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Eddie Sáenz, featured second from right, on Monday, December 31, officially filed for state representative, House District 40, to challenge Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, in the March 4 Democratic Party primary. Sáenz was joined by his family and by Juan Maldonado, Hidalgo County Democratic Party chairman, and Maldonado’s son, Juan, at the county Democratic Party headquarters in Pharr. Sáenz said that under the legislative terms of Peña and Peña’s Austin allies, hundreds of thousands of eligible children have been stripped of their health benefits, college tuition costs have almost doubled at Texas’ flagship university, families and small business are charged an average of 54 percent more in utilities, and homeowners are forced to pay more than twice the national average to insure their homes. Peña, meanwhile, criticized Sáenz for failing to appear at a local Democratic Party event onj Wednesday evening, January 2, hinting of some of the attacks Peña, a local trial lawyer, will launch against Sáenz, a civil engineer: “Based on information that has reached our campaign on his residence and his disregard and failure to appear at tonight’s important Democratic function for a minimal debate he should really consider dropping out of the race,” Peña wrote in his political website. Featured with Sáenz in this portrait are, from left, his wife, Sandra; Juan Maldonado and his father, Juan Maldonado; Eddie Sáenz; and Eddie and Sandra’s daughter, Cassie. See story later in this posting.

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McAllen attorney Javier Villalobos, left, hears from a potential constituent, Fred Zambrano, last summer in McAllen at the onset of Villalobos’ campaign run for state representative, House District 41 – currently held by Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen – which includes southwest Edinburg. Villalobos filed as a Republican candidate on Wednesday, January 2, marking his official first entry as a political candidate. If elected, Villalobos would be the first Republican to win a state representative seat in Hidalgo County. In addition to Villalobos/ Gonzáles race, which won’t be decided until the November 2008 presidential election, there are two other contested battles for the Texas Legislature in Hidalgo County. Eddie Sáenz and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, are involved in the House 40 Democratic Party primary contest, and Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, is being challenged by Sandra Rodríguez for the House 36 legislative post.

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Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, featured left during a recent event at the University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, was one of three Hidalgo County lawmakers who drew no opponents for their respective legislative seats in 2008. In addition to Lucio, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, also will be unopposed for reelection. Lucio and Hinojosa will begin serving new, four-year terms beginning in January 2009; Martínez will begin serving a new, two-year term in January 2009.

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Election legal paperwork filed by Justice Yañez could result in Republicans kicking her off ballot

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Legal paperwork required of 13th Court of Appeals Justice Linda Yañez, a Democrat from Edinburg, to allow her to run for the Texas Supreme Court may have fatal flaws that could be used by Republicans to kick her off the ballot, says a Democratic Party activist.

Yañez and 212th District Court Judge Susan Criss, D-Galveston, who is a veteran district judge and former prosecutor, are both seeking the March 4, 2008 Democratic Party primary nomination for Place 8 on the Texas Supreme Court.

The winner of that contest will face Justice Phil Johnson, a Republican from Amarillo, who was appointed to the state’s high court on March 15, 2005 by Gov. Rick Perry.

The Texas Supreme Court is the state’s highest legal arena for civil matters and is comprised of a chief justice and eight justices elected on the statewide ballot. It is currently made up of all Republicans.

But attorney Neil G. Baron, a supporter of Criss, on New Year’s Eve raised concerns that the campaign legal paperwork filed by Yañez does not meet the strict requirements of state election law.

Baron sent copies of his letter, via e-mail, to Yañez, Criss, and Boyd Richie, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

A candidate for Texas Supreme Court, in addition to paying a filing fee, also must provide a list 0f at least 50 signatures from registered Texas voters from each of the 14 Texas courts of appeals districts.

But Baron contends that in at least two – and possibly more – courts of appeals districts, Yañez did not meet those legal requirements.

Although Baron is confident Criss will win the March 4 Democratic Party primary nomination, if Yañez was the victor, the Republicans would move quickly to disqualify Yañez, a move that would empower the GOP in the November 2008 presidential election and hurt the image of the Democratic Party at a statewide level.

Baron laid out his concerns in a letter he sent Monday, December 30.

“The purpose of this letter is to inform the Democratic Party leadership of this situation so that it can conduct a proper investigation and take the appropriate action,” Baron stated in his letter addressed to Richie.

Baron said the Criss campaign checked the validity of the signatures required for both candidates, and that’s where he found the discrepancies in Yañez’ legal campaign paperwork.

“We are concerned that the Republican Party will be utilizing the same diligence in signature verification that the Criss campaign has exercised in verifying the signatures they gathered and submitted,” Baron stated in his letter to Richie. “We expect to win this primary; however, we do not want the Democratic candidate for this position challenged on the basis of a candidate error that could result in disqualification (of Yañez).”

Even if Yañez were to sue to remain on the statewide ballot against the Republican, the final decision on her candidacy would be made by the Texas Supreme Court – all Republicans.

The filing deadline for all Democratic and Republican Party candidates was 6 p.m. on Wednesday, January 2.

Pol. Ad paid for by Susan Criss Campaign. Lloyd Criss, Treasurer, PO Box 16474, Galveston, TX 77552

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As deadline approached, Justice Yañez amends campaign paperwork to protect bid for high court

By MIKE CARRERA

In a letter to Chairman Boyd Richie of the Texas Democratic Party, Susan Hays, legal counsel to Justice Linda Yañez, D-Edinburg, announced that as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, January 2, the Yañez application for candidacy “contained more than 900 signatures” to meet all the technical requirements required for candidacy to serve on the state’s highest court.

Questions originally arose in a New Year’s Eve letter circulated by the campaign of Judge Susan Criss, D-Galveston, suggesting they were not afraid of matching Yañez’ credentials, an appellate court justice and Harvard Law clinical instructor, but that they feared technical issues would provide an opening for Republicans to challenge Yañez’ candidacy.

“Despite only having 48 hours notice over the New Year’s holiday, the Yañez campaign has supplemented the application to cure any defects,” Hays wrote.

“I thank the Criss campaign for bringing these issues to our attention,” Yañez stated. “In the end, it provided a legal lesson on the decision in the Francis case, where the court ruled against technical traps subverting the democratic process.”

Yañez was referring to In re Francis, 186 S.W.3d 534 (Tex. 2006), in which the court held that the Election Code must be interpreted “as a tool rather than a trap.” The plaintiff in the Francis case was Terry Keel, the former state sepresentative/lobbyist who was called on by Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, to replace the previous parliamentarian who resigned in protest, refusing to uphold Craddick’s claim to absolute authority.

In the districts questioned by the Criss campaign, the Yañez campaign included verified signatures in the following amounts:

  • Houston (1&14) – 108 verified signatures
  • San Antonio (4) – 82 verified signatures
  • Texarkana (6) – 65 verified signatures
  • Amarillo (7) – 68 verified signatures
  • Waco (10) – 79 verified signatures
  • Eastland (11) – 81 verified signatures
  • Tyler (12) – 79 verified signatures

Yañez and Criss will face off in the March 4 Democratic primary for Place 8 on the Texas Supreme Court.

“The all-Republican court has been subverting the jury process, now, thankfully, the democratic process will allow for a real debate to shine light on who has the qualifications to bring much needed reform,” Yañez concluded.

The Texas Supreme Court is the state’s highest legal arena for civil matters and is comprised of a chief justice and eight justices elected on the statewide ballot. It is currently made up of all Republicans.

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Eddie Sáenz files papers for bid to run against Rep. Aaron Peña for House District 40 legislative seat

By KELLY FERO

Health care leader and civil engineer Eddie Sáenz of Edinburg on Monday, December 31, officially filed his candidacy for the Texas House of Representatives, District 40, saying that he is eager to let voters know they have the power to demand honest leadership in Austin that puts people first and special-interest politics last.

“It’s a new day and a new direction for positive change,” Sáenz said. “We have it within our reach to restore balance and integrity to the Texas House by sending someone to Austin who wants to be part of the solution, not a typical politician who is part of the problem.”

(Editor’s note: Sáenz will be challenging Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, the incumbent)

Sáenz is chairman of the Board of Governors, a local citizens advisory panel to South Texas Health Systems, an award-winning network of acute-care hospitals specializing in children’s care, cardiovascular health, and other treatments. He also served as chairman of Avance, a non-profit organization whose focus is to strengthen families. Avance helped initiate the CHIP enrollment process in the valley.

Sáenz is backed by mayors and community leaders throughout the district who are eager for a full partner in their efforts to create jobs, expand access to quality health care, improve public schools, make college affordable again for middle-class families, and improve vital public services.

Owner and chief executive officer of one of South Texas’ leading civil engineering firms, Sáenz is a recognized expert in helping cities, school districts, and other public entities improve their operations and basic services.

Sáenz said that under the current state representative and his Austin allies, hundreds of thousands of eligible children have been stripped of their health benefits, college tuition costs have almost doubled at Texas’ flagship university, families and small business are charged an average of 54 percent more in utilities, and homeowners are forced to pay more than twice the national average to insure their homes.

“State government is in the hands of typical politicians who betrayed our trust and failed to get the job done,” Sáenz said. “We need positive change now, because we can’t afford more of the same.”

Sáenz is a former chairman of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Border Infrastructure Coalition Transportation Committee, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and the Edinburg 2020 Action Committee.

A graduate of McAllen High, he earned his degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982. He is a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. He and his wife and their teenage daughter live in Edinburg.

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Rep. Peña criticizes Eddie Sáenz for not showing up for Democratic Party function

In his website, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, was critical of his Democratic rival, Eddie Sáenz, because Sáenz did not show up for a function following the party primary filing deadline on Wednesday, January 2, held by the Hidalgo County Democratic Party.

Peña’s comments follow:

The filing deadline for candidates has passed and so we begin the final confrontation. I picked up one opponent in the Democratic primary and no challenger in the Republican primary. This means that March 4, 2008 is the effective Election Day for House Dist. 40.

Tonight was my first opportunity to confront my challenger as we each were invited to speak before the Hidalgo County Democratic Party at their largest event of the year. Every Democrat is expected to attend as it provides the first opportunity for the competing candidates to confront each other. As he did many times in our 2004 race against each other, Eddie Sáenz failed to appear at tonight’s event. No chance to debate here. He instead sent his wife to try to explain his absence.

I don’t mind debating my opponents wife, if she was the candidate running for office. A very sad spectacle for him. If Sáenz intends to run for office he should have the courage to attend important Democratic functions and not have his wife try to do his work for him (although she did a good job). At the state capitol you can’t exactly call your wife in and ask her to attend committee hearings or floor debate.

Based on information that has reached our campaign on his residence and his disregard and failure to appear at tonight’s important Democratic function for a minimal debate he should really consider dropping out of the race.

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Rundown of unopposed/opposed local candidates who will be on primary ballots in Edinburg in March

Note: Both the Democratic and Republican Party primary elections will be held on March 4, 2008.

A voter who participates in one of the party primaries cannot vote in the other’s party primaries.

OPPOSED PRIMARY RACES, MARCH 2008

  • State Representative, House District 40
    • Rep. Aaron Peña (Incumbent/Democrat)
    • Eddie Sáenz (Democrat)
  • Hidalgo County 449th District Court
    • Jessie Contreras (Democrat)
    • Maxine Lucille Longoria (Democrat)
  • Hidalgo County Democratic Party, Chairman
    • Dolly Elizondo
    • Chairman Juan Maldonado (Incumbent)
  • Hidalgo County Constable, Precinct 4
    • Frank Cerda (Democrat)
    • James “J.P.” Flores (Democrat)
    • Jose E. Guerra (Democrat)
    • Mateo Niño (Democrat)
    • Armando Patlán (Democrat)
    • Reynaldo Ronnie Pérez (Democrat)
    • Constable Andres Ríos (Democrat/Incumbent)
  • Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1
    • David Chavana (Democrat)
    • Judge Charlie Espinoza (Democrat/Incumbent)

UNOPPOSED PRIMARY RACES, MARCH 2008

  • Hidalgo County 449th District Court
    • Judge Daniel Ríos (Republican/Appointed by Gov. Rick Perry)
  • Hidalgo County Republican Party Chairman
    • Hollis Rutledge (Incumbent)
  • State Representative, House District 41
    • Rep. Verónica Gonzáles (Incumbent/Democrat)
  • State Representative, House District 41
    • Javier Villalobos (Republican)
  • U.S. House of Representatives, District 15
    • Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (Incumbent/Democrat)
  • U.S. House of Representatives, District 15
    • Eddie Zamora (Republican)
  • State Senator, District 20
    • Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (Incumbent/Democrat)
  • Hidalgo County Sheriff
    • Sheriff Lupe Treviño (Incumbent/Democrat)
  • Hidalgo County Tax Assessor/Collector
    • County Tax Assessor/Collector Armando Barrera (Incumbent/Democrat)
  • Hidalgo County District Court Judges
    • Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Delgado, 93rd District Court (Incumbent/Democrat)
    • Judge Aída Salinas Flores, 398th District Court (Incumbent/Democrat)
    • Judge Bobby Flores, 139th District Court (Incumbent/Democrat)
    • Judge Letty López, 389th District Court (Incumbent/Democrat)
    • Israel Ramón, Jr., 430th District Court (Ramón will not be sworn into office until January 1, 2009. Judge Thomas Wingate, a Republican appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, did not file for election and will finish out his term on December 31, 2008)
    • Judge Mario E. Ramírez, 332 District Court (Incumbent/Democrat)
    • Judge Ricardo P. Rodríguez, Jr., 92nd District Court (Incumbent/Democrat)

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UT-Pan American to host January 10 meeting of Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority

HIDALGO COUNTY REGIONAL MOBILITY AUTHORITY (HCRMA)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING

5:30 P.M. – THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2008

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS PAN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL TRADE & TECHNOLOGY BUILDING

1201 W. UNIVERSITY DR., EDINBURG, TEXAS

PRESIDING: DENNIS BURLESON, CHAIRMAN

1. Call to Order & Establishment of a Quorum/Chairman
2. Consider Approval of December 13, 2007 Meeting Minutes/Chairman
3. Public Comment
4. Consider Request for Federal Assistance RE: Appropriation Request /Chairman
5. Consider Approval RE: Expense / Budget Reports/Chairman
6. Discussion of Fiscal Management Services/Chairman
7. Consider Procurement of Professional Services /Chairman
8. Status Report
A. Report from TxDOT/Mario Jorge, District Engineer
B. Report from Hidalgo County Roadbuilders/Gerry Pate, Hidalgo County Roadbuilders
C. Legal Counsel Update/Blakely Fernández, Tuggey Rosenthal Pauerstein Sandoloski Agather LLP D. Report from Financial Advisor/Ron Morrison, RBC Capital Markets
9. New or Old Business
10. AdjournmentAgenda items may be considered, deliberated and/or acted upon in a different order than numbered above. The Board of Directors of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (HCRMA) reserves the right to adjourn into Executive (Closed) Session at any time during the course of this meeting to discuss any of the items listed on this agenda as authorized by the Texas Open Meetings Act. No final action will be taken in Executive Session.

PUBLIC INPUT POLICY

Public Input Policy: “At the beginning of each HCRMA meeting, the HCRMA will allow for an open public forum/comment period. This comment period shall not exceed one-half (1/2) hour in length and each speaker will be allowed a maximum of three (3) minutes to speak. All individuals desiring to address the HCRMA must be signed up to do so, prior to the open comment period. The purpose of this comment period is to provide the public an opportunity to address issues or topics that are under the jurisdiction of the HCRMA. For issues or topics which are not otherwise part of the posted agenda for the meeting, HCRMA members may direct staff to investigate the issue or topic further. No action or discussion shall be taken on issues or topics which are not part of the posted agenda for the meeting. Members of the public may be recognized on posted agenda items deemed appropriate by the Chairman as these items are considered, and the same time limitations (3 minutes) applies.”

Posted: 01-02-08

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U.S. Senate candidate Ray McMurrey challenges rival Rep. Rick Noriega to debate in border cities

By WILLIAM PATE

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ray McMurrey, a Corpus Christi school teacher, on Sunday, December 30, said he contacted the Texas Democratic Party and his opponent, Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, requesting a debate on immigration and border security.

“Immigration is an important and controversial issue. I think it’s important that Texas voters have the opportunity to hear the Democratic Party candidates’ policy stances on dealing with those undocumented immigrants who are already here and our plans to secure our border in the future,” McMurrey said.

McMurrey has requested that the debate be held in Laredo, McAllen or another metropolitan area on the Texas-Mexico border.

McMurrey and Noriega are the two candidates for U.S. Senate who are seeking the March 4 Democratic Party primary for the right to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from San Antonio.

“I taught public school on the border for seven years while living in a colonia. I have an intimate understanding of the issues facing border communities,” McMurrey said. “I look forward to using my experience to draft a sensible solution to issues facing immigrants and the border area when I sit in the U.S. Senate.”

McMurrey said the debate would result in “having a substantive conversation with Mr. Noriega over immigration and border security. I’m interested to hear where he currently stands on border-related issues aside from the border wall, which I oppose.”

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Sen. Cornyn’s bill to expand open government at federal level signed into law by President Bush

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Monday, December 31, made the following statement regarding the OPEN Government Act, which President Bush signed into law earlier this evening:

“I could not be more pleased to see this long overdue legislation signed into law following years of bipartisan efforts. I appreciate the President’s support.

“When I came to the Senate five years ago, I pledged to bring a little Texas sunshine to Washington D.C. This new law does just that. It holds politicians and bureaucrats accountable in an age of ever-expanding size and scope of government. It strengthens our democracy by building on the ideals this nation was founded upon—the people’s fundamental right to know.

“Enactment of this important, bipartisan legislation is a victory for the American people.”

BACKGROUND

The Cornyn-Leahy open government bill expands transparency by closing loopholes in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), helping FOIA requestors obtain timely responses and ensuring agencies have strong incentives to act on requests, among other provisions.

The bipartisan OPEN Government Act will:

  • Restore meaningful deadlines for agency action under FOIA;
  • Impose real consequences on federal agencies for missing FOIA’s 20-day statutory deadline;
  • Clarify that FOIA applies to government records held by outside private contractors;
  • Establish a FOIA hotline service for all federal agencies; and
  • Create a FOIA Ombudsman to provide FOIA requestors and federal agencies with a meaningful alternative to costly litigation.

Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee and the Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

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Louis H. Bruni, former Democratic county judge in Laredo, files as Republican against Sen. Zaffirini

By JEFF BUTLER

Louis H. Bruni, a former Democratic Webb County Judge, has filed to run as a Republican for Senate District 21 in the 2008 election.

“I am announcing my candidacy to become the next State Senator for District 21,” Bruni said on Thursday, December 27.

“The citizens of District 21 deserve a strong, conservative voice that will not only represent their views in Austin, but will also listen to their concerns.”

Louis H. Bruni served as Webb County Judge for four years, and before that, eight years as a Laredo City Councilman.

A lifelong resident of Webb County, Bruni will focus his campaign on the issues that voters face everyday.

“Working families have seen their property taxes skyrocket, schools failing to educate their children, and the dream of a college education getting further out of reach,” Bruni said. “That is unacceptable. As your next senator, I will put the needs of working families ahead of the needs of special interests.”

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Sen. Obama wins Iowa cacuses in first round of Democratic Party presidential campaign

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, on Thursday, January 3, won Iowa Democratic caucuses, securing 38 percent of the delegates, in the first round of the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nomination race.

Former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, came in second with 29.8 percent, followed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, came in third with 29.5 percent.

The text of Obama’s victory speech follows:

Thank you, Iowa.

You know, they said this day would never come.

They said our sights were set too high.

They said this country was too divided; too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose.

But on this January night – at this defining moment in history – you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do. You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year, 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches; in small towns and big cities; you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.

You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that’s consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that’s been all about division and instead make it about addition – to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States. Because that’s how we’ll win in November, and that’s how we’ll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation.

We are choosing hope over fear. We’re choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

You said the time has come to tell the lobbyists who think their money and their influence speak louder than our voices that they don’t own this government, we do; and we are here to take it back.

The time has come for a President who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face; who will listen to you and learn from you even when we disagree; who won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know. And in New Hampshire, if you give me the same chance that Iowa did tonight, I will be that president for America.

Thank you.

I’ll be a President who finally makes health care affordable and available to every single American the same way I expanded health care in Illinois – by–by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get the job done.

I’ll be a President who ends the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of the working Americans who deserve it.

I’ll be a President who harnesses the ingenuity of farmers and scientists and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil once and for all.

And I’ll be a President who ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home; who restores our moral standing; who understands that 9/11 is not a way to scare up votes, but a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century; common threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

Tonight, we are one step closer to that vision of America because of what you did here in Iowa. And so I’d especially like to thank the organizers and the precinct captains; the volunteers and the staff who made this all possible.

And while I’m at it, on “thank yous,” I think it makes sense for me to thank the love of my life, the rock of the Obama family, the closer on the campaign trail; give it up for Michelle Obama.

I know you didn’t do this for me. You did this—you did this because you believed so deeply in the most American of ideas – that in the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.

I know this—I know this because while I may be standing here tonight, I’ll never forget that my journey began on the streets of Chicago doing what so many of you have done for this campaign and all the campaigns here in Iowa – organizing, and working, and fighting to make people’s lives just a little bit better.

I know how hard it is. It comes with little sleep, little pay, and a lot of sacrifice. There are days of disappointment, but sometimes, just sometimes, there are nights like this – a night—a night that, years from now, when we’ve made the changes we believe in; when more families can afford to see a doctor; when our children—when Malia and Sasha and your children—inherit a planet that’s a little cleaner and safer; when the world sees America differently, and America sees itself as a nation less divided and more united; you’ll be able look back with pride and say that this was the moment when it all began.

This was the moment when the improbable beat what Washington always said was inevitable.

This was the moment when we tore down barriers that have divided us for too long – when we rallied people of all parties and ages to a common cause; when we finally gave Americans who’d never participated in politics a reason to stand up and to do so.

This was the moment when we finally beat back the politics of fear, and doubt, and cynicism; the politics where we tear each other down instead of lifting this country up. This was the moment.

Years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say that this was the moment – this was the place – where America remembered what it means to hope.

For many months, we’ve been teased, even derided for talking about hope.

But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.

Hope is what I saw in the eyes of the young woman in Cedar Rapids who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for a sister who’s ill; a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams.

Hope is what I heard in the voice of the New Hampshire woman who told me that she hasn’t been able to breathe since her nephew left for Iraq; who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return.

Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation; what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom’s cause.

Hope—hope—is what led me here today – with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.

That is what we started here in Iowa, and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down; the one that can change this country brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand – that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things; because we are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America; and at this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again. Thank you, Iowa.

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Democrat Baltasar D. Cruz of Dallas files for Texas Supreme Court against GOP’s Justice Dale Wainwright

On Tuesday, January 1, 2008, Dallas attorney Baltasar D. Cruz filed as a Democratic candidate for Place 7 on the Texas Supreme Court.

Cruz, a 17-year lawyer and graduate of Harvard University and of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, will be facing Justice Dale Wainwright of Houston.

Wainwright was elected to the Supreme Court of Texas on November 5, 2002, after serving as presiding judge of the 334th Civil District Court in Harris County.

The Texas Supreme Court is the state’s highest legal arena for civil matters and is comprised of a chief justice and eight justices elected on the statewide ballot. It is currently made up of all Republicans.

Cruz said he is seeking to revise the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and rules governing judicial conduct to reduce litigation costs for all litigants, make the courts more accessible to the public, and prohibit judges from accepting political contributions from lawyers and litigants who have cases pending before them.

Cruz outlined some of his campaign platform in his following remarks issued by him:

“The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern legal proceedings in all Texas civil courts, are issued and revised by the Texas Supreme Court. I am running for the Texas Supreme Court in order to substantially revise the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and the Texas rules governing judicial conduct to reduce litigation costs, make the courts more accessible to the public, and prohibit unethical judicial practices which are currently permitted and undermine the integrity of the Texas Courts.”

•“I want to prohibit Texas judges from accepting political contributions from lawyers and parties who have cases pending in front of them. Incredibly, Texas judges are free to accept political contributions from attorneys and parties who have cases pending in their courts and some judges are known to actively solicit political contributions from lawyers who have cases pending before them! This is an obvious conflict of interest which is entirely indefensible and should be proscribed by the Texas Supreme Court.”

•“I also want to require all Texas civil courts to implement submission dockets, whereby judges rule on most motions without having unnecessary hearings which impose substantial litigation costs on litigants each time their attorneys have to prepare for, travel to, sit in the courtroom waiting for, and traveling back from, routine non-evidentiary hearings at which judges often make no rulings! This will also force judges to actually read all motions and timely filed responses, which many judges frequently fail to do, instead of relying merely on attorneys’ oral arguments, and will permit judges to rule on motions without having to wait for superfluous hearings which, due to existing backlogs, often cannot be heard for weeks or months after they have been filed.”

•“In addition, I want to require courts to publicly disclose on their websites the order in which cases are set on any given date so that lawyers can better determine the extent of trial preparation that is necessary for a particular trial setting. Currently, most courts do not disclose this information until the Thursday or Friday before a Monday trial setting! As a result, lawyers waste (and bill clients for) enormous amounts of time preparing for trial settings to which they have no realistic chance of being called to trial and are forced to repeatedly subpoena (and pay process servers to serve subpoenas upon) witnesses for multiple trial settings.”

•“I further want to mandate that all Texas courts install internet video and audio links so that the public has meaningful access to all judicial proceedings, as these are supposed to be open to the public, with the exception that jurors’ identities, off-the-record bench conferences, and the images of child witnesses would not be broadcast.”

Cruz is a graduate of Harvard University (A.B., 1987), where he majored in Government, and of the University of Pennsylvania Law School (J.D., 1990).

He has been practicing law (doing civil litigation) in Dallas County, Texas, since March of 1991 and has represented individuals and companies as plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of cases, including personal injury, construction, insurance, and other disputes. He has tried cases, written and responded to countless motions, prepared appellate briefs, and participated in hearings in Dallas and other counties throughout Texas.

He has also served as a court appointed Guardian Ad Litem for minors on eleven cases in Dallas County, to review proposed settlements and/or negotiate (as a fiduciary for the minors) the apportionment of settlement proceeds between adult and minor plaintiffs.

Cruz is also an Eagle Scout and served on the national staff at the 1985, 1997, and 2005 National Boy Scout Jamborees, is a member of the Order of the Arrow, and played football (wingback, tailback and fullback) all four years he was at Harvard.

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Democrat Dale Henry, candidate for Texas Railroad Commission, says unplugged uranium wells in South Texas pose big problems

By VINCE LEIBOWITZ

Dale Henry, a Democrat from Lampasas, is one of three candidates who will be seeking their party’s nomination for Texas Railroad Commissioner in the 2008 Democratic Primary.

(Editor’s note: Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton are the other two candidates in the Democratic Party primary campaign. The Democratic nominee will face Michael L. Williams, the chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oldest regulatory commission. Williams, who has served since 1998, is the first African American in Texas history to hold an executive statewide elected post.)

Henry said that major state agency has become too beholden to powerful utility interests.

“For years, the Texas Railroad Commission has made the oil and gas companies their priorities, not the people of Texas. It’s time to reverse that trend,” Henry said.

Henry has more than four decades of experience in the oil and gas industry including oil field work and a lengthy tenure in research and development for companies including Dowell, a division of Dow Chemical Company, Dowell Schlumberger, and Gearhart-Owen—both internationally and in the United States. He holds a degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Public safety, environmental protection, and encouraging the utilization of safe, renewable and clean energy are Henry’s top priorities. Over the past several years, the Commission has neglected both areas, Henry says.

“The Commissioners have just stuck their head in the sand when it comes to public safety and our environment,” Henry notes. “As a result of their failure to use their statutory authority to require gas companies to replace faulty couplings in the Dallas area, two elderly Texans have died. And, the commission has simply looked the other way as saltwater injection wells have polluted the water supply up and down the Barnett Shale region in North Texas and in other areas of the state,” Henry said.

Henry also will work toward campaign finance reform for the Railroad Commission.

“It is pretty hard to properly regulate the oil and gas industry when you are taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from their political action committees and executives,” Henry said.

“The Railroad Commission doesn’t rule for the public anymore, they rule for the people lining their campaign war chests. I will work to get legislation passed to prohibit Railroad Commissioners from taking money from the industries the Commission is supposed to regulate,” he said.

“The Commission’s failures are particularly evident in South Texas, where hundreds of uranium mining boreholes remain unplugged. That is a significant danger to the public in the Valley, and the Railroad Commission has done little to correct this massive problem,” Henry said.

In addition to his work in oil field services, Henry founded 4 Arrows, a company which provided cementing services to the oil and gas industry and was the first well cementing company used as a subcontractor by the Texas Railroad Commission.

Henry is also served as City Manager for Hamilton and Lampasas.

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Hispanic journalists condemn FCC decision to allow major media corporations to expand their ownership

By LISA GOODNIGHT

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists on Thursday, December 20, condemned the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to allow media companies to own newspapers and television/radio stations in the country’s top 20 markets, a move that relaxed the 30-year-old ban on newspaper-broadcast cross ownership.

NAHJ calls for the U.S. Congress to reverse the FCC’s decision, as they did in 2003. The FCC’s move, NAHJ believes, opens the door to increased media consolidation, the loss of more journalism jobs, and less diversity of voices telling the news and serving the public interest.

NAHJ also reiterates its position that the media ownership rules should not be changed until an independent task force examines the impact of media consolidation on minority broadcast ownership and recommends ways to reverse that decline.

“The system was already weighted against minority ownership,” said NAHJ President Rafael Olmeda. “This decision is going to make it more difficult than ever for people of color to enter into one of America’s most exclusive clubs.”

A study by the non-profit organization Free Press found that minorities own less than 3 percent of the full-power TV stations in the country and that the number of minority-owned stations declined 8.5 percent this past year. The FCC’s relaxing of the ban allows a newspaper company to purchase a television or radio station in the same city as long as it is not one of the top four in the market. Since minority-owned stations tend not to be in the top four, this increases the risk of minority ownership declining even further as companies seek which stations to buy.

Without the ban that’s been in place for more than 30 years, companies can influence and have more control over what people read in the local newspaper, hear on the radio and see on television, which studies have shown hurts localism and hurts diversity. NAHJ finds this disturbing because this increased consolidation can lead to further silencing of voices that represent the rapidly changing community.

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“Dead Letter”, a film produced by UT-Pan American student production company, wins Lone Star EMMY

A film produced by Reel to Red (R2R) Productions, an eight-member student production company and internship program at The University of Texas-Pan American, has recently won its first Lone Star EMMY in the category of Student Production Non-News.

With this statewide EMMY win, the film, titled “Dead Letter,” is now eligible for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation College Television awards according to R2R’s director, Chelse Benham, also a radio/TV & film specialist V in UTPA’s Office of University Relations.

Benham said “Dead Letter” was a collaborative effort between R2R Productions and the University’s TRIO Programs, which provide educational opportunity outreach programs designed to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“In the film, college and high school students are used as both crew and cast. The project was designed to teach high school students the art of film making,” she said.

Since its official release this past summer, the student produced film has received national and international recognition winning a Videographer’s Excellence Award, an Aurora Platinum Award, an AVA award from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals and the McAllen Art and Film Festival Audience Award for Best Feature Film by a Student. It is also currently entered in three more international film competitions including the Basel Karlsruhe Forum on Educational Societal TV & Media in Germany.

The hour long film includes a story segment centered on a pregnant high school student who is being abused by her controlling boyfriend. The young woman must find the strength to break away from the relationship in search of her dream to go to college. The film then segues into victim and prison inmate testimonials dealing with real life situations aligned with the messages in the film. The film concludes with the behind-the-scenes making of the film that includes interviews from the participating students.

Benham said “Dead Letter” was created as a “trigger” film targeted for distribution nationally to TRIO programs such as Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math Science, Talent Search and Student Support Services as well as to high schools and social service agencies.

“We see it as a tool or ‘trigger’ to initiate dialogue between students and counselors addressing such issues as the value of a college education, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, domestic violence and driving while intoxicated,” she said.

The film has a companion facilitator’s guide produced by UTPA’s Talent Search TRIO program. In addition, R2R Productions produced the University’s first comic book based on the film. The DVD and facilitator’s guide will be packaged as a kit to help TRIO staff, counselors and teachers lead discussions with teenagers regarding these issues. The “Dead Letter” comic book will be priced separately as a stand-alone piece.

R2R Productions has had previous success with its first film production “Going Nowhere,” which won three national awards, including a Telly Award. It was also nominated for a 2005 Lone Star EMMY and was chosen as UTPA’s entry in the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s College for Texans video competition.

For more information on the kit, contact Sonia Del Ángel, UTPA Educational Talent Search director, at 956/292-7593.

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