Two Democrats Weigh a Cruz Challenge in 2018

Former state Sen. Wendy Davis getting ready for a television interview inside of the Wells Fargo Center, site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, on July 27, 2016.
Former state Sen. Wendy Davis getting ready for a television interview inside of the Wells Fargo Center, site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, on July 27, 2016.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is rallying his supporters against another prominent Texas Democrat who is flirting with challenging him in 2018.

In an interview published Wednesday in the Washington Examiner, former gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis did not rule out taking on Cruz, prompting a dismissive email from Cruz's campaign to his backers. Davis, a former state senator from Fort Worth, made the remarks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"Another day, another Democrat in Philadelphia dreaming of turning Texas blue," Cruz's team wrote. "This time it's failed liberal extremist Wendy Davis."

The email then asked Cruz supporters to register their opinion: "In the battle of Texas cowboy boots v. pink running shoes, who do you stand with?" Davis is well known for the sneakers, which she wore during her 2013 filibuster against abortion restrictions.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, made clear Thursday morning that he is serious about potentially challenging Cruz, ripping him as self-interested and mocking his reaction to a possible re-election fight.

"He freaked out," Castro told reporters at the Democratic National Convention. "He freaked out when he read that. That's what I would expect for someone who hasn't spent any time working for the people of Texas."

Castro made waves when he said in a TV interview Tuesday that he will consider taking on Cruz in 2018, prompting an alarm-sounding email from Cruz's campaign seeking donations. Castro has previously suggested he could take on Cruz. Castro said Thursday he will decide whether to challenge Cruz in the next several months — and began to make his case for a potential run.

"Ted Cruz said he'd go to Washington and change Washington, and he has — he's made it worse, much worse," Castro said. "And Texans have figured out that Ted is for Ted, not for Texas. Texas needs a senator that is actually working on the behalf of the people of Texas."

Castro is scheduled to address the convention Thursday evening here in Philadelphia. He said he will talk about the difference between the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump, including the "fact that she will build opportunity in America, and if he's elected, he's going to tear down opportunity."


State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, the Texas Senate Republican Caucus chair, is urging fellow Texas Republicans to coalesce around Donald Trump and "vote a straight Republican ticket" from "the White House down to the courthouse."

In a statement "reacting to any endorsement controversies" at the Republican National Convention, which concluded Thursday, the Houston state legislator praised the speeches that Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, delivered in Cleveland.

Trump formally accepted the party's nomination on Thursday, but Republicans otherwise struggled to project a united front this week. Delegates opposed to Trump's nomination made a scene on the convention floor when party leaders denied them a roll-call vote on party rules, and Texas' own Ted Cruz made headlines for refusing to endorse Trump in a primetime speech on Wednesday.

“The right thing for Republican leadership to do is to join my call to vote straight ticket Republican from the top of the ballot to the bottom, and you only have 108 days to get it right!” Bettencourt said.

With Prices Stabilizing, Texas Adds to Oil Rig Count

With oil prices floating in the mid-to-upper $40 range last week, Texas added 15 rigs to its drilling fields, according to Baker Hughes. That was the largest single-week rig ​increase since oil prices peaked in mid-2014​.

​The state has steadily gained rigs since late May of this year, the firm’s data shows, during a period of relatively stable prices.

But that doesn’t exactly mean Texas oilfields are rumbling with activity again. The state’s total of 217 rigs as of last Friday was still a far cry from the roughly 900 that were operating when prices peaked.


The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is rolling out an outreach campaign to advertise its new "Healthy Texas Women" program, which offers expanded women's health services to those who qualify.

Charles Smith, the executive commissioner of Health and Human Services, and state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, announced the outreach initiative.

“We place a high priority on helping all Texas women access the comprehensive healthcare services they need, and we’re committed to helping ensure more women know what benefits are available to help them take charge of their health,” Smith said in a statement.



A state representative from Grand Prairie is turning to the craze over the smartphone game Pokémon Go as a new tool for voter engagement.

Rodney Anderson, a Republican seeking re-election in House District 105, is hosting a "block walk" event at Heritage Park in Irving on Saturday themed to the game. A Facebook event "Calling all Pokémon Trainers and Grass Roots Activists!" invites constituents to join the campaign in knocking on doors in surrounding neighborhoods — and catching Pokémon with their phones at three nearby "Pokéstops."

"This will be a great chance to find new Pokemon and hatch those eggs!" the event notes.


A handful of Texas Democratic staffers shirked flights to Philadelphia and instead opted to make the 1,700-mile drive from Austin to the convention.


"We drove up here to bring our huge Texas flag," said Texas Democratic Party Deputy Executive Director Manny Garcia.

The flag was displayed in the delegation hotel behind all speakers, including Democratic nomination runner up Bernie Sanders Wednesday morning.

Garcia said the rental of choice was a "15-passenger van, and the flag poles take up just about all of that space."


U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, will spend the first half of August in an intensive swing through his sprawling district, hosting events for constituents.

The travel comes as Hurd is in a tough re-election rematch against former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, whom Hurd defeated in 2014.

But these are official-side events — not hosted by his campaign — that involve technology training and stops at Dairy Queens. Hurd's office is still firming up details, but this is the information from a Monday news release.

Hurd will host a technology road trip that will "provide free computer and internet training" for those pursuing education, careers and entrepreneurship. The events will take place in the following cities: 

  • August 3: San Alizario and Van Horn 
  • August 4: Alpine, Fort Stockton and Sonora 
  • August 5: Del Rio

Meanwhile, Hurd will also continue a tour of Dairy Queen restaurants on the following dates and locations:  

  • August 7: Helotes, Somerset, Castroville and Hondo 
  • August 8: Devine, Pearsall, Dilley and Cotulla 
  • August 9: Uvalde, Crystal City, Carrizo Springs and Eagle Pass 
  • August 10: Del Rio, Sonora, Ozona, Big Lake 
  • August 11: Crane, Monahans, Kermit and Pecos
  • August 12: Presidio, Alpine and Fort Stockton

Inside Intelligence: About That Democratic Convention...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about this week's Democratic National Convention taking place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

We followed the basic structure from last week's survey about the GOP convention, beginning first with a question about which Texas Democrat stands to gain the most from this week's proceedings.

The insiders were most bullish about San Antonio's Castro twins, with 26 percent citing Julián and 25 percent citing Joaquin. Former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who had a leadership role at this year's convention, was named by 13 percent. Former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, who is running to reclaim his seat in a geographically sprawling swing district that spreads across West Texas, was named by 10 percent of the insiders.

We flipped things with the next question to ask who stood to lose the most from the convention. On that score, 29 percent named Julián Castro with just 3 percent naming his twin, Joaquin. Gallego was cited by 21 percent as the one with the most to lose, and Van de Putte was named by 16 percent.

More than a third of the insiders said that the Democratic convention would neither solidify the base nor expand the party's electorate. Another 24 percent said the main effect of the convention would be to solidify the base.

Fourteen percent of the insiders expected the convention would help expand the electorate; 17 percent, meanwhile, thought the convention would help solidify the Democratic base and expand the electorate.

Finally, we asked which veep candidate among the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian nominees most helps the ticket. On this one, 39 percent chose Tim Kaine, 32 percent chose Mike Pence and 18 percent chose Bill Weld.

We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached.


Which Texas Democrat stands to gain the most from his or her time in Philadelphia this week at the Democratic National Convention?

• "Both Castros will dominate. The only downside is that Texas Dems have put all (two) of their eggs in one basket. No deep bench."

• "VDP has been instrumental to the process and is now a 'lobbyist,' and with a Hill win — she will undoubtedly be placed well in the inner circle or outside circle of friends."

• "Seriously? Why is LVP even on this list? She's not even in office anymore, but to your point, Gallego has an election to win so if he reaches out to his core and new constituency at the convention then he's got a better chance of getting re-elected to Congress."

• "Wendy Davis — because she has no place to go but up."

• "Gallego has to unearth some DCCC love to make up for getting outraised 2:1."


Which Texas Democrat stands to lose the most from his or her time in Philadelphia this week at the Democratic National Convention?

• "None will lose. The Ds don't have anyone with a tin ear or sense of self importance as big as Ted Cruz's."

• "LVP, her job is a thankless one and no one will remember the fine job she did at the DNC."

• "If I were Pete, I would not go near that radioactive waste dump called the Democratic National Convention. A couple of well-placed pictures of him with some of the Elizabeth Warren types are great material for Hurd and his efforts with the business community."

• "Both Castros — they have got on board a sinking left-wing ship."

• "With HRC's pick of Kaine, Democrats are no longer placing hopes on Hispanic community, but looking at white PA, VA and NC."


What effect will the Democratic national convention have on the election?

• "The choice for clear-minded Republicans now is Clinton or the Libertarians."

• "Inspire and solidify the base — lots of doors to be knocked on."

• "Unless the WikiLeaks spoil the party and leave Sanders supporters upset yet again."

• "The Democrats will expand the electorate, but have lost control of their base. Ditto for the Republicans."

• "Nobody cares about either convention. And with the Dem email shenanigans, fewer still will care."


Which veep candidate helps his ticket more?

• "Weld is a 'grownup in the room.' If you see the Johnson/Weld YouTube ad, you find yourself saying, 'Hmmm, maybe I better re-think this'; whether you're a D or R. I'm sending the ad to all my R friends who say they can't vote for Trump."

• "Pence had his inner 'I could have been a contender!' moment during the 60 Minutes interview. Now nothing but a lap dog. Or a servile puppy dog as Ted would say."

• "Kaine's liberalism is not trustworthy for the die-hards. Not sure if this helps or hurts Hillary."

• "Both veep candidates are good choices, considering the weaknesses of the presidential nominees. Of the two, Pence probably helps Trump more, because Trump is so weak on experience and on conservative bona fides."

• "Clinching Virginia is pretty significant as it requires Trump to win both OH & FL to have a path to 270 EVs."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Clyde Alexander, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Andrew Biar, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Elna Christopher, Kevin Cooper, Randy Cubriel, Beth Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, Glenn Deshields, Tom Duffy, Tom Forbes, Neftali Garcia, Bruce Gibson, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Susan Hays, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Dale Laine, Pete Laney, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Myra Leo, Ruben Longoria, Matt Mackowiak, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Todd Olsen, Gardner Pate, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Kim Ross, Grant Ruckel, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Christopher Shields, Ed Small, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Colin Strother, Sherry Sylvester, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Corbin Van Arsdale, Ware Wendell, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Michael Williams, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Monday, Aug. 1

  • Sixth annual It's Time Texas Summit, featuring keynote speaker former state Comptroller Susan Combs; Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, 200 E. Market St., San Antonio (Aug. 1-2)

Thursday, Aug. 4

  • Summer Shrimp Boil, benefiting MAP of Texas; Galvan House Courtyard, Heritage Park, 1581 N. Chaparral St., Corpus Christi (5-7 p.m.)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Seeking to bolster their chronically sparse representation on the state's highest courts, seven Latino voters are suing Texas to challenge the state's longtime method of electing judges statewide.

Almost 7,000 individuals in Texas have died in police custody or behind bars over the past 10 years, according to an online report released Wednesday by a University of Texas at Austin research institute. Nearly 2,000 of them had not been convicted of a crime.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston rallied fellow Democrats against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, calling him a "man of fear" in a speech to the Democratic National Convention.

A special panel recommending changes to the state’s public school testing and accountability system has stopped short of proposing that Texas scrap the controversial assessment regime known as STAAR.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday morning used a thank-you speech to Texas delegates to sound the alarm about the Republican foe his party's nominee now faces: Donald Trump.

Texas health officials are revising a controversial booklet that doctors are required to give to women seeking abortions. Some medical experts say the new version contains even more misinformation than the old one.

Two women with Texas ties — one the daughter of a legend, the other a mother who lost her child in a Texas jail —pressed the case for Hillary Clinton's presidency at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday evening.

Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office assisted with a federal probe involving a major donor who gave the indicted Paxton a $100,000 gift last year to offset his growing legal bill.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro seemed to offer more definitive language than usual about a possible 2018 run for U.S. Senate during an interview with CBS News on Thursday.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Greg Abbott has named four people to the State Board For Educator Certification, who will serve until February 2021: Rohanna Brooks-Sykes of Spring, Arturo J. “Art” Cavazos of Harlingen, Sandie Mullins Moger of Houston and Laurie J. Turner of Corpus Christi.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus named financial analyst Jeanie Wyatt of San Antonio, the CEO of South Texas Money Management, to the state Employees Retirement System's board of trustees. The board runs retirement trust fund investments and the administration of benefits to state employees, as well as dependents and retirees.

The University of Texas at Austin has named a new vice president for university development — Scott Rabenold, an administrator at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He starts on Sept. 1.

Annie's List, which supports “progressive, pro-choice women” seeking legislative office in Texas, has endorsed Harris County Board of Education Trustee Erica Lee Carter to replace Borris Miles in Houston's House District 146. Democrats recently tapped Miles to succeed Rodney Ellis in Senate District 13. They expect to choose a nominee to replace Miles in the House next month. Carter, a former teacher, is the daughter of U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston.

Lucy Nashed, former Gov. Rick Perry's press secretary, is joining the tort reform advocacy group, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, as its communications director. She was also the communications director for Perry's 2015 presidential campaign. Her first day is Aug. 1.

Zeph Capo, the president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, has been elected to serve as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. Elected at the union's convention in Minneapolis last week, Capo will serve a two-year term on the organization's executive council as one of 43 elected vice presidents.

Attorneys Andy Taylor and George Hittner announced Thursday that they are teaming up to found a new firm, TaylorHittner. Taylor is a former first assistant attorney general under John Cornyn and later helped defend the state’s congressional map which was redrawn in 2003. He also was involved in the recent effort to repeal Houston’s HERO ordinance. Hittner has previous experience as general counsel and at the U.S. Department of Labor.

Disclosure: South Texas Money Management and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Quotes of the Week

Hillary knows that when a young black life is cut short, it’s not just a personal loss. It is a national loss. It is a loss that diminishes all of us.

Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, talking about her daughter at the Democratic National Convention

I'm from a small town in South Texas. And if you know your history, Texas used to be part of Mexico. Now, I'm ninth generation American. My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.

Eva Longoria, an actress and Corpus Christi native, giving a Texas perspective to the Democratic convention

In the years to come there will be a Latino or Latina president. I believe that’s going to happen in due time. I hope to be alive to see it, and I’m very confident that my kids will.

U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro talking to the Washington Post after being passed over for the veep slot on the Democratic presidential ticket

I can almost hear Mom saying, 'Well, it sure took y’all long enough.'

Cecile Richards, telling the Democratic convention what she thinks her mother, former Gov. Ann Richards, would say about the nomination of Hillary Clinton for president