Vol 28, Issue 42 Print Issue

Congressman Michael McCaul at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 23, 2011.
Congressman Michael McCaul at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 23, 2011.

You Can't Go Home Again

U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul's decision not to run for the U.S. Senate means he won't be testing one of the truisms of Texas politics: A seat in the Texas congressional delegation is a lousy launching pad for statewide office.

U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst
U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst

Campaign Chatter

Ted Cruz tries to lure David Dewhurst into a fight, while Tom Leppert taunts them both in a new TV ad.

Inside Intelligence: On the Issues

The insiders answered questions from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll for the second week in a row, this time on the death penalty, education, top issues facing Texas, and whether the people they know would vote for a Mormon candidate with whom they agree on issues.

Gov. Rick Perry while leaving the Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Oct. 11, 2011.
Gov. Rick Perry while leaving the Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Oct. 11, 2011.

Inside, Outside: Damning with Faint Praise

If the October 2011 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll captured Texans in a lukewarm mood about Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bid, the Texas Tribune/Texas Weekly Inside Intelligence survey found Texas insiders edging into downright cranky territory in their assessments of the governor.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Harris County officials may have jumped the gun when they included instructions on enforcing the state’s new voter ID law in a training manual. The legislation, which passed in the spring legislative session, requires voters to show a photo ID but does not take effect until Jan. 1. Election judges receiving training in Houston were confused by the information directing them to require anyone who shows up to vote to provide photo identification. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart acknowledged the error and said it had been corrected.

As the redistricting debate drags on with the state’s newly redrawn maps still pending, the filing period that candidates will have is shrinking. The three-judge panel that is working on creating interim maps for the 2012 elections announced that it would not be able to get those maps redrawn and approved in time for the opening of the filing period on Nov. 12. Officials in the secretary of state’s election division said they’d also need time to prepare for any new configurations of the maps. The deadline for filing is Dec. 12.

Texas’ handling of disaster relief is under scrutiny from the feds, and former state workers may be interested in the proceedings. Many of those employees lost their jobs as the state made cuts to departments handling disaster relief and recovery and contracted the work out to a private company, HNTB. Their contract was canceled as of Aug. 31, but not before the state had spent about $32 million for their services. That amount represents about 90 percent of money budgeted for managing infrastructure grants awarded to communities affected by hurricanes Ike and Dolly, but the firm reportedly only saw about 20 percent of the projects through to completion.

In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week, House Speaker Joe Straus expressed dismay at what he characterized as an assault on higher education this legislative session. After Perry’s appointment of a critic of academic research at higher institutions, debate raged about how the state funds universities, and research in particular. Straus expressed hope that the tone of the debate would be more civil in the future and that some of the common goals could be reached without such vitriol.

Gov. Rick Perry, attempting to reboot his presidential campaign, made the biggest headlines earlier this week for an awkward speech he delivered in New Hampshire. The video of Perry, variously described as energetic, fidgety and possibly under the influence, quickly went viral on the internet. Asked about the speech in Iowa, Perry said he “felt great” during the speech and thought the event went well.

“Occupy” movements are encountering challenges in cities across the nation. The Occupy Austin movement found itself in conflict with city officials when 37 protesters were arrested on a charge that would have prevented them from returning to the site of the protest, City Hall, for one year. But leaders of the group and city officials came to an agreement Monday to review each of the cases, clearing the way for protesters to return once their case has been reviewed and they’ve received a rescission or modification of the criminal trespass charge. Meanwhile, leaders of the group are working with city officials to modify their distribution of food and to work with the city to clean the plaza.

State park rangers are shooting burros in Big Bend State Park, and locals aren’t the only ones upset. The Washington Post reported that the killing of 130 free-roaming donkeys is not sitting well with protesters who say the state’s new policy is designed to protect the bighorn sheep in the park so that their population can grow and be hunted in the future. A permit to hunt bighorns has been sold at auction for more than $100,000, and critics of the burro killing suggest that it’s all about rich hunters getting their chance to hunt the rare bighorn sheep by letting them have the run of the 316,000 acre range. A petition on Change.org has collected more than 94,000 signatures protesting the practice.

While it’s predicted that the current drought could continue unabated for at least another year, water systems across the state are feeling the pinch. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s figures show that 91 percent of the state is facing extreme or exceptional drought and that the critical water shortage has caused at least 20 percent of water districts to impose mandatory restrictions or bans on watering. Additionally, 23 of the 4,271 community water systems are so critically low on water that officials are having a hard time determining how long their supplies will last. Reported levels at water supply reservoirs fell below 60 percent capacity in September, the lowest on record since 1978.

It’s unclear what will come of a video posted on YouTube of a county court at law judge beating his daughter. The video was date-stamped 2004 and shows a man beating and cursing at a teenage girl for more than seven minutes. Aransas County Attorney Richard Bianchi confirmed that Judge William Adams is the man in the video and that county officials and Rockport police are reviewing the it for possible sanctions.

Political People and their Moves

Guy Diedrich is the Texas A&M University System's new vice chancellor for federal and state relations, and Frank Ashley III is the new vice chancellor of recruitment and diversity. The school's new chancellor, John Sharp, announced the promotions and also said he'll bring in a management consulting firm — MGT of America — to try to streamline operations. Diedrich, founder and president of Austin Technology Ventures, had a similar job at A&M until 2010. Ashley has been the system's vice chancellor for academic affairs since May 2007. Stanton Calvert, the current head of government relations for A&M will become vice chancellor emeritus.

Gov. Rick Perry added some staffers to his presidential campaign, including Chip Roy, who assisted on the governor's book Fed Up. He and Brandy Marty will be senior advisors. Victoria Coates, Sean Davis Emily Domenech and Shana Gooch will join the campaign's policy shop. Roy was most recently director of state-federal relations for the governor. Marty was his director of budget, planning and policy. Coates worked for Donald Rumsfeld and will advise Perry on foreign policy. Davis was a U.S. Senate staffer and CFO for The Daily Caller; he'll be an economic advisor. Domenech worked for the secretary of defense from 2007-11; she'll work on defense, energy and environmental issues.

Press corps moves: Scott Braddock, who got to Austin about ten minutes ago, is moving to Houston to join a new all-news radio operation at 92 on the FM dial. He came to Austin and the Texas State Network from Dallas, and did a fair amount of Capitol coverage in both gigs. The new place goes on the air on November 14.

Deaths: Travis Sampley, chief of staff to state Rep. Ralph Sheffield, from an aortic dissection. He was 32. A memorial service will be held in Austin next Tuesday at First United Methodist Church, across the street from the Capitol.

Roy Talley, a longtime lobbyist for Mobil Oil known for regularly holding court at breakfast at the Driskill Hotel. He was 80.