution of the mentally ill and allowing a sentence of life without parole. 

Party members also called for the immediate repeal of Patriot Act provisions that "are inconsistent with the letter or spirit of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution."

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Friday, June 18, 2004

Much of the platform planning session was spent on the issue of capital punishment

Democratic convention to focus on fall upsets

June 18, 2004
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

Much of the platform planning session was spent on the issue of capital punishment -- a new section of the platform. The proposal recommends "a temporary moratorium (on) executions" until a Texas Capital Punishment Commission can be established to study the state's death penalty system. 

Texas Democrats gathered in Houston for their state convention Thursday, with a focus on rallying the troops for some upsets as last year's bitter redistricting battle plays out in the November election. 

"The thing that comes out of our convention is a call to arms," said state Democratic Chairman Charles Soechting. 

Soechting said Democrats are buoyed by the fact that President Bush's popularity numbers have fallen as the conflict in Iraq has continued. He said that creates the possibility that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry can defeat Bush, and it also may shorten Bush's coattails in Texas races, notably for the state and U.S. House. 

One of Kerry's former rivals for the nomination and a potential running mate, U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, is scheduled to speak to the convention as it officially opens tonight. U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who has remained in the race for the presidential nomination even though Kerry apparently has clinched it, is scheduled to speak Saturday. 

The Texas Democratic Party hasn't carried the state for a presidential candidate since 1976, and has lost every statewide office and control of the Legislature. 

"Our tide will turn when we get a few unexpected wins," said Democratic political consultant Dan McClung. 

In an effort to define themselves before November, Democratic officials spent Thursday morning and afternoon refining the party's proposed platform. The 30-page document says the party "will steadfastly and vociferously oppose those who choose to rule instead of governing in the best interests of the people, who arrogantly abuse power for short-term gain to the detriment of the best interest of our state and nation." 

Much of the platform planning session was spent on the issue of capital punishment -- a new section of the platform. The proposal recommends "a temporary moratorium (on) executions" until a Texas Capital Punishment Commission can be established to study the state's death penalty system. 

As members of the advisory platform committee continued to tinker with the section in an effort to make it more restrictive, committee co-chair, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, of Houston, tried to ensure that the party didn't come off as anti-death penalty. 

"We've had situations where DNA evidence has turned convictions around," he said. "And no one wants a person who shouldn't be to be put to death by accident. But clearly, this doesn't weaken capital punishment. We support the use of capital punishment, with protections." 

Glenn Smith, who managed the unsuccessful 2002 gubernatorial bid of Democrat Tony Sanchez, said Democrats have hit "rock bottom" in terms of state elections. But Smith said the party enthusiasm for rebuilding is the best it has been in years. 

"I haven't seen the level of energy at the grass roots since the Ann Richards campaign in 1990, and it's being done without a leader," Smith said. Richards, the state's last Democratic governor, was elected that year but defeated in 1994 by Bush. 

"People are looking for ways they can contribute to a Democratic national victory," Smith said. "There's a new pragmatic approach." 

But Texas GOP spokesman Ted Royer said the Democrats remain on a "path to irrelevance." 

"The Democrats are just not on the road to recovery," he said. 

The November election represents the final skirmish in one of the biggest political battles between the Texas parties, over congressional representation. 

Democrats came out of the 2002 elections with a 17-15 majority in the state's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. 

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, took advantage of Republican control of the state Legislature to push through a redistricting plan to give the GOP a gain of seven seats. A pair of Democratic legislative walkouts last year slowed the process down, but the new maps were approved after three special sessions. 

U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall of Rockwall switched to the GOP party early this year. And U.S. Rep. Jim Turner, D-Crockett, decided not to seek re-election after the redrawn maps left him without a district. 


OFFICIAL CONVENTION: June 17-19, Houston. Caucus meetings and selection of national convention delegates.

• 2004 state Democratic Party platform
• Harris County Democratic Party / other local party groups 

But the Democrats are hoping for upsets in races featuring incumbents Martin Frost of Dallas, Chet Edwards of Waco, Max Sandlin of Marshall, Nick Lampson of Beaumont and Charles Stenholm of Abilene. 

"Some of these congressional races may well be decided because Bush didn't run as well as DeLay and some of his demographers thought he would," McClung said. 

"The good news is going to be a few state representative districts, a few congressional districts and a lot of hell because of congressional redistricting." 

Soechting, the state chairman, also has high hopes for these races. 

"We're going to be highlighting out state representatives. That's where our real races are this year," Soechting said. "The congressional races are a way of punishing the Republicans." 

But the congressional districts are drawn to favor the Republican candidates. And Vice President %@!#$& Cheney recently campaigned in Texas to help raise money for Lampson's opponent, former Houston Judge Ted Poe; Edward's opponent, state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth; and Sandlin's opponent, former Tyler Judge Louis Gohmert. 

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