Houston Matters

Political Roundup: Houston’s Hiring Freeze, Second Cruz-O’Rourke Debate, And More

Brandon Rottinghaus and Mark Jones also analyze Brett Kavanaugh’s conflictive confirmation to become a Supreme Court Justice

Political experts Brandon Rottinghaus and Mark Jones analyzed Wednesday current events on Houston Matters' Political Roundup segment, including the City of Houston's hiring freeze –which is linked to the upcoming vote on pay parity between the Police and Fire departments— and the second debate between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke.

Jones, a Political Science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said the hiring freeze announced by Sylvester Turner shows the Houston Mayor is being “prudent” in the sense that, if the HPD-HFD pay parity measure passes, the City would have “a $100 million hole,” so “it does make good sense not to hire new people.”

For both Jones and Rottinghaus, who teaches Political Science at the University of Houston and co-hosts Houston Public Media’s Party Politics podcast, the hiring freeze can help the Mayor politically because one of the fears he has, according to Jones, “is that most Houstonians may not know about this issue until they get in the ballot box and they like firefighters, so, they may vote for it.”

On the Cruz-O'Rourke second debate –which is scheduled for this Sunday, September 30—, Jones anticipated that the economy, education, health care and gun rights will be the main topics, while Rottinghaus noted that, because of the town hall format, there will be more “sharpening of the distinctions between the two policy positions.”

Rottinghaus also commented on this week's incident that made Cruz and his wife leave a Washington, D.C. restaurant after protesters confronted them asking about the Republican Senator's position on the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The UH professor said the incident may help Cruz because what he wants to say is that “there’s a radical rising tide in Texas and O’Rourke is their leader.” O’Rourke condemned the incident.

The Kavanaugh confirmation process, with three accusations of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court nominee, was also a topic of analysis and Jones noted that the current situation can become a nightmare scenario for Republicans.

Jones indicated that some Republicans are starting to wonder “whether the Trump administration did a proper job vetting Judge Kavanaugh on all these types of issues,” and Rottinghaus noted that the key element to the confirmation could be how Republican senators who haven't made a final decision, such as Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Joe Donnelly, end up voting.

Jones said that, at this point, the Republicans “are between a rock and a hard place” because, if they don’t go through with the nomination, they lose an opportunity to put a conservative judge on the Supreme Court and that would alienate President Trump and many Republicans.

At the same time, the Rice expert, commented that, if Republicans force Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the Senate amid all the accusations, they will alienate key voters, especially Anglo Republican women, who are a crucial demographic in the midterm elections.

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