Herman: Gov. Abbott says Houston has more brothels than Starbucks

It’s a subject area that was something of a political issue, and later something of a bigger thing on Broadway back in the 1970s, when some Texans were shocked to learn there was a brothel in La Grange.

The topic is back, sort of, in the current gubernatorial campaign, thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Prior to diving into this, let’s acknowledge a stark, sad and serious reality: Human trafficking — a too-polite name for a disgraceful scourge — is a real and real serious issue. We should be grateful to officeholders of any political stripe who work to do something about it. It’s an ongoing battle, and it has very real victims.

Abbott brought the issue up during a recent telephone town hall with his supporters. More accurately, these periodic calls are fundraising efforts, and the campaign’s goal was $60,000 during the June 26 call.

RELATED: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sets fundraising record, wants more

The governor said some things and heard some things you should hear.

The first was something of a history lesson taught by Abbott in response to the appeal by the emcee (Nicole, I believe) for Abbott to say something that might move “folks who are on the fence tonight about helping out” with a donation to the already well-funded Abbott campaign.

Abbott went Alamo.

“But here’s the deal,” Abbott said. “All those people who fought for our freedom at the Alamo? They’re all gone. They’re all gone.”

I checked. He is correct.

Here’s something Abbott heard from caller Roger in Houston that the governor probably didn’t want to hear. Roger self-identified as a “big fan of the Second Amendment” and is involved with “several different gun organizations.”

“And I have been getting a lot of brochures from them saying you are cratering on a lot of Second Amendment issues since the Santa Fe (school) shootings,” Roger told the governor.

Abbott pushed back at length, listing all the measures he has supported.

A few minutes later, the governor said something else worth checking. It came in response to a question from Kerry in Fort Worth, who asked about campaign messaging. Abbott’s answer included this: “In Houston, Texas, there are more brothels than there are Starbucks.”

I tweeted it and got predictable retweets, with comments: “I’ll be in Houston Saturday. I’ll count.” “He would know.” “I thought you were an upstanding Christian man. How do you know so much about brothels in Houston?” My personal favorite: “Did he also tell them there are more Mattress Firm stores than Starbucks in Austin? Coincidence or conspiracy?”

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Snark aside, the best response came from a pro, CNN’s Dallas-based correspondent Ed Lavandera: “Is there documentation of this?”

Abbott is a pretty good politician. Hard to believe he’d make the brothels/Starbucks comment without either actually having done the count or having a reference to somebody who did. So I asked.

Team Abbott responded with a link.

It leads to an excellent Houston Chronicle story from Jan. 22 with the headline “Houston: City has ‘more brothels than Starbucks.’” (We’ll gloss over the notion that those words also could mean Houston has more brothels than Starbucks has.)

In the story, Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, said, “We have more brothels than we have Starbucks in our city.”

Sanborn said there are over 400 of what the newspaper called “storefront sex businesses” in Houston. My count of Starbucks locations in Houston, as shown on the company website is 50, but that seems low and seems to only include locations within the Interstate 610 loop.

So that’s about the best I can do by way of fact-checking this one.

Wait a second, here’s one more Abbott comment worth checking. It came in his closing remarks on the call.

“What happens if I lose this race for governor? Candidly, what happens is I’ll go get a higher-paying job,” he said.

Probably true.

But, for other Texans, his November loss would be nothing less than catastrophic, Abbott predicted. “The bad news is if I lose the election, Texas is lost to a very liberal Democrat,” he said of challenger Lupe Valdez. “The principle that has led Texas to be the greatest state in the history of America will be wiped out.”

“This is a fight for freedom itself. You’re one of the soldiers in this fight,” he said in rallying the troops.

And remember what else the governor told us: This time around, we can’t count on the heroes of the Alamo. They’re all gone. They’re all gone.

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