Archive for the 'Learn' Category

A look at a contested convention

The last contested presidential nominating convention of a major U.S. political party happened a generation ago.


In 1976, President Gerald Ford persuaded undecided delegates at the White House to fend off former California governor Ronald Reagan. Reagan had actually led the pre-convention delegate count according to one national media source at the time.


A generation before that, it took Republican delegates five ballots to select businessman Wendell Willkie as their nominee in 1940. He had never served in public office before winning the nomination.


Neither of these two events was as contentious as the 1924 Democrat Party convention. It took 103 ballots and 16 days to finally land on compromise candidate John Davis. Davis subsequently lost to Calvin Coolidge later that fall.


While contested conventions haven’t born much fruit historically, at least Abraham Lincoln survived one to secure the Republican nomination – and ultimately the Union – in 1860. He promised a variety of cabinet posts to supporters in order to solidify his majority.


This year, if no Republican candidate amasses the required 1,237 delegates prior to July’s convention, here’s how the process could play out if rules passed at the 2012 convention hold.


Most delegates are required by the Republican National Committee to vote according to the guidelines that governed their state’s primary or caucus.


For example, since Trump won Florida and Florida was a “winner-take-all” state, each Florida delegate must vote for Trump on the first ballot.


About three-fourths of all delegates are “unbound” on subsequent votes if no candidate takes a majority on the first vote.


Texas delegates are slightly different. The Texas GOP held a “pro rata” primary, so delegate votes will split according to the percentage of primary votes cast for Cruz, Trump and Rubio. Again, this is on the convention’s first nominating vote.


If a Texas delegate’s candidate fails to win at least 20 percent of the first-ballot vote, that delegate can vote for any candidate on the second vote and beyond.


For instance, if Marco Rubio gets 8 percent (i.e., under 20 percent) on the first convention vote, his three delegates from Texas can vote for whomever they wish on the next vote, assuming no candidate won a majority on the first vote, of course.


That’s why politicos are descending on state party conventions: to try to get their supporters elected as national convention delegates, even if those delegates must cast a vote for an opponent on the first vote at the national convention.


All Texas delegates become completely unbound by the third national convention vote.


Conventional wisdom holds that Donald Trump will fall sharply after the first convention vote. At that point, delegates, many of whom will be long-time county party chairmen and state party leaders, are freed to vote their consciences.


To win, Trump would have to convince party loyalists to stay within his newly formed circus tent. That will be a tough sell.


“I was here,” they’ll likely figure in their yellowed Reagan-Bush ‘84 buttons, “when Trump was writing checks to Clinton, Inc. And I’ll be here long after he fizzles. I’m voting for….”


Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column in The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at


A victory plan for Republicans

Yesterday’s Wisconsin primary showed the shaky ground on which Republicans find themselves. An outspoken outsider still leads the race for their presidential nomination. But conservative stalwarts from governors to talk radio hosts are gaining steam against him.


Donald Trump needs well over half the remaining delegates to win the nomination. To date, he has won about half the delegates and roughly 37% of the popular vote. It’s increasingly possible that Trump doesn’t clinch the nomination before the Republican convention.


If Republicans flip Trump the bird at their convention, he’ll likely run third party. Like businessman Ross Perot in 1992, he’ll likely split conservative votes and usher in another Clinton presidency.


Meanwhile, the 10 million voters who pulled the lever for Trump in the primary will likely flip the Republican Party the bird – probably for good. Here’s a plan to harness these voters and win the White House. First, some thoughts on the candidates.


Trump seems genuinely to care about the direction our nation travels, though he appears to have limited desire to enter the weeds on foreign policy or social issues. He wants a platform to manifest his gusto ego, but he likely loves the surge of campaigning more than he’d like the scourge of governing.


Like Trump, I want to shake up the federal bureaucracy. I want the government working for the people, not lifelong bureaucrats. “You’re fired” has a nice ring to it and needs to be heard around Washington.


I have liked Ted Cruz since I had dinner with him several years ago at Boerne’s own Spinelli’s Vistro. He means well and would make a good president. However, I’d really love his conservative constitutional mind on the United States Supreme Court. He’d be Scalia reincarnate.


John Kasich has proven himself an effective executive of a large state. He walks a moderate line that could get social conservatives and fiscal conservatives onto common ground. He polls well against Hillary. Most importantly, he talks and acts presidential.


Campaign fatigue turned Marco Rubio into a debate puppet, but his body of work in the United States Senate shows he can contribute on the highest policy levels. He is likeable and youthful. He obviously has a drive to serve.


At the risk of sounding like a product of the “everyone wins” generation, here’s my resolution to the campaign quandary at hand.


  1. Cruz should cut a deal with Kasich: “I’ll throw my delegates your direction if you appoint me to the Supreme Court.”
  2. Rubio should cut a deal with Kasich: “I’ll endorse you if you make me your running mate.”
  3. With more delegates than Trump at that point, Kasich should then cut a deal with the Donald, borrowing from Obama’s playbook: “If you support me, I’ll make you Czar of Immigration and Government Reform. You will have clear autonomy to hire and fire federal agency heads and implement changes that… make America great again.”


This strategy would give Republicans the best chance to win Ohio, Florida, 10 million Trumpeteers and a courageous conservative to the Supreme Court.


In 1861, Abraham Lincoln assembled a “team of rivals,” as author Doris Kearns Goodwin put it in her 2005 book by that name. Three men who ran against Lincoln in 1860 served on his cabinet.


Today, we need a similar team effort to keep the Clintons out of the Lincoln Bedroom.


Kevin Thompson is a columnist for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Contact him at

How Texas Got Super (Tuesday)

No one within 300 miles of here would argue that Texas is, in fact, super. But did you know Texas hasn’t always voted on Super Tuesday?

Today, Texas and twelve other states representing 565 Republican delegates will take to the polls. That’s roughly half of the 1,236 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination.

Some pundits even call today Super Duper Tuesday, leaving the mere Super Tuesday moniker for Tuesday, March 15, when 6 state Republican primaries award a total of 361 delegates. 

Common knowledge holds that the earlier a state holds its primary, the more impact that state has on the nomination process.

That’s why Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada get more publicity during presidential election years than in the three in between years combined. 

For years Texas law mandated that the state’s primary election be on the second Tuesday of March in every election year.

Things changed in 2004 thanks to legislation authored by my previous boss, former Texas Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas).

Branch entered his first term in the Texas House in January 2003 aware that he had a potential political weak link:

Since Republican primaries were held on the second Tuesday of March, they generally fell during school and university spring breaks when many of Branch’s north Dallas supporters left town for vacation destinations.

A successful early voting push during the 2002 primary minimized the impact on Branch’s first election effort. But he knew not what the future might hold and what Republican primary challenger might cross his political path.

So, in the name of voter enfranchisement, voter turnout and expanded Texas influence in the presidential candidate nominating process, Branch suavely sought bipartisan support to move Texas’ primary election up a week to the first Tuesday in March.

The political logic was not hard to sell to a capital full of politicians, even the most altruistic of whom sleep with one eye open toward re-election.

Branch’s bill garnered support from both sides of the aisle and both houses of the Legislature. My job was to garner favorable testimony at the bill’s committee hearings. I was never so glad to see the Travis County Democratic Party chairman.

Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law in the summer of 2003 and Texas has been voting with the big boys and girls on Super Tuesday ever since. The law change may have particular effect this year with a U.S. Senator from Texas on the ballot.

The Republican National Committee has since taken steps to increase every state’s impact on the nominating process.

For instance, every state that votes prior to March 15 must divide its delegates proportionally according to the breakdown of its vote. After March 15 a state’s primary winner can take all the state’s delegates if the state Republican party so chooses.

Nevertheless, the Lone Star State will show off its political super-muscle today thanks to the crafty work of a capable politician who ironically never again faced a primary opponent throughout the balance of his service in the Texas House.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at




Is student debt the next shoe to drop?

A young man sat in his car sipping on a drink. It appeared he had purchased it from the convenience store in whose parking lot he sat.

After a final sip, he opened his door and sat the cup on the ground beside his vehicle. He then closed the door and slowly drove away, leaving the drink cup in the parking lot.

The driver looked relatively put together. His vehicle was not dilapidated. He obviously cared some about his appearance. So I tried to imagine his thought process.

Maybe he thought picking up trash around the premises was a service the convenience store provided. It was included in the drink price.

Or maybe he had no cognizant thought at all. His mind was simply on to the next gig.

Whatever the explanation, a Styrofoam cup sat in a parking lot waiting for a responsible party to pick it up.

A separate instance: As I walked into a big box retail store, a twenty-something took a final drag on a cigarette and threw it on the ground in front of me.

“Who do you think is going to pick that up? I asked.

He huffed a bit and then lumbered over to pick up the butt.

“Don’t mess with Texas” is not my point. Litter happens every day. But these instances represent a growing belief among a generation of people:

“Someone else will pick up the pieces. Mom or the government, perhaps. My actions don’t really have an impact.”

Notwithstanding these anecdotes, I was shocked when I read about the thousands of people trying to get out of paying their student loans. They claim their colleges defrauded them with misleading messages.

The obscure federal law that allows for such claims was used five times in the twenty years after its passing in 1994. Then, in the last two years, 7,500 complaints have been filed. Thank you, social media.

The plaintiffs argue their schools lied to them about earning potential and graduate salaries. Some claim their instructors were inept. Evidently they were not inept enough to quit taking out loans and paying tuition.

According to The Wall Street Journal, The debtors seek a total of $164 million in loan forgiveness. That’s a big cup in the parking lot. But it’s a fraction of the $1.2 trillion in U.S. student loan debt outstanding, a figure that has tripled in the last ten years.

Total nationwide education debt surpassed credit card debt in 2011. While university administrators warned students about the credit card offers in the campus center, they should have warned them about the gambit in the financial aid office.

That didn’t happen. The money was too good and too easy. Tuitions increased to match the federal funding available. Salaries and benefits of faculty and administrators rose with the tide.

Now a generation of young people try to pay off the windfalls – or not.

The Federal Reserve estimates that 11.5 per cent of outstanding student loans are greater than 90 days past due. This percentage gets worse when one considers that half of outstanding debt is in forbearance. Those borrowers are still in school.

We may have a big problem on our hands. We usually do whenever government pays or guarantees big bucks to make something “affordable.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at


Laws change in Texas, Boerne

It’s 2016…time to put away your phones and get out your guns!

The Boerne City Council has banned smartphone use while driving inside city limits, and the Texas Legislature has permitted the visible carrying of handguns in most public places.

Not since 1871 have Texans been allowed to publicly holster their firearms.

Surprisingly, Texas was one of only six states that didn’t allow open carry when it passed the law. The other five states included such left-leaning bastions as California, New York and Illinois.

The Legislature allowed business owners to choose whether to allow exposed guns on their properties. The results have run the gamut.

Whataburger decided to ban open carry in its restaurants, while Brooks’ Place Barbecue in Houston is giving a 25% discount for baring arms.

A key rationale for the law change was public safety. According to the law’s proponents bad guys will less likely commit gun violence if they see more good guys with guns.

My sense is a bad actor is going to be deterred by a law-abiding citizen regardless of whether a weapon is exposed.

I’m reminded of a Margaret Thatcher quote: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” A possible corollary: Being intimidating is like being a lady. If you have to show people you are, you aren’t.

Nevertheless, if open carry works in the other ninety per cent of the country, Texas should not stay in the liberal-leaning minority. The right to bear arms is constitutionally enshrined, after all.

The right to drive, however, is not. It is a privilege, according to the Boerne City Council members who followed the City of San Antonio in prohibiting the use of portable electronic devices while driving.

My free market conservatism flinched when I heard the news.

Many reasonable people think distracted driving is a legitimate problem, and there is precedent in Boerne. The city council banned cell phones in school zones a few years ago. It seems logical, then, that if it’s bad there, it’s bad everywhere.

I keep asking my friends in the auto body shop business if their numbers are up due to a presumed increase in distracted driving. They insist they are no busier now than in the age of bag phones and pagers.

Perhaps the safety features of modern vehicles (e.g., auto-braking sensors) are mitigating the impact.

Distracted driving foes say a “hands-free” device is the solution. Scarily, I’ve probably had more near misses trying to get my hands-free device to work than I ever have using my phone outright.

Two interesting notes about the new ordinance: (1) non-technological forms of distracted driving such as consuming Whoppers and Big Gulps or reading paperbacks are not addressed; and (2) law enforcement personnel are exempt.

It’s at least a small irony that the law enforcement personnel set to enforce the electronic device ban have large computer monitors staring them in the face.

One might conclude from this that human beings, when provided the right training, can use technology safely and responsibly within a motorized vehicle. Perhaps an “open use electronic device permit” is in our future?

Until then, keep your guns revealed and your phones concealed in route to a happy and safe new year!

 Follow Kevin Thompson online at







Historic Texas building sees renaissance

“The Dienger building is to Boerne what the Alamo is to San Antonio,” asserts Raymond Lunsford, owner of the newly established Dienger Trading Company. Lunsford and his wife, Lisa, have consolidated their Main Street businesses next to Boerne’s downtown plaza.

“We want to be a part of the community,” Lunsford said about their decade of commercial ventures along Boerne’s Main Street including three restaurants and two clothing stores.

A year ago, the Lunsfords acquired one of Boerne’s first two-story stone structures. Joseph and Ida Dienger built it in 1885 to house their “staple and fancy” grocery store downstairs, their five children upstairs. A full subterranean basement kept Dienger’s moose and deer antler collection.

Historian Garland Perry called the building a “trend-setter” and “the envy of everybody in town” at its 1984 dedication to the National Registry of Historic Places. According to Perry, seven other “live above, work below” structures were built along Main Street in the twenty-five years following the Dienger’s construction.

Joe Dienger bought 1.18 acres at the northwest corner of Main and Blanco in 1884 for $900. He financed $1,300 worth of building materials through a San Antonio lumber company. The end result was a structure with both Victorian and German influences.

In 1900, Dienger added a north extension for a men’s and women’s clothing store run by his sisters, Lina and Louise. Members of the Dienger family operated the grocery and clothing businesses until the early 1940s.

This history, and a desire to honor the Boerne community, inspired the contemporary Dienger Trading Company.

With a bakery/restaurant, Lunsford pays tribute to Joe’s grocery, while a home goods and clothing/accessory store hearkens back to his sisters’ shop. A bookshop recognizes the building’s use as a public library from 1991 – 2011, and an event venue in the former living quarters will facilitate fresh family memories.

“People who grew up in Boerne tell me every day, ‘I never dreamed this building could be this way. Thank you so much,’” Lunsford said. “It really means a lot and I’m very proud of what it has become.”

Branding guru Michelle Ernst serves as the “The Dienger’s” general manager and chief buyer.

“Knowing the Lunsfords’ love of the community, it was a no-brainer to incorporate the history of the building into our branding,” Ernst remarked. “We‘re not here to take business from anyone else. We’re here to be added value. We try to buy lines that no one else has.”

Ernst continues, “With the demographic changes in Boerne, many new establishments aren’t geared to an older demographic. The older generation wonders, ‘Where is my Boerne going?’ That’s why we want to offer something for everyone.

“We know we’re taking a risk by not marketing to just one demographic, but we think this building is special enough to make it work,” Ernst projects.

Lunsford believes the company’s uniqueness will bring ample business.

“Between the restaurant – people love to eat-, the ladies and men’s goods, the home goods, the venue with the balcony overlooking Main Street – it’s different. People tell us this is the kind of store you’d see in New York or Martha’s Vineyard or San Francisco.”

After experiencing The Dienger’s renaissance firsthand, putting government or private offices in the structure would be like putting the DMV in the Alamo.

Follow Kevin Thompson at


Texas town wrestles with growth

The slogan “BOERNE, TEXAS GONE FOREVER” is appearing on a growing number of bumpers. The sticker is usually attached to a work truck or a seasoned sedan. A faded Bush/Cheney sticker may also represent.

I have not chatted with any driver of any vehicle bearing the inscription, but I believe I understand the sentiment: The good days are gone. The suburbs have come.

I saw the sticker most recently at a relatively new burger café in town. The restaurant has a playground, a party room and a patio. Evidently, the driver was trying to warm up to “new Boerne” with an ice cold milkshake. He or she was enjoying an amenity made possible only by growth.

Therein lies the irony: We typically love what’s on the other side of the traffic.

Nearly ten years ago when my first child trotted out for his first soccer game at Boerne City Park, all the cars could fit in the parking lot. Today, you might have to park down by River Road or on the Kendall County Fairgrounds. The number of players and fans keeps increasing.

When my fourth child trotted out to his first game this fall, I endured the inconvenience because I want him to play on manicured fields in a well-run program. I try to remember: If the facilities were sub-par and the organization was lacking, I’d have plenty of prime spaces to choose from.

A recent snippet in the “Star Rewind” section of these pages told of a “New business for Boerne.” The year was 1955. Almega Corporation of Austin planned to come to Boerne “to manufacture toys, games and novelties and set up a complete industrial silk screening plant.”

The company had agreed to purchase an historic Main Street building built by Henry Adler in 1911. Bergmann Lumber, the oldest hardware store in Kendall County and the standard bearer for mom and pop shops attempting to stay relevant in a big box age, now occupies the space.

I don’t know how long Almega Corporation stayed in the Adler Building or if they even moved in. I don’t know what wooden or metal toys they made there or what garments they decorated. Someone with a BOERNE, TEXAS GONE FOREVER bumper sticker could probably tell me.

But the thought of a new business once occupying a now classic structure should give us some perspective.

I needed this perspective recently when I saw a strange object in town. I thought it had rolled off the back of a construction truck before I realized it was part of Boerne’s new public art initiative. Art al Fresco (art in “fresh air”) is a joint effort of the City of Boerne and the local arts community.

It may take me some time to recognize the beauty in my midst. I may very well wish for a windmill or a water tower instead. But I am committed to staying open to change.

Boerne has grown in spurts for decades. Every generation experiences it. The old Boerne commemorated on bumper stickers is really just a figment of a nostalgic imagination. The tranquility we remember over milkshakes was once someone else’s traffic.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at


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