Gallego Fires Back on "Lazy" Comments in CD-23 Race

Former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (left) was ousted by Republican Will Hurd, right, in the 2014 CD-23 contest.
Former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (left) was ousted by Republican Will Hurd, right, in the 2014 CD-23 contest.

Former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, fired back hard on Monday at a national Republican leader who recently called him “a little bit lazy” late last week.

Gallego’s camp did not respond in real time, citing a focus that day on a shooting at his hometown high school. But on Monday, Gallego fired back in a lengthy statement, calling the comment “racist rhetoric.”

During a Sept. 8 news conference in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the House Republican campaign arm, took aim at Gallego’s efforts so far to recapture the Texas 23rd District for Democrats.

"Pete Gallego is not exactly the most aggressive campaigner,” Walden said. “I mean he’s got a rap of being a little bit lazy. It’s not just me. That’s what I pick up from people."

“Nearly every Mexican American from my generation has at some point been called a 'lazy Mexican,’” Gallego wrote. “It was the epithet we grew up with. Latinos in my generation know exactly what Greg Walden was saying.”

Gallego is running against U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, in the state’s only competitive federal race, the campaign to represent Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, which sprawls across large stretches of West Texas.

“While I'm always offended by racist comments, I'm glad to be on Mr. Walden's mind,” Gallego added. “I learned in elementary school that no one tries to tackle you unless they think you have the ball.”

“On November 8th, voters in TX-23 will show Will Hurd, Greg Walden, and Donald Trump what they think of racist commentary,” he continued. “And, until then, Chairman Walden has a standing invitation to come to the 23rd and call me 'lazy' to my face.”

The House GOP campaign arm subsequently fired back at Gallego.

“Pete Gallego wants to paint the Republican Party as racists while pointing to Trump but it was just a few weeks ago when Gallego was claiming there would be Trump/Gallego voters," NRCC spokeswoman Katie Martin wrote in an email. "So is Pete now saying the majority of the voters in this Republican leaning district are racists?”


Gov. Greg Abbott is hitting the campaign trail for Hurd.

Abbott will volunteer and knock on doors for the vulnerable incumbent Saturday in the Alamo City, Hurd's campaign said in an email Monday to supporters. The campaign said Abbott's presence "shows the dedication the local and state leaders have to help us maintain this seat."

Abbott has been keeping a relatively low profile since he was severely burned during a family vacation earlier this year. Hurd is the first candidate Abbott is stumping for since the governor's brief stint as a surrogate for Ted Cruz before the Lone Star State's March 1 presidential primary.


The television air war in the CD-23 contest is intensifying as well.

A GOP super PAC called the Congressional Leadership Fund announced Tuesday that it would spend an additional $900,000 on television advertising to back Hurd. CLF is spending $1.7 million to re-elect the freshman congressman.

Republican groups — the NRCC, the CLF and the Hurd campaign — have reserved far more television time than Democratic groups. According to a source tracking media buys, Republicans have $700,000 more in television advertising reserved through Election Day than the Democratic coalition of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Majority PAC (a Democratic super PAC) and the Gallego campaign.

The Texas 23rd is a sprawling district with media markets that are relatively inexpensive when compared to other House races that feature competitive Senate, gubernatorial and presidential contests. These are large sums, but the bang for the buck is bigger in southwest Texas — meaning television airwaves are saturated with these Congressional ads.


A pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC is re-airing claims that then-Attorney General Greg Abbott nixed a lawsuit in 2010 against Trump University, the beleaguered school affiliated with the current GOP presidential nominee.

The super PAC, Correct the Record, released a video Wednesday featuring John Owens, the former Abbott staffer who went public earlier this year with his concerns that Abbott gave Donald Trump special treatment by passing on legal action against the school.

In the video, which clocks in at five-and-a-half minutes, Owens reiterates to the camera much of his initial account, saying his division in the attorney general's office built a multimillion-dollar case against Trump U., but Abbott vetoed it due to the school's famous namesake.

Three years later, Trump gave a total of $35,000 to Abbott's gubernatorial campaign. Those donations are receiving fresh scrutiny as Democrats zero in on another attorney general who decided not to go after Trump U. — Florida's Pam Bondi. There are, however, significant differences between the two state's approaches to Trump U.

Abbott's office fired back at the super PAC video, insisting that he was never involved in deciding whether to prosecute Trump U. When Owens first made the claims, his boss at the time of the Trump U. probe, David Morales, issued a statement saying it was his decision not to pursue charges against the school because it had already left Texas.

"Hillary Clinton has lied about her emails, she has lied about Benghazi, she has lied about her health and now she is lying about Greg Abbott," Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a statement Wednesday.

Cruz Gives $100K to Senate Incumbent Protection Efforts

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., to consider five nominees to fill vacancies on federal courts in Texas. The hearing was Sept. 7, 2016.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., to consider five nominees to fill vacancies on federal courts in Texas. The hearing was Sept. 7, 2016.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has agreed to give $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee to help protect the GOP majority in the upper chamber.

An aide confirmed Tuesday that Cruz planned to tap his Senate campaign coffers to bolster the NRSC's efforts to help endangered incumbents. The agreement was first reported by Politico.

Cruz has had a rocky relationship with Senate colleagues since arriving in Washington, and his refusal to endorse GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has only created more tension. In 2014, Cruz sought to build bridges with Senate Republicans by promising $250,000 for the NRSC, of which he served as a co-chair at the time.

The $100,000 appears to be a fraction of the money in Cruz's Senate campaign account, which in July received a $2.9 million infusion of leftover funds from his presidential campaign. Before that, Cruz's Senate coffers had a balance of only about $400,000.


Deer Park attorney Briscoe Cain, who defeated incumbent state Rep. Wayne Smith in a party primary runoff in May and is now the Republican nominee in HD-128, is assisting Texans for Vaccine Choice in its fight against flu vaccination campaigns in 14 school districts in Central Texas and Fort Bend County.

In a letter sent to the school districts’ superintendents, Cain alleges on behalf of his clients that the language in the consent forms and aspects of the vaccine program itself are coercive and discriminatory.

For instance, he points to a “Healthy Hero wristband” given to children receiving vaccines, saying such a reward “will publicly expose their children and other children who do not receive vaccinations to criticism and humiliation by their peers and school employees.”

He demands that the districts stop the flu vaccine program until changes can be made to the consent forms and the program.
Cain hasn’t drawn a major party opponent for the fall election and is heavily favored to win the Republican-leaning HD-128.


Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday afternoon reiterated his call for more respect for members of the law enforcement community, especially following the deadly police shooting earlier this year in Dallas.

"Respect for our law enforcement officers must be restored in the United States of America," Abbott said at a Capitol ceremony honoring fallen officers. "They stand in front of us to protect us from all that threatens us. We must join together and have their backs.”

Abbott went on to urge Texans to "rise and say, 'No more. No more will we tolerate disrespect for those who serve. No more will we allow hate merchants to try to rip us apart."

Abbott also recognized the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which was on Sunday. He tied the attacks to the Dallas shooting in July, when a gunman opened fire at a protest, killing five police officers and wounding seven others.

"We were tested by evil again just two months ago in Dallas, Texas," Abbott said. “Although anguish and sorrow darkened in the days that followed, the people of Texas came together to heal the hurt — first with prayer, then with action."

Abbott was speaking at a ceremony for the Star of Texas awards, which honors those who were seriously injured or killed in the line of duty. The ceremony was one of a growing number of public appearances Abbott has made in recent days since he was severely burned during a family vacation in July, an incident that sidelined him for weeks.


The biggest business lobby in Texas, which has a history of supporting Republicans, is declining so far to make an endorsement in the presidential race.

The Business and Commerce PAC, the political arm of the Texas Association of Business, did not include the race on a list of endorsements it released last Friday for the Nov. 8 general election. "Races not listed were not endorsed," the PAC said in a news release.

In the 2012 presidential election, the group supported Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

This time around, GOP nominee and billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump is putting off some members of his party, including in the business community, due to his unorthodox positions on economic issues including trade.


For the seventh straight year, has been recognized as a top 10 finalist for the Best of the Web award.

The website features Texas' digital government program where users can utilize more than 1,000 online services. Some of which include the ability to renew their driver’s license, vehicle registration, order a birth certificate, and complete a professional license application or renewal. 

New features on this year's portal include the ability for users to select a visual design theme, a dedicated Open Data section, which provides related information and access to the State’s Open Data Portal, and a content aggregation tool.

Inside Intelligence: About That Voter Turnout in Texas...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about voter turnout in Texas and what can be done to improve it.

Voter participation in Texas ranks in the lower tier of states, a situation that prompted Texas' secretary of state, Carlos Cascos, to say earlier this month that turnout figures in the state "should embarrass everyone."

We began this week's survey by asking the insiders to assess that remark by the state's top elections official. Three-fourths of the insiders agreed with Cascos with another one in five saying they disagreed.

We followed by asking who would most bear the blame for low turnout figures. On that question, 44 percent said voters were most to blame with just 12 percent blaming lawmakers. Another 33 percent blamed both groups while 11 percent said neither were to blame for the situation.

We then quizzed the insiders on what options would be most effective at boosting voter turnout. The most popular response was removing the responsibility of redistricting from lawmakers, cited by 47 percent of the insiders. That was followed by making voter registration easier and having better candidates, each cited by 42 percent.

Another 38 percent said expanding early voting options would help boost turnout. Getting rid of voter ID was the least popular option for increasing turnout, named by 27 percent of the insiders.

Finally, we asked whether the Legislature would act to encourage greater turnout, turning to the venerable Magic 8 Ball to supply the options. The insiders were mostly in agreement here with 82 percent saying, "My sources say no." That was followed by 6 percent saying, "Ask again later," and 2 percent saying, "Signs point to yes."

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


Secretary of State Carlos Cascos recently said voter turnout in Texas "should embarrass everyone." Is he right?

• "And he and the state should be more embarrassed at their campaign to attract voters."

• "The only people who are embarrassed about low voter turnout in Texas are the Democrats and their allies in the media. Nobody else thinks this is a problem. Few places are easier to vote than Texas. We have two weeks of early voting and voting on Saturdays. Voter registration is reasonably high. But in the end, people have the right not to vote — unlike some countries where voting is mandatory."

• "A choice to not vote is also a choice. I think it says more about the candidates than the electorate. In fact, I've been pondering that very option in relation to the upcoming presidential election."

• "Maybe. We know how many are registered, but do we know how many intended to vote when they did register? Put another way, are folks voting in the same proportion as those who paid attention vs. passed notes or slept during high school civics class?"

• "Depends on your priorities. If you think civic engagement is important, then yes — everyone should be embarrassed. Most Texans, however, are more embarrassed by the Dallas Cowboys."


Who's most to blame for low voter participation in Texas?

• "Only the people who don't vote. The only way we'll have better choices in the general election is for greater participation in the primary process... oops, that yielded Trump and Hillary. Perhaps low turnout is not so bad."

• "Packed and cracked districts means little competition outside a few how far to the right can I go without falling off the edge of the earth contests, which in turn suppresses moderates and voters who can read without moving their lips."

• "When your state is doing better than most every other state on most things, there is no motivation to 'throw the bums out.' If people wanted to change things, they would get out and vote for it. It is a little known fact inside the Austin bubble, but the majority of Texans, in both political parties, generally agree with the policies the state leaders and legislators put forward."

• "The Legislature has created impediments to voting. We also have many citizens not eligible to vote. Further, even those who are qualified become confused in the registration process and in casting their ballots. We need to make it easier to participate in democracy, not more challenging."

• "There are plenty ways to vote, my own spouse forgets to vote when the kids dominate life."


What are the best options for improving turnout?

• "Increased voter turnout is but one byproduct of taking redistricting out of legislators' hands. The other is a more civil, working body to get things done. When only eight to 10 House seats and zero of 16 senate seats are competitive in elections, there is no interest by lawmakers to fight for the middle. Sixty percent-plus R and D districts are not helpful to election turnout or lawmaking."

• "Turnout doesn't need to be encouraged. It is itself a valuable metric of governing effectiveness and should be viewed as such."

• "Term limits that result in having people still motivated to change things rather than career politicians who went from eager, sleeves rolled up, and bright-eyed to trying to maximize retirement benefit calculations."

• "I frankly think fixing redistricting is the single most important thing we could do to improve politics and government in the state and country. The overwhelming number of 'safe' gerrymandered districts is pathetic and obstructs real democracy. I also am a realist. I understand we can never expect the Legislature to write themselves out of this potentially existential function. It is a real dilemma."

• "Free Whataburger with each 'I Voted' sticker"


What are the odds the Legislature acts next year to encourage greater voter turnout?

• "Turnout is the No. 1 fear of Republican lawmakers. I expect that they will continue to push for more, not fewer, restrictions."

• "Legislators encourage voters to turnout all the time — they have knocked on thousands and thousands of doors all over Texas this past year. They spend millions on mail, television and radio ads — they speak to people every night of the week begging them to vote. They call them on the phone and they get robots to call them too. The notion that there is some conspiracy among Texas leaders and legislators to hold down voter turnout is just nuts."

• "It is NOT the responsibility of the Legislature to encourage people to vote. Like eating, it is the individual's responsibility."

• "Trump expedited the demise of Texas Republicans by a decade. Voter suppression is all they have left."

• "This question is dumb. People don't vote because our culture is narcissistic, lazy and prefers crap like 'Dancing With the Stars' and 'Housewives.' Let's create a high quality K-12 education system that teaches civics not liberal social engineering crap. Then maybe we will see change."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Clyde Alexander, Jay Arnold, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Lydia Camarillo, Elna Christopher, Randy Cubriel, Beth Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, June Deadrick, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Jack Erskine, Jon Fisher, Tom Forbes, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Eric Glenn, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, Thomas Graham, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Susan Hays, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Dale Laine, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Jason McElvaney, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Nelson Nease, Todd Olsen, Gardner Pate, Jerod Patterson, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, A.J. Rodriguez, Kim Ross, Grant Ruckel, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Nancy Sims, Ed Small, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Tom Spilman, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Trey Trainor, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Michael Williams, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Saturday, Sept. 17

  • 7th Annual Save Texas History Symposium: The Alamo, Keystone of Texas History: Past, Present and Future; The Menger Hotel, 204 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio (8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
  • State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, Birthday Bash Picnic Fundraiser; Rockin R River Rides, 1405 Gruene Road, New Braunfels (11 a.m.-2 p.m.)
  • Texas Democratic Party annual Johnson-Jordan Dinner, featuring keynote speaker former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley; JW Marriott Hotel, Lone Star Grand Ballroom, 110 E. Second St., Austin (7-9 p.m.)

Sunday, Sept. 18

  • Voting Rights in Texas and Beyond, presented by the League of Women Voters Austin Area; LBJ School of Public Affairs, 2300 Red River St., Austin (1-4 p.m.)

Monday, Sept. 19

  • Art of Leadership Reception honoring Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner; Esperson Gallery, Suite 131, 1201 Fannin St., Houston (5-7 p.m.)

Wednesday, Sept. 21

  • State Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, fundraiser; Austin Club, 110 E. Ninth St., Austin (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • Screening: Postcards From The Great Divide; KLRU's Studio 6A, 2504 Whitis Ave., Austin (7 p.m.)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The family of Sandra Bland — the woman who died last year in a Waller County Jail cell — has reached a settlement with Texas officials in a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer for the family said Thursday.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is stepping up his efforts to protect the GOP majority in the upper chamber, teaming up with colleague John Cornyn to raise money for a half dozen vulnerable incumbents.

Paying off most of the debt Texas has racked up building toll roads would cost about $36.7 billion, a final report from the Texas Department of Transportation revealed, a tall order for state lawmakers who would like to wean the state off tolled highways.

At a marathon hearing of the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, GOP senators debated how, not whether, to give Texas families taxpayer money to pay for private, religious or home schools.

A member of the Texas Ethics Commission is rejecting what he says was an effort by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to get him to resign. Hugh Akin, whose term on the commission does not expire until next year, says he received a call late last week from top Patrick staffers asking him to immediately step down.

One Texas official, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, has taken his frustration over athletes who choose to sit or take a knee during the national anthem to a new level — boycotting the NFL.

Rice University, SMU, Baylor University and Dallas Baptist University all climbed in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings this year. All of the state's top public universities fell.

Disclosure: Rice University and Southern Methodist University have been financial supporters 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 appointed Alejandro “Alex” Cestero of Houston and Scott Salmans of McGregor to the Judicial Compensation Commission for terms to expire Feb. 1, 2021. Abbott also reappointed Bill Strawn of Austin, who will continue to serve as the commission’s chairman, for a term to end Feb. 1, 2021. The commission recommends the proper salaries to be paid by the state for all justices and judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, Courts Of Appeals, and state district courts.

Texas Republicans have decided to hold their 2018 convention in San Antonio. The State Republican Executive Committee voted Saturday to stage their biannual gathering in the Alamo City. The committee heard presentations from Houston and San Antonio. Fort Worth has already been selected as the site of Texas Democrats' 2018 convention.

The Dallas Morning News endorsed on Thursday Mark Miller, the Libertarian candidate for Railroad Commissioner. The DMN is the second major metropolitan newspaper to endorse the third-party candidate in the race, following the Houston Chronicle, which endorsed Miller last week.

The Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin announced on Wednesday the hire of S. Gail Eckhardt as the first director of LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes. She additionally carries the title of associate dean of the medical school. Eckhardt previously led the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Colorado Denver’s Anshutz Medical Campus.

Deaths: Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Barbara Culver Clack, 90, who passed away over the weekend in Midland. She became the second woman to serve full time on the Court after being appointed to the bench in 1988 by then Gov. Bill Clements. She lost an election to keep the seat later in the year to Jack Hightower.

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

Quotes of the Week

I am going to refuse to attend or watch any more NFL games.

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, pledging on Facebook to forego watching games over protests by NFL players who are refusing to stand for the national anthem to protest racial injustice

Tolls are the most expensive option and must cease to be the most used option. This toll tsunami is on autopilot, and we must declare no more.

Terri Hall, head of Texans for Toll-Free Highways, at a legislative hearing this week mapping out how the state might go about pulling the plug on its toll roads

Your story is part of the American story. Everyone deserves to have their story told in a fair and accurate manner.

State Board of Education Chairwoman Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, speaking to the public at the outset of a hearing Tuesday on a controversial proposed Mexican-American studies textbook

Presidential debate ain't even in the class. Oh, man, come on, this is crazy good. This is as good as it gets.

Former Gov. Rick Perry, when asked after his inaugural routine on "Dancing With the Stars" how appearing on the show compared to the presidential debates