Day: October 27, 2014

Sam Houston: The right choice for attorney general, education

 

Sam Houston, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, is the real deal. By that, I mean he has strong qualifications for the office, and Sam Houston is his real name. He isn’t one of those guys who make up strong ballot names to try to sneak into office and wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do with the office if they were elected.

Houston, a highly qualified attorney from Houston, is running against Republican Ken Paxton, who has a record of violating state securities laws – which alone makes him unqualified to be the state’s top lawyer – and as a legislator voted to cut $5.4 billion from school budgets in 2011.

Paxton was fined $1,000 and reprimanded by the Texas State Securities Board a few months ago for soliciting investment clients without being registered with the state, as required by law. He also has solicited at least one client for an investment adviser without disclosing to the client that he was being paid by the investment advisor.

Paxton’s behavior is unethical, illegal and would immediately cast a cloud over the state’s top legal office should Paxton be elected. Educators also could expect Paxton to continue Attorney General Greg Abbott’s costly appeal of the court decision ordering the Legislature to enact a fair, adequate and constitutional school finance system.

Paxton is a darling of Tea Partiers, who nominated him in the Republican primary because they are driven by right-wing ideology, not the need for quality education and ethical government.

Sam Houston, meanwhile, has been endorsed by all the state’s major newspapers – which promote good government, not ideology — as clearly the best choice for attorney general.

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Speaking of ideology, though, a member of the State Board of Education recently was wondering if the other Sam Houston – the hero of San Jacinto, president of the Texas Republic and early governor – may have been a “liberal.”

“I don’t know if he would like that (label) or not,” the board member was quoted in The Texas Tribune. “I just never hear Sam Houston referred to as a liberal. And those of us who liked Sam Houston want to keep him on our side.”

I don’t know how widely words like liberal and conservative were used in the political debate during the original Sam Houston’s day. But one incident during his career in Texas government is particularly telling. As governor in the period leading up to the Civil War, Houston opposed secession. And, when the Legislature decided to secede anyway, he was forced from office because he refused to pledge his loyalty to the Confederacy.

I would rate Houston as courageous, compared to the prevailing political sentiment in Texas at that time. But more importantly, he was on the right side of history, something that won’t be said about many of Texas’ current political leaders.