Lloyd Doggett

In this August 27, 2011 file photo, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D) addresses Austinites at a community event. Doggett will be representing a new congressional district after winning Tuesday’s election.

Photo Credit: The Texas Tribune | Daily Texan Staff

Educational advocates Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro will represent Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, where they plan to push for pro-education reform.

Democratic candidate Lloyd Doggett defeated his three opponents for the position of U.S. Representative in Central Texas District 35, gaining 64 percent of the vote. This will be his 10th term in office. Doggett is a UT alumnus and former student body president. He is working to boost federal support for education while in office, calling for a permanent extension of a $2,500 tax cut for students pursuing a post-secondary education.

Democratic candidate Joaquin Castro defeated his three opponents for the position of U.S. Representative in District 20, which is mainly in the western San Antonio area, with 64 percent of the vote. Castro is currently serving his fifth term as state representative for District 125, which is mainly in the northwestern San Antonio area.

He won the seat Democrat Charles Gonzalez is vacating, putting an end to nearly 40 years of district representation by Gonzalez’s family.

Castro has been called a “rising star” by the Democratic Party and has worked to restore millions of dollars in funding to health care and educational programs, advocating an “Infrastructure of Opportunity,” defined on his website as “good public schools, great universities and a sound health care system ... that enables Americans to pursue their American Dream.”

Doggett said Tuesday night that he looks forward to partnering with Castro and San Antonio officials to “advance what’s already an outstanding community.”

Castro said on his website that he would like to give others the same opportunities he has had.

Doggett has also advocated tax, social security and health care reform to positively affect the middle and lower classes.

Castro has focused other political efforts on the areas of mental health, teen pregnancy and juvenile justice.

Both candidates plan to continue their past initiatives as the new legislative session begins. 

Note: Lloyd Doggett is a Democratic Congressman in US House of Representatives. Doggett spoke to Daily Texan columnist Amil Malik about important issues in the upcoming presidential election. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Amil Malik: Why should UT students be interested in this particular presidential election? 
Lloyd Doggett: Well, so much of our future rests in the outcome of this election. In terms of the immediate future, we have worked with the administration to do all we can to remove financial obstacles from students getting all the education they are willing to work for. So trying to remove financial barriers to getting an education both with the direct lending program to cut out the bank middle person in the equation and increasing the size of pell grants and what I call the 'more education tax grant' that I authored which permits each student or family to take $2500 off their federal tax bill each year to cover or to apply towards the cost of tuition and textbooks. That really covers largely the cost of education in a community college, but it helps some even at a more expensive institution like The University of Texas. And the vast majority of students would be able to qualify for that tax credit. 

Then as individuals who will be living in this country fifty years for now, I believe that especially students have stake in the critical decisions we are making about the environment. We will have a world that is more and more polluted. This is the immense harm of climate if we don’t take more effective measures to assure environmental law enforcement. The republican congress again and again and again has attacked environmental law enforcement even to the point of suggesting that the environmental protection administrator should have a permanent parking place over at the House so that I think may have been intended more as a rhetorical force, but that she would be there so much defending any and everything that she tried to do assure the quality of our air and our water. Those are few of the many reasons why I believe it is important to reelect the president and get us a democratic congress.

AM: You mentioned the environment. That was a big issue in the 2008 presidential election, but it seems to have dissolved from the President’s political agenda as his time in office progressed.
LD: Well I do think that more, especially on the question of global warming, is needed from this administration. There have been some actions it took with which I did not agree. But overall its policy has been one of trying to protect air and water and see that we enforce the law in these matters as with other law enforcement and the administration has met sustained attack from the republican house on almost a weekly basis. I believe that our environmental legislation should be based on sound science rather than questionable politics or right-wing ideology. And I would like to see more focus on environment and not less.

AM: What is the most important national issue that UT students should focus on during the upcoming debates?
LD: I think it is very difficult to reduce it to one issue. Certainly education is very important… I don’t see how we can be an effective economic power unless we invest more in education from pre-k to post grad. The interference and reduction in state support for our public schools [is] a real step backwards. The federal government can’t compensate for all of that, but education not only at the university level, but at all levels, is a really critical issue in this election.

But there always- also are always the questions I think that are critical about the future of our country and its role in the world. We, I believe, have generally the correct policy in removing our troops from Iraq and beginning a too slow process of removing them from Afghanistan. And I think the question of trying to have a world in which military force is not the sole way of projecting United States power is really important. And having a president who can go in and take the action that was necessary concerning Osama bin Laden, but who realizes that there are economic limits and real world politic limits on the use of military force to solve all of our problems is in contrast with Mitt Romney who wants to spend more money on the military than the Pentagon has asked for itself.

AM: What’s your opinion of Fisher v. UT? 
LD: I’m one of several members of congress who have joined an amicus brief in support of the university admission policy. I grew up in the shadow-almost literally-of The University of Texas tower here in Austin- a university in which courageous action by a number of leaders brought to campus the first African Americans to be admitted to The University of Texas… The campus is stronger, our university is stronger, with diversity. I think there is more work that is needed to diversify the campus. But I think it would be a big step backwards should the Supreme Court interfere with the current admissions policy in The University of Texas.

AM: One of the most frequent criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is that it just pays for people that aren’t buying insurance and doesn’t help the average American who already pays for it. The majority of people in the middle class that can afford insurance will have a higher economic and social burden now that Obamacare has passed. Could you speak on that?
LD: I believe that it is very important that folks realize that even if you have insurance coverage now, you benefit greatly from the affordable health care act. I believe over time premiums will be lower because of the affordable health care act. But immediately eliminating these fine print provisions when you need it the most is important. The limitation on how much of your money the insurance company can keep without declining to pay for your physician, hospital, and other health care bills is very important. The provision with regard to preexisting conditions so that if a young person switches from one job to another they don’t suddenly find themselves without insurance coverage because of some mishap they may have had in job number one being used as an excuse to deny them coverage in job number two… Also one of the big issues we have going forward is the fact that healthcare cost continues to increase at a higher rate than the cost of living generally. And there are some provisions included within the affordable health care act-we might not have enough; this is one of those areas that I would say I wish were better- to focus on how we contain healthcare costs by developing new models for healthcare delivery services.

AM: What are you working on to combat the problem of obesity?
LD: Individuals’ lifestyle choices and specifically choices that help reduce obesity are a significant factor in healthcare costs, both for the individual and society as a whole. Doing a better job of addressing obesity is really critical. We have a provision in the health care act that is opposed, and continues to be opposed, that requires information to consumers at chain food facilities, chain restaurants and the like about the caloric content of the meals being served. I think that I think the idea of getting more information to consumers, being able to make important choices about what they are doing is important... We continue to subsidize with federal dollars sugar and then there is more to be done in the whole area… The discussion is very important to look at whether there are other actions that need to be taken to obesity in terms of choices that are available to consumers.

A protestor who chose not to be named waits outside of Victory Grill on 11th Street to begin marching with other protestors to the Capitol in response to, what they believe, Rick Perry’s shortcomings as governor of Texas and his wish to run for president.

Photo Credit: Chase Martinez | Daily Texan Staff

Gov. Rick Perry’s “The Response” proved less controversial than expected, but at the state Capitol, protesters drove home a radical message — ‘Rick Perry: Bad for Texas, worse for our nation.’

Hosted by the Travis County Democratic Party, 300 people protested the exclusion of non-Christians from the Houston rally and the governor’s potential presidential ambitions. The event started with a march to the Capitol, then included a rally featuring diverse religious leaders, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, state reps. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, and Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

“If you think about it, since Rick Perry has been governor, haven’t we all had more reason to pray more than ever in recent history?” Doggett asked at the opening of his speech.

Doggett said under Perry, the teen pregnancy rate in Texas has become one of the highest in the nation, the state has ranked 36th in the nation for high school graduation rates and has almost 4 million Texans without high school diplomas.

With nearly $4 billion cut from public school education during this past legislative session, rally leaders said Texas’ education ranking will continue to drop, possibly ending in dead last.

“We need to tell Perry ‘Don’t mess with our Texas schools,’” Doggett said. “Perry wants to do to America what he’s done to Texas, and I’m announcing today that if Perry enters this race for presidency, I will make it my mission to spread the message ‘America, don’t let Perry mess with you like he has messed with Texas.’”

Rabbi Kerry Baker said he was upset Perry’s prayer day was not inclusive of all religions.

“There are no Catholics, Buddhists or Muslims [at the Prayer day],” Baker said. “Even among Christians, there is only a narrow percentage at the event. All religions need to be included because we are all a part of the public domain.”

Baker said most Christians that participated in the Houston rally were ultra-conservative theologians who advocate extremely radical positions that do not appeal to the majority of Christians.

While there were no formal prayers said at the counter-rally, Dukes asked the audience to pray for those impacted by Perry-approved statewide budget cuts, including children who may have reduced educational opportunities and elderly Texans who may be unable to pay for care.

“Don’t be fooled by slick Rick. He only showed up when the cameras were rolling, and not when it mattered,” Dukes said.

Much of the controversy around Perry’s prayer day stemmed from the religious-political organization that hosted it, the American Family Association.

The Rev. Eliza Galaher, a gay clergy member for the Wildflower Church in Austin, said the organization is against homosexuality and both Perry and the organization unashamedly perpetuate systems of injustice and oppression against both the GLBT community and minorities alike.

“Perry is a part of a system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, where the employers get greedier and the immigrants working for them get deported,” Galaher said in a speech. “The system we live in is killing young kids that are relentlessly bullied and take their own lives. It is killing Latinos who are seeking a better life, but die of thirst in the desert. It is killing kindness, compassion, and our faith in the idea that a loving community is possible.”

Printed on Monday, August 8th, 2011 as: Protest rally challenges 'The Response'

The University’s blue legislative districts may turn red if the current state and federal redistricting maps pass through the judicial system untouched.

The new maps divide neighborhoods surrounding the University into separate Republican leaning districts, and some students and officials say it will segment and silence the student vote. Currently the University and surrounding neighborhoods are divided into three separate federal districts, but the new federal map divides UT neighborhoods into four, and Travis County into five.

Both the state and federal redistricting maps are currently being challenged in court for possible violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against the state’s redistricting efforts, and according to some lawmakers more are on the way. As of late last week, seven cases are under review by federal courts and seven by state courts, most dealing with suppressing the minority vote.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is at risk of losing her seat since the district was redrawn to exclude many minority communities. Though Davis has not filed a lawsuit, she has criticized the map for being Republican leaning and has said she will try to protect those communities from being excluded from her district.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said during the special session that the map discriminates against minorities, especially Hispanics. Only one of four new districts in the state legislature will have a predominantly Democrat constituency, although Hispanic Texans historically vote for Democrats and accounted for 65 percent of the state’s population growth from 2000-2010.

Most Republican legislators have remained quiet about redistributing Democratic seats over to Republicans, but state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, says the map is fair and will withstand judicial scrutiny.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Travis, said in an email to The Daily Texan he can’t wait until courts sort out redistricting because it may last beyond the November 2012 elections. Doggett currently represents neighborhoods near the University and is one of the representatives most affected by the new federal map. His district was split to stretch out to the suburbs of Austin which typically vote Republican, so Doggett said he plans to seek re-election in the new district 35, which will be left leaning.

“The fact that students and neighborhoods that make UT and the surrounding area such a unique place to learn and live will be split into so many congressional districts is outrageous,” Doggett said. “Republicans have made clear that their goal is to deny a voice for our community. By dividing the University, Republicans are determined to deny any effective voice for students — eager to deny political power to anyone strong enough to stand up to them.”

Jessica Laberge, government senior and former president of College Republicans at Texas, said her organization has not taken a stance on the new redistricting map but said she has mixed feelings about it.

“It would be nice for UT to have a voting block, but so many UT students are not even registered to vote in Austin,” Laberge said.

Paul Theobald, government senior and UT Votes spokesman, said the way the new state redistricting map breaks up the University is unfair because students are divided into districts that stretch out all the way to the Valley and San Antonio.

“UT should be one district,” Theobald said. “The map is by no means final, and it currently splinters the UT voice, leaving students voting in four separate districts.”

Melanie Schwartz, history senior and political director for the Texas College Republicans, said everything comes down to voter participation, and UT students don’t vote.

“If students would vote they would get better representation,” Schwartz said. “The map would have been drawn differently to reflect that.” 

Printed on 07/07/2011 as: Potential redistricting splits UT, silences minority community 

All the help we can get

Last summer, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, authored an amendment to a higher-education bill stipulating that Gov. Rick Perry maintain state education funding levels for Texas to receive $830 million of federal education funds. Perry claimed Doggett’s amendment — which aimed to prevent the state from redirecting federal education funds to other areas — was unconstitutional, and the Department of Education subsequently denied Texas’ application for federal education funding.

Almost a year later, Texas may finally receive that $830 million without Doggett’s contingencies. Last Friday, the House of Representatives approved a measure by Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, to invalidate Doggett’s amendment as part of the deal to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Doggett’s amendment was not intended to deprive Texas of education funding but rather to ensure that federal education funds went directly to Texas education. While we supported Doggett’s amendment and its intentions, we are nevertheless glad the state will receive the much-needed federal education money. As Republicans in the Legislature are planning to disproportionately cut state education funds to overcome the multibillion-dollar budget deficit they created, Texas education needs all the help it can get.

More questions about Rick O’Donnell

More questionable details are emerging about the hiring of anti-research regent adviser Rick O’Donnell.

According to emails obtained by the Houston Chronicle, O’Donnell met with regent officials to discuss the position the day before it was formally announced. Then, the day after the job description was posted online, a regent representative explicitly contacted O’Donnell to suggest he apply. The position was available online for about two weeks, during which time eight individuals expressed interest. But O’Donnell was the only applicant interviewed.

To make matters worse, the emails revealed that UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa was generally kept out of the loop throughout the entire process, despite the position’s high level of influence in the UT System — and his staggering $200,000 salary.
These revelations are just the most recent in a puzzling and disturbing saga involving O’Donnell, and they have dangerous implications regarding the future of the UT System. Hiring an outside consultant to analyze the financial efficiency of the system is a perfectly reasonable move, especially given the dire financial straits facing higher education in Texas. However, the lack of transparency throughout the hiring process, even between UT System officials (never mind the public), further cements perceptions that O’Donnell’s hiring had more to do with filling high level UT positions with those who support the anti-research agenda advocated by Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Public Policy Foundation than it did with saving money.

Fortunately, prominent figures in the UT community — such as respected professors, student leaders and the Texas Exes alumni group — brought attention to O’Donnell’s hiring, positions and salary and continue to pressure the Regents about the disturbing advances of the anti-research camp. But these emails reveal the mounting influence of anti-research proponents and the need for continued scrutiny of the regents and other UT decision makers to protect UT’s academic integrity.