Vol 29, Issue 29 Print Issue

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on July 31, 2012, in Houston addressing the crowd at a watch party following the announcement that he lost the U.S. Senate runoff to Ted Cruz.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on July 31, 2012, in Houston addressing the crowd at a watch party following the announcement that he lost the U.S. Senate runoff to Ted Cruz.

Notes on a Runoff

The high points and the low ones. Lessons learned and earlier lessons that were forgotten. Low turnout, unfortunate incumbents, successful climbers, the Hispanic Thing, the races ahead, the turnover and some things to help understand what happened on Tuesday.

Texas Weekly Newsreel: Races to Watch

With the primaries and the runoffs out of the way, it's time to look ahead to the general election. There will be a full ballot in November, of course, but only a relative handful of races remain competive in a state where redistricting made most congressional and legislative districts uncompetitive in the general election.

Newly appointed Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp answers a question from the audience at TribLive on September 29, 2011.
Newly appointed Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp answers a question from the audience at TribLive on September 29, 2011.

Ubiquitous Aggies

The A&M System regents are expected to approve a resolution that will add “Texas A&M” to the name of each institution it oversees. The change is part of a massive rebranding effort, which is just one of many major changes Chancellor John Sharp has announced as he approaches his one-year anniversary on the job.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro was tapped to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in September. In a video announcement, the 37-year-old outlined his assessment of the Obama presidency and encouraged viewers to participate in the upcoming convention and campaign. Castro is fresh off the state Democratic Party’s convention, where he also delivered the keynote speech. Hispanic voters, widely considered a key demographic in a handful of battleground states, are a focus of both parties. 

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart faced a firestorm of criticism from candidates, poll workers and voters for a series of mishaps in the runoff election. Confusion over polling locations led to long lines in an election with traditionally low turnout. Results on the county’s website were posted late, and in some cases incorrectly. Stanart blamed the mistakes on a contractor’s phone lines, saying that the merging and transfer of data was compromised by the poor quality of the lines.

Glenn Beck’s three-day Arlington event, Restoring Love, drew thousands to Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Beck spoke Saturday night during a two-hour event of prayer, music and speeches. Religious leaders held a rally the night before emphasizing their support for Beck and criticism of Barack Obama.

Four former El Paso principals who refused to participate in a cheating scheme came forward this week to detail how they were harassed and driven from their jobs. As the investigation continues into the superintendent’s alleged plan to meet federal accountability standards by inflating test scores, the principals also detailed their attempts to blow the whistle on tactics used. Until now, they had maintained their silence, but when a school board member blamed disgruntled former employees for concocting the scheme, they felt compelled to speak out.

An Environmental Protection Agency rule requiring that some portion of corn crops be diverted to make ethanol is drawing fire from ranching groups in Texas. Severe drought, combined with increased demand, has caused the price of corn to skyrocket, up 61 percent since June 15. Ranchers who are feeling the pinch are asking that the rule be suspended for 12 months.

Wind turbines proposed for the South Padre area are triggering a debate between conservation groups and proponents of energy generation. Austin-based Baryonyx Corp. presented the plan for 300 turbines that could generate electricity for millions of customers. But the project still has to be green-lighted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and must be evaluated in light of protests that the structures and transmissions lines would be a blight on the landscape and cause environmental trouble, restrict fishing and interfere with migratory birds.

An investigation into the legal status of its employees led Sushi Zushi, a restaurant chain based in San Antonio with eight outlets across the state, to temporarily close its doors. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is conducting an audit of the company to check eligibility of its employees to work in the U.S. The company expects to issue an update on the audit and its operations later in the week.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is soliciting corporate donations to shore up its operations after losing more than 17 percent of its funding to legislative budget cuts. Partnerships between the agency and the companies it’s tapping include a list of options that would allow businesses to use the parks department brand. Public-private partnerships are gaining traction across the country as a spectrum of agencies face budget shortfalls. Parks and Wildlife hopes to net at least $1 million.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Dr. Kyle Janek of Austin to the position of executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Janek, a former legislator, is director of anesthesia services at Lakeway Regional Medical Center. Chris Traylor of Austin will serve as chief deputy commissioner of HHSC. Since 2010, Traylor has been commissioner of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Jesse Ancira will be House Speaker Joe Straus' chief of staff, a position he has held on an interim basis since the departure of Denise Davis earlier this year. Patricia Shipton is joining the speaker as strategic legislative advisor. Shipton, a former legislative advisor to Gov. Rick Perry, has been a lobbyist for the last several years.

Straus also hired Dan Madru and Shakira Pumphrey, who'll work in his policy office. Madru has worked as staff director of two Senate committees; Pumphrey is returning to the speaker's office after working in state government in Arkansas.

Patricia Vojack, who was chief of staff to then-Sen. Kyle Janek before a stint at the Comptroller's office, will serve as the inaugural compliance officer for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

C.B. Rathburn III, president and CEO of Texas A&M University-Texarkana since 2008, has resigned. Keith McFarland, former president and faculty member of Texas A&M University Commerce, will serve as acting president.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston announced that Dr. Danny Jacobs, currently the David C. Sabiston Jr. Professor and chair of surgery at Duke University Medical Center, has been selected to serve as the new executive vice president and provost, and dean of the School of Medicine. His first day will be Oct. 1.

Joshua Treviño will continue to consult at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, but will give up his gig as communications guru there to take a job at Texas Monthly, where he'll be a political columnist. 

Cyrus Reed, the conservation director at the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, was named acting director after the retirement of Ken Kramer, who has been at the top of that organization for years. 

The governor appointed Robert Franco Jr., an Austin banker, to the Texas Economic Development Corp.

Deaths: Chad Foster, chairman of the Texas Border Coalition and former mayor of Eagle Pass, of stomach cancer. He was 63.