Vol 29, Issue 27 Print Issue

Runoff Rundown

In years when both parties had statewide primary runoffs, turnout in the second round of voting averaged almost half of turnout in the first round. On average, the runoff got a vote for every two in the primary. In elections with a statewide runoff, the average Republican runoff turnout was 27.3 percent of the party's average primary turnout. For Democrats, the corresponding number was 34.9 percent.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Bitterness continues to surge through the Senate District 25 race, as defeated candidate Elizabeth Ames Jones endorsed her former target’s opponent in the upcoming July 31 runoff. The rivalry between Ames Jones and incumbent Sen. Jeff Wentworth was rancorous, and her endorsement of Donna Campbell didn’t surprise observers of the race. Wentworth’s team dismissed it, and Wentworth has contended that both of his challengers are not as invested in the district's voters as he is. 

Drilling trucks have done at least $2 billion in road damage, according to a task force reporting to the Texas Department of Transportation. The boom in drilling around the Barnett and Eagle Ford shales has taken a toll on the roads around the state, and with the price of natural gas down, big producers aren’t willing to kick in money for repairs as they’ve done in the past. County and farm-to-market roads are the hardest hit, as they aren’t built to withstand the millions of pounds of drilling equipment being hauled. 

Galveston’s struggle to rebuild after Hurricane Ike took another twist after the city’s latest mayoral election. Newly elected Mayor Lewis Rosen ran on an anti-public-housing platform, and after being sworn into office, shook up the Galveston Housing Authority by replacing three of its members and asking for the resignation of a fourth. The city remains divided on the rebuilding of public housing, and there have been accusations of racial bias in Rosen’s backing of a voucher program. It’s also unclear how this will affect state and federal funds dedicated to the recovery effort; outgoing Mayor Joe Jaworski claims it will violate agreements between the city and the funding groups and will lead to lawsuits to enforce terms of the agreements.

While many business leaders and economists agree with education experts that pre-K programs greatly aid students, the programs are easy to cut because they have less stringent requirements on class size and duration. The state had taken steps to establish a program encouraging the expansion of pre-K from half day to full day, but the $200 million grant program was eliminated in the last budget. Districts around the state report that they’ve reduced their pre-K teaching staff by more than 1,100 teachers.

South Padre Island made it on to the Natural Resources Defense Council's list of cleanest beaches in the nation, but environmental groups claim that the rating is an anomaly. Because of the record drought last year, they said the beaches didn’t get the typical pollution-containing runoff that causes health problems for people swimming in that water. A nonprofit group based in Austin, Environment Texas, predicts that with the return of normal rainfall, the beaches will again be a concern to anyone sensitive to pollutants that cause infections and skin rashes.

An El Paso businessman accused of bribing a county judge will plead guilty in federal court to one of 11 counts of fraud and embezzlement, according to the El Paso Times. Ruben “Sonny” Garcia is facing charges of bribing Judge Dolores Briones in his effort to win a lucrative contract evaluating children with severe mental illness for a federal program. His company, LKG Enterprises, was awarded the $600,000 contract but failed to provide any required reporting on its evaluations, and he will plead guilty to the charge of committing theft or embezzlement of federal program funds. The indictment demands that Garcia and his co-defendant, Cirilo “Chilo” Madrid, repay the Border Children’s Mental Health Collective $550,000.

With the recent establishment of a program designed to reduce the number of premature births, state health officials hope to save millions of dollars in neonatal intensive care. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced the program, which establishes a hotline for at-risk women, and projects that the state can save $32.5 million over the next two years. Preventing premature births would be a big cost-saver for the state’s Medicaid fund, as care for premature babies costs 18 times that of regular births.

Political People and their Moves

Former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator Al Armendariz will join the staff of the Sierra Club in mid-July as senior campaign representative for the organization’s Beyond Coal campaign.

Mike Walz, communications director for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, will be leaving at the beginning of July to join InfraREIT Capital Partners, LLC, based in Dallas.

Fred Shannon is hanging out his own lobbying and public affairs shingle after seven years with Hewlett-Packard. He'll keep that company as one of his clients and will work for others, too, in government procurement, legislation and such.

Jason Sabo has left United Ways of Texas after almost nine years to launch his own lobbying and consulting firm, Frontera Strategy.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, announced two major changes to her staff: Bill Wilson has been hired as director of the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee, which Van de Putte chairs, and current staffer Heidi Kluber has been given new duties as the committee's clerk and as a legislative assistant.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

  • Alan Nash of Stephenville as district attorney of the 266th Judicial District in Erath County for a term to expire at the next general election. Nash is an attorney and shareholder at Coan and Elliot P.C. and an adjunct professor at Tarleton State University.
  • Jason Cashon of Stephenville as judge of the 266th Judicial District Court in Erath County for a term to expire at the next general election. Cashon is district attorney of the 266th Judicial District in Erath County and an adjunct professor at Tarleton State University.
  • James L. “Jim” Bayless Jr. of Austin to the Texas State Cemetery Committee for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2017. The three-member committee oversees the day-to-day operations of the Texas State Cemetery.