Monday, December 29

Winning AmRen Client Gilbert Pena Feature In Sunday Paper

Theodore Schleifer of the Houston Chronicle wrote a Sunday feature on American Renaissance Political Consulting Group client Gilbert Pena's upset victory in November.

Houston Chronicle

TEXAS POLITICS


Perseverance, work ethic define area's newest state rep


By Theodore Schleifer
December 27, 2014
Gilbert Pena American Renaissance Political Consulting
State Rep Gilbert Pena Photo: Dave Rossman, Freelance


By the time Harris County's conservative leaders fished for their car keys at their Election Night watch party, there were few candidates left to congratulate. Nearly every Republican had won, and each had earned a handshake or name-check from the movement's political class. Every one, that is, but Gilbert Pena.

Pena finally had triumphed in his fifth run for political office to score the biggest local upset of the evening, but his name remained unsaid. Amid the post-election jubilation, the new state representative was unnoticed. Pena's supporters would argue that's because he had been underestimated - again.

"If you underestimate Gilbert Pena, you're making a mistake," said his treasurer, Bill Treneer.

Pena, an unassuming retiree derided as a perennial candidate by those Republican signal-callers, rode a GOP wave to oust Pasadena Rep. Mary Ann Perez by 155 votes in November. Pena struggled to woo any donors or political support - Perez's war chest was 250 times the size of his - but the short and reserved man is used to upending how others perceive him.

The 65-year-old rose from a hardscrabble early life to become a new legislator thanks to a work ethic that can make him impossible to ignore.

Learning to read

Neither of Pena's parents was in the picture when he moved to Houston in first grade to live with his aunt. She spoke only Spanish, and that showed in the classroom.

Teachers would ask the future state representative to read English - which he insisted he could - and when he inevitably failed his teachers' challenges, he had his first experiences with racism and hatred, Pena said.

"You can't read," his first-grade teacher said, according to Pena. "Don't you ever tell anybody you can read."

He continued to tell them just that, even if he had to spend three years in first grade. He sat in the back of classrooms, avoiding pesky classmates as he taught himself quietly to do what other kids had done for years. When he reached Ms. Walker's seventh-grade classroom, he believed he had made some progress with his reading.

"How come Gilbert's just reading a book?" one classmate asked Ms. Walker.

"Don't you worry about what Gilbert's doing," Pena recalled her saying. "I got him on a special assignment."

After Walker's first year with him, she no longer separated him from the rest of his T.H. Rogers Junior High class.

"If God told her, 'Ms. Walker, you can't make it into heaven unless you can tell me one person you did good by,' " Pena said wistfully last month, "she could point down to me and say - 'Gilbert, right there.' "

He finally had learned to read, but that skill wouldn't help support his aunt at home. So, Pena began busing tables for 50 hours a week at El Patio on Westheimer Road. At 50 cents an hour, Pena's weekly paycheck meant his aunt no longer had to pick cotton to make the same $25 a week.

"We did anything to make a dollar for our parents," said Ben Pena, Gilbert's first cousin. During the summers, Pena and his two younger brothers would visit Ben's family in Wharton County to pick cotton and pecans from sunrise to sunset.

To make those dollars, Pena admits he short-changed his education, which he began to view as merely offering a bus ride to his job at the country club. When he had washed the last dinner dish there, he would walk the three hours home.

'I had to do something'


He soon dropped out of high school to work three or more jobs at once. A paper route in the morning. An eight-hour shift at a steel company in the afternoon. Cleaning offices at night. Odd job led to odd job for the next two decades. Before long, inevitable layoffs would slide Pena down the ladder back to minimum wage work, erasing any gains he had made since high school.

"I had to do something that would better my life," he said. "I'm getting to an elder age and I'm thinking, how much longer am I going to have to work like this?"

A drunken driver whose vehicle busted through the median on Interstate 10 accelerated his timeline. The accident wrecked Pena's left knee, but it also forced him out of his newfound trucking job and created time for college - something no teacher, not even Ms. Walker, believed he could enter or finish. He earned a political science degree from Texas Southern University at age 47.

Pena later found some financial stability installing refrigerators across Texas, working weeks at a time on trips that capitalized on his work ethic and built the bank account to raise his four kids. He spent any free time he had feeding, bathing and tending to his special needs son, who today is 25 and still lives with Pena and his wife.

"I don't think I could do that 24/7," said Ben Pena. "But he does it with a smile on his face."

As he became more secure, the Pasadena resident's thoughts began to turn to politics as he saw rising taxes cut into what he had earned. He ran for state Senate in 2008 to "get my name out," he said, and his performance in the Republican primary encouraged him to run for state representative in 2010. His retirement in 2011 enabled him to treat the campaign like a full-time job in 2012. He lost then, too.

Almost no funds raised

Pena said he was unsure about running for the Legislature a fourth time this year. He decided he would make a bid only if he received assurances from Austin power brokers and political action committees that they would financially support him.

And he received those assurances, he said.

But when Pena's campaign manager, Temo Muniz, presented Pena's proposed path to victory to Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Associated Republicans of Texas, two of the state's premier conservative PACs, neither one cut checks, Muniz said.

So, Pena worked even harder. He raised virtually no money and had none of the professional frills that typically accompany a legislative race in one of Texas' few competitive districts. Instead, he knocked on doors for around four hours every day, almost always by himself and pitching the district's Hispanic voters a socially conservative message.

"I've never seen a guy who works that hard from dawn till dusk every day," said Treneer.

And he won.

Pena does not have any policy experience or expertise - he does know he plans to support Joe Straus for speaker and that he cares most about education issues - but he said that his "hard times" separates him from the lawyers and businessmen who dominate the Legislature. Many of them have called him to offer their congratulations, but he said he will remember that the Austin establishment never had his back.

"I want to be able to come back and say, 'You didn't believe in me,' " Pena said. "I'm waiting. They'll come knocking."

Friday, October 17

Book Review: The Way Forward by Paul Ryan

My lengthy book review of Paul Ryan's book The Way Forward has been published at Big Jolly Politics. Please take a look and let me know (there, or here) what you think.

Paul Ryan The Way Forward

Thursday, October 16

Remembering Freddie Garcia Five Years Later

Freddie Garcia
Five years ago today, the world lost a man that I can only ever wish I had met, and only wish I ever knew. This man was Freddie Garcia.

Freddie was a drug addict in his young life and eventually found his way, perhaps it should be said that God showed Freddie the way. Freddie would go on to establish a ministry for addicts called Outcry in the Barrio, and he wrote a book by that title with his wife, Nifna. It's a book you should read, or you can even listen to it these days on audio CD.

Outcry in the Barrio lives on today, as a thriving ministry. Freddie's son Jubal now leads the ministry and is leading it into international realms.

This summer I was at an event hosted by Outcry in the Barrio, and Freddie's wife Ninfa spoke to the crowd and in recalling Freddie, she said, "Freddie was a soul winner." I loved that statement, and even for a man I never knew or never met, I knew she was right.

We miss you Freddie. Your work lives on though. Well done.

Friday, August 22

Wednesday, August 13

Robert Woodson Interview on The Seth Leibsohn Show

Robert Woodson did a lengthy interview on The Seth Leibsohn Show yesterday. You will enjoy this interview, it's quite complex on issues of race and poverty.

Monday, July 28

Paul Ryan Talks With Larry Kudlow

Congressman Paul Ryan was on The Larry Kudlow Radio Show this past Saturday to discuss his new plan, Expanding Opportunity in America. Congressman Ryan and Larry Kudlow discuss ideas going back to Jack Kemp, and the Congressman even refers to Outcry In The Barrio, a great program I have written about and observed. Plenty more on that later, but listen to the interview and let me know what you think.

Friday, July 18

Larry Kudlow Speaks at Kemp Forum on True Growth

Anytime Larry Kudlow speaks, people need to listen. Whenever Larry Kudlow speaks at the (Jack) Kemp Forum, people need to study it. Larry's message on growth is so important.

Saturday, July 5

The Joy of Kudlow and a Niece

Sometimes you just have to do the right thing. Sometimes that means listening to Larry Kudlow with your one-year old niece and introducing her to the joy of supply-side economics.

Friday, June 20

Paul Ryan Takes On IRS Commissioner

What Paul Ryan does here to this lemming from the IRS reminds me of John Candy in National Lampoon's Vacation when he reports his boss Wally that Clark Griswold "violated my human dignity." This was great.

Monday, June 16

San Antonio Spurs: Champions


To all sports fans in general and NBA fans specifically, you're welcome. On behalf of all of you, I accept your thanks for my San Antonio Spurs putting a stop to most over-hyped, under-achieving trio in the history of sports.

Thursday, June 5

Neighborhood Healers

This column has been prepared as part of a reading supplement for the Republican Party of Texas convention in Ft. Worth.

By Artemio Muniz and Steve Parkhurst

Across America, many of our neighborhoods are crumbling, in need of renewal and all hope of achieving the American Dream hangs by a thread.

Rather than turning away and assuming someone else will pick up the pieces, there are individuals, who have been termed Neighborhood Healers, who work to pick up those pieces and they change lives and communities in the process.

And in the spirit of self reliance and self determination that dominates our great party, these Healers work without the help of any government as they are trying to renew their communities or neighborhoods. This can be in the form of a ministry that heals the fallen, or a citizen who is fed up with the lack of attention paid to a worn down neighborhood and decides to act on his or her own, at their own expense. This can be the mentor who offers guidance to a pupil who needs that one person who cares enough to look eye to eye or soul to soul and make a difference.

Robert Putnam in his books Bowling Alone and Better Together, Robert Woodson in his book The Triumphs of Joseph and William Schambra in his speeches and writings, have all touched upon the root of the American character when people in communities work together to improve lives for those around them.

In late 2008, we started working as a group that would eventually morph into what is today the Federation of Hispanic Republicans. Our early focus as an organization was civic renewal; a re-engagement of individuals in their community. All inspired by the likes of Putnam, Woodson and Schambra.

We traveled from Houston to just south of San Antonio to the city of Von Ormy where we joined with Mayor Art Martinez de Vara in a citywide cleanup, led by Republicans. Over the next few months back in Houston, we continued this sort of work. We joined with other people to find projects that needed help. In one instance, a home needed to be painted and a neighborhood church was offering the paint and supplies, they just lacked the manpower. We teamed up with another local organization and while that house was being painted, the rest of us cleared the neighboring lot and cleaned up the yard of a vacant home.

The most interesting thing to see, was after the work was done. Days, weeks, months later, the people who did the work, those who gave up a Saturday to labor, they were still beaming with pride, satisfaction and most important of all, happiness.

Neighborhood Healers are at work across the state of Texas. Most don't call themselves Healers, they just go about their work. Most only want attention to point out the problems they're working hard to remedy. If you really think on it, we all know a Healer like this.

In April, Steve Parkhurst ventured out to San Antonio's famed Outcry in the Barrio ministry. That visit was previously written about here. As was pointed out in the recap of that visit, Outcry, a faith-based organization, has an astonishingly high success rate in getting addicts off of their substance(s) of choice and back in productive lives, often right in their own communities helping others. No government, whether federal, state, county or city, can claim the kind of success rate that a ministry like Outcry can achieve. Mainly because a place like Outcry is steeped in results after an addict leaves, while governments worry about the numbers enrolled, the number cured or healed is less important.

Ministries like Outcry in the Barrio need help. And Outcry is just one of many.

This past March, we were part of a group across the state that sought to include in the party platform a resolution, whereby the Republican Party of Texas would support the creation and/or development of a Neighborhood Healers Initiative.

With this Initiative, we wanted to show support for, and encourage the recognition of such Neighborhood Healers, and we wanted to make sure Republicans across Texas (and the nation) are doing their part to assist these Healers who are putting our conservative principles into practice on a daily basis.

We felt that as part of this initiative the Republican Party of Texas should start finding, identifying, and recognizing these healers and assure that the Republican Party both locally and statewide is assisting as needed in this community renewal. Because when good people apply deeds, and not just words, to the crises in our neighborhoods, our neighborhoods are better and we all benefit.

And this isn't about spending money. This is about growing our party; it's about growing our cause. Raising awareness and encouraging people to look a little deeper into their communities won't cost one cent.

We want to challenge all the delegates at the state Republican convention to get involved when you return home. Find an individual or organization locally that is putting principles into practice, and help them. Help however you can, with time, money, sweat equity, or even with a little social media promotion.

As Deuteronomy 15:11 tells us, "For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’"

So many Neighborhood Healers have opened wide their hands, they all could use an extra set of hands.

Friday, May 2

Five Years Without Jack Kemp


It's hard to believe it's been five years. I remember hearing late in the evening on May 2, 2009 that Jack Kemp had passed away. I was out of town that weekend.

On Monday, May 4, I awoke to hear Bill Bennett Mornings playing loud and clear on my radio. I listened to guest after guest join Mr. Bennett to pay tribute to Jack Kemp as the week began. I was still somewhat groggy when Congressman Paul Ryan was on the show to remember Jack Kemp. I can remember that interview like it was yesterday. I remember Bill Bennett pointing out that Jack Kemp would note that Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, not The Poverty of Nations. Kemp wanted the focus to be on what worked, not on what failed. Solutions oriented folks operate that way.


Jack Kemp has been in my thoughts a lot lately. As I have gotten a little older and have started to realize that in politics many of the arguments never find resolution, I have been looking closely at some of the work Kemp did to improve the lives of the less fortunate.

Jack Kemp was compassionate, a bleeding heart conservative, and this may have been his greatest gift. Kemp was able to apply a humanitarian view to many of the problems that ailed society simply by showing up. Kemp spent countless hours in places modern Republicans rarely tread. Kemp believed in the American Dream, the belief that in America, every single person had the capacity to reach for the stars, and get there, if they simply wanted it and worked toward it. Kemp wanted a level playing field, rather than viewing America as red or blue and taking a "every man for himself" approach, Kemp wanted to make sure that being trapped was an option, not a predetermination.

I've written recently about Congressman Paul Ryan and Robert Woodson, founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. I won't rehash that work here, you can read it on your own if you like, but it's worth noting that Bob Woodson worked closely with Kemp, and in turn some twenty years later is working with Congressman Ryan as they both look to address some of the same issues on which Kemp had begun to work. Kemp is no longer with us, but that certainly does not mean his work does not continue.

Finally, Jack Kemp wanted economic growth. Serious, unlimited, no-holds-barred, through-the-roof, economic growth. He figured cutting taxes would spur entrepreneurs and development. Sure, he wasn't as worried about the deficit side of things, the logic of the day was, if you cut taxes and more people went to work, there would be more people paying in to the government till, and deficits would go down just by their nature. And we have to remember, Jack Kemp helped introduce tax cuts to the Republican platform, tax cuts were not always part of the Republican mantra. If you read a little history from the late 1970's, you'll see that Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp had some pretty fierce arguments about tax cuts. Kemp ultimately won the debate, Reagan adopted Kemponomics as Reaganomics, and the 1980's saw a great economic recovery. The rest is history.

Anyway, on the five year anniversary of Jack Kemp's passing, I wanted to add my two cents. It may be closer to fifteen cents, and you loyalists will get that and laugh. It's a hodgepodge of thoughts, but that's rather the point.


It's hard to believe it's been five years...

Wednesday, April 16

Rolling Stone Magazine Dumbs Us Down

Good grief. The war on our culture and our founding never stops. This is a blatantly obvious error, if it was in fact an error.

You'll notice Elaine Benes appears on the Rolling Stone cover with the United States Constitution on her back. And of course, the always distinguishable signature of John Hancock is on there. So, what's the problem, besides poor taste?

Welp, John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.


Saturday, April 5

April is Starbucks Global Month of Service

I'm not usually a fan of Starbucks' politics, but they do some good things in communities around the country, and the world for that matter.

I encourage you to visit Community.Starbucks.com and see if there is something going on near you where you can pitch in and help for a few hours.


Tuesday, April 1

Whew! It's Done!

Got that bad boy re-launched today. Took longer than anticipated, but it is done. Website complete. Logo is badass.

Monday, March 31

Ted Cruz: Stand for Principle

Seriously, if this doesn't get you fired up and ready to fight, you need to get to your doctor ASAP.

Saturday, March 8

In NYC, Communism Wages War on Children, the Poor and Minorities

Communist New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is certainly blazing a path in New York City. Peggy Noonan has a revealing column in the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal. (highlights are mine)
What a small and politically vicious man New York's new mayor is. Bill de Blasio doesn't like charter schools. They are too successful to be tolerated. Last week he announced he will drop the ax on three planned Success Academy schools. (You know Success Academy: It was chronicled in the film "Waiting for Superman." It's one of the charter schools the disadvantaged kids are desperate to get into.) Mr. de Blasio has also cut and redirected the entire allotment for charter facility funding from the city's capital budget. An official associated with a small, independent charter school in the South Bronx told me the decision will siphon money from his school's operations. He summed up his feelings with two words: "It's dispiriting." 
Some 70,000 of the city's one million students, most black or Hispanic, attend charter schools, mostly in poorer neighborhoods. Charter schools are privately run but largely publicly financed. Their teachers are not unionized. Their students usually outscore their counterparts at conventional public schools on state tests. Success Academy does particularly well. Last year 82% of its students passed citywide math exams. Citywide the figure was 30%.
Communists like de Blasio hate the poor, they kids and they hate minorities. Fortunately for the communists, in their efforts to keep people poor and under-educated, the kids, the poor and the minorities never realize what's going on.

This war on children via a war on education is appalling. But why do this? Well, here's why:
But the people who run the public-school system that doesn't work—the one where you can't fire teachers who sexually prey on students and principals who don't even show up for work, which is to say the public schools run by the city's huge and powerful teachers union—don't like the charter schools. And they are the mayor's supporters, a significant part of his base
The very existence of charter schools is an implicit rebuke to the public schools. It means they are not succeeding, and something new must be tried. That something new won't be perfect—no charter school is, and some are more imperfect than others—but people still line up to get into them. And there's something to the wisdom of crowds. When a school exists for the students, you can tell. When it exists for the unions, you can tell that too.
It's obvious to observers or participants in the debate over parental choice in education that the unions always care more about their constituency (the teachers) than the students.
In this move more than any so far, Mr. de Blasio shows signs he is what his critics warned he would be—a destructive force in the city of New York. When a man says he will raise taxes to achieve a program like pre-K education, and is quickly informed that that program can be achieved without raising taxes, and his answer is that he wants to raise taxes anyway, that man is an ideologue
And ideologues will sacrifice anything to their ideology. Even children.
Bingo! Mayor de Blasio is a loyal follower. There is no reasoning with him. Sadly, he was just elected, so unless there is a recall effort at some point, NYC, and the nation, will have to suffer under de Blasio's iron boot for four years until the next election.

In the meantime, my questions for Mayor de Blasion and his fellow Leftist travelers would be these: Why do you hate the poor? What do you hate Hispanic children? Why do you hate black children?

Wednesday, March 5

Ihor From (near) Detroit: The Perfect Democrat

I just recently became aware of these videos, which are nearly two years old. They tell a fascinating story of hope and promise for the Democrats.

Our story starts with this guy, Ihor, from Warren (which is near Detroit). If ever there was a perfect Democrat, one who isn't black, Ihor is it.

First, Ihor has real problems with rule of law, a prerequisite for being a Leftist Democrat.

Then, he doesn't listen to women. Fortunately, the Democrat party has a long list of abusers of women, so this guy fits right in. The Democrat war on women has a new soldier.

And, while Ihor only claims to not listen to women, and he will yell at them to shut up if they're yelling at him, he has never (that we know of) drowned a woman like Ted Kennedy did, abused his wife like Congressman Alan Grayson has, or ever ordered a woman to "kiss it" like Bill Clinton did. "It" being, well you know. And this is the same Bill Clinton that raped Juanita Broaddrick and then told her to "you better put some ice on that." "That" being her lip that he bit at some point during the rape.



Now it turns out, to polish his Democrat resume and make him a full-fledged member of the Democrat Left, Ihor has problems keeping his pants on. On the bright side, at least he was caught and punished for this, before he won elected office, but still.

Ihor is a message machine, and he is a perfect Democrat in the sense that he plays the victim quite well. His pants, that his mom bought him, were too big, and when he went outside to clean up the neighborhood, they fell off of him. There you go Ihor, stick with that story. I would advise you to mention that you were doing the neighborhood clean up "for the children" and you'll be home free. Leftist Democrats just love that lie/excuse.



Ihor doesn't live in reality, which is another Democrat prerequisite, he claims he's from Mars. Perfect.

Finally, Ihor gets sentenced. Like many Democrats before him, he was in a court room, in handcuffs and before a judge, awaiting his fate. Like most Democrats, who are never told "no!" in their lives because it hurts their self esteem, and those Democrats that are never disciplined, this judge put it to Ihor and lectured him how people act in the real world.



Bottom line: I suspect with a little PR recovery and once he signs over his life to DNC, Ihor will be a candidate for office of some sort in 2016. You heard it here first, Ihor S. (D-Michigan).

Monday, February 17

Daniel Henninger Observes Leftist Opposition To Education Reform

Late last week Daniel Henninger had a really good column in the Wall Street Journal. He was discussing President Obama's latest faux-concern, the issue of "income inequality." In a column which was subtitled "The left will never support the solution to income inequality," Mr. Henninger was looking at the new mayor of New York City, progessive Leftist Bill de Blasio, and he closed his WSJ column this way:
Let's cut to the chase: The real issue in the American version of this subject is the low incomes of the inner-city poor. And let's put on the table one thing nearly all agree on: A successful education improves lifetime earnings. This assumes one is living in an economy with better than moribund growth, an assumption no one in the U.S. or Western Europe can make anymore. 
If there is one political goal all Democratic progressives agree on it's this: They will resist, squash and kill any attempt anywhere in the U.S. to educate those low-income or no-income inner-city kids in alternatives to the public schools run by the party's industrial-age unions. 
Reforming that public-school monopoly is the litmus test of seriousness on income inequality. That monopoly is the primary cause of America's post-1970s social-policy failure. And that monopoly will emerge from the Obama presidency and de Blasio mayoralty intact. So will income inequality.

Thursday, February 13

George Will, Commissar Barry, and Unicorns


George Will recently opened up his weekly column with this:
Barack Obama, the first president shaped by the celebratory culture in which every child who plays soccer gets a trophy and the first whose campaign speeches were his qualification for the office, perhaps should not be blamed for thinking that saying things is tantamount to accomplishing things, and that good intentions are good deeds. So, his presidency is useful after all, because it illustrates the perils of government run by believers in magic words and numbers.
This opening got me to thinking about Commissar Barry and his magic unicorns.


Wednesday, February 12

Senate Conservatives Fund Exposing Ditch McConnell

The Senate Conservatives Fund has put together this nice new video further exposing Ditch McConnell. Matt Bevin is the clear choice for Republicans in Kentucky.

Tuesday, February 11

Rand Paul Isn't Really Behind Mitch McConnell

In recent days there was an awkward appearance by Senator Rand Paul on Glenn Beck's radio program. Don't just take my word for it, listen to the interview here:



The International Business Times reported the interview with the headline "Rand Paul Is Backing Mitch McConnell's Re-election, But Has No Idea Why."

As I speculated on this blog back in September, I don't think Senator Paul is wholeheartedly behind Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell is a bully and he's worried about his own hold on power, as was demonstrated in Senator Paul's book, The Tea Party Goes To Washington, and I scanned these pages for my dear readers as proof.

Kentucky Republicans: Do the right thing. Vote Matt Bevin in the Republican primary this year.

Thursday, February 6

Happy 103rd Birthday President Reagan

It's not original, but that's ok. For Ronald Reagan's 103rd birthday, let's look back at his 100th birthday and something I wrote at that time.

Enjoy.


Friday, January 31

David Brooks' Brilliant Social Justice Speech

David Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has produced this outstanding three minute video. Every Republican, every conservative, needs to watch this. The lessons here...are invaluable.