Texas Weekly's New Chapter

When Sam Kinch Jr., George Phenix and John Rogers started Texas Weekly in 1984, they were thinking political people in the state needed a regular dose of the kind of insider news they’d get if they were at the right lunch tables in Austin every single day of the week.

It worked. Sure, you could be a wise and well-connected person, pretty much up to speed and pretty much at the right tables all the time, but there was still something in every issue that had escaped your attention.

Not knowing stuff is the worst, right? Texas Weekly was addictive.

By the time Kinch sold his interest to me in 1998, Rogers had passed away. Phenix, an old political and journalism hand I had known only in passing, remained half-owner. George and I got along fine, irritating each other just enough to keep things interesting, liking each other enough to make it a fun ride.

One big turn was taking that six-page paper newsletter online, ending a great relationship with our printer, Bob Thomas, and a thorny relationship with the bulk mail umpires at the United States Postal Service. George sold me his half, retired, and ran off with his sweetheart to a quiet spot in the East where they make their own wine. Really.

Texas Weekly, as you know, came along with me as a part of The Texas Tribune when we began in 2009, and now it’s time for another big turn. The last issue of Texas Weekly, as it's been compiled and distributed in recent years, hits inboxes next week.

The Weekly has moved faster than its name for years now. Even before the birth of the Tribune, it had daily news clips and regular updates on news between the issues that sprouted online every Friday morning. More recently, The Blast — the daily afternoon newsletter by TW Editor John Reynolds and others on our political team — has met the need for a sped-up insiders’ fix on what’s happening in Texas government and politics.

John is doing today what Sam and George and John were doing at the outset, and what I tried to do in between: to keep you up to date on what’s going on in the political world in an entertaining, nonpartisan way — the way you’d get it if you had lunch with a political friend in Austin every day.

So now it’s got a new name that reflects its frequency. It lands in your email, so you don’t have to mess with passwords. It’s daily. It still has the boldface names and the political news you’ve counted on for years.

Stick with us. It’ll be a hoot.

Wendy Davis Tamps Down Expectations on U.S. Senate Run

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.

Wendy Davis, the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor, sought late last week to tamp down on speculation that she is interested in running for U.S. Senate.

"I am not looking seriously at running for the Senate in 2018," Davis said on a conference call last Friday with reporters hosted by the Democratic National Committee.

In response to a question about her political ambitions, the former state senator from Fort Worth first said she wanted to "correct the record a bit" in light of comments she made last month at the Texas Tribune Festival. There, she suggested that voter turnout in November would be a factor in her decision of whether to take on U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.

On Friday, she made clear she's not seriously considering a challenge to Cruz — but still emphasized the need for potential Democratic candidates to pay attention to turnout trends in solidly red Texas.

"I do think anyone that is looking at the potential of running statewide in Texas in ’18 or in the years to come is certainly going to be interested in seeing what kind of voter turnout we have here and our opportunity of course to capture that data and to speak to voters that we may not have discovered before," Davis said.


Pete Gallego is out with a new anti-Washington TV ad in his rematch with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio.

"From here, it's easy to see that Washington doesn't work," Gallego, an Alpine Democrat, says in the 30-second spot released late last week. "That's why one of my first bills in Congress was to slash the pay of both parties if they couldn't work together to pass a budget."

Gallego, who served in Congress until Hurd unseated him in 2014, goes on to promise to "work across the aisle to increase the minimum wage, pass paid family leave and equal pay for equal work." Released last Friday, the commercial is titled "Getting Things Done."

In their campaigns, both Hurd and Gallego have taken steps to distance themselves from dysfunction and gridlock in the nation's capital. One of Hurd's main pitches to voters is how unusually productive he has been in his first term in Washington.


Meanwhile, another ad released this week attacks Gallego as a political insider due to his support from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Released Tuesday, the 30-second spot from the National Republican Congressional Committee shows Pelosi — a "San Francisco liberal" — talking about how she is "fully invested" in Gallego's bid to win back the CD-23 seat from Hurd.

"Pelosi wants Gallego back in Washington. She's a fan," a narrator says in the commercial. "Why? Because Gallego is the insider's insider, career politician, went and lobbied after you fired him from Congress."

The spot is the latest effort by national Republicans to make hay out of Gallego's lobbying activities after he left Congress in 2014. In response to a previous NRCC ad raising the issue, Gallego's campaign said he "has not worked in Washington since he left office" but did not deny that he has lobbied.

Abbott Lays Out Goals on School Choice, Abortion Restrictions

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks to a large crowd of state leaders at the Texas Education & Workforce Summit Sept. 19, 2016 at the AT&T Center.
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks to a large crowd of state leaders at the Texas Education & Workforce Summit Sept. 19, 2016 at the AT&T Center.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday called for the expansion of Texas' charter school system to ensure that 60 percent of young adults will have a two- or four-year college or university certificate by 2030.

That 2030 objective is the heart of a state plan known as "60x30," and at the Texas Charter Schools Association conference in Austin, Abbott praised charters for their contributions toward that goal.

"Texas will be the home of intellectual capital and you will have laid the pathway for that," Abbott said. "The beginning of laying that pathway does not begin in higher education and does not begin in high school. It begins from early education."

Abbott also called for the eradication of waiting lists in charter schoolswhich he called a "civil rights issue," arguing that all children in the state should have the right to attend the school of their choice.

"It's your tax dollars, they are your kids. It should be your choice where you send your kids to school in the state of Texas," Abbott said.

At a dinner later on Wednesday in Austin for the anti-abortion group Texas Alliance for Life, Abbott hailed measures passed last session as a "good start" on restricting the practice in Texas. However, he added, "there's a lot more that we need to do next session."

The governor went on to tout his LIFE Initiative, which he unveiled last year in response to undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of fetal tissue for research. Among other things, the initiative aims to outlaw "the sale or transfer" of fetal tissue in Texas.


Abbott on Thursday morning tapped Dallas lawyer Chad Craycraft and former state District Judge Katie Kennedy to serve on the Texas Ethics Commission. They replace Bob Long, whose term expired in 2015, and Tom Harrison, whose term was up in 2011.

Harrison resigned earlier this year amid pressure by groups like Empower Texans — which has long tangled with the commission — over members staying on the commission after their terms have expired. Last month, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus appointed former Rep. Steve Wolens to the eight-member panel, replacing another holdover, Paul Hobby.

After Abbott's appointments Thursday, one holdover remains on the panel: Wilhelmina Delco, whose term expired in 2015. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is responsible for picking Delco's replacement.


This weekend marks an important date for football fans around these parts: the resumption Saturday of hostilities between the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma on a football field in Dallas.

But for many politicos around Austin, the game serves more as a tie-in and encore to a lollapalooza of fundraisers set to happen the day before.

As of late this week, Texas Weekly had received notice of 14 fundraising receptions scheduled for Friday at various locations in Dallas ahead of Saturday’s game — kicking off at 8:30 a.m. (!) with a pancake breakfast for Dallas state Reps. Cindy Burkett and Kenneth Sheets and running all day through a 5 p.m. fundraiser for Flower Mound state Sen. Jane Nelson.

Two more fundraisers are scheduled for Thursday. Our advice if you’re headed to Dallas? Stay hydrated and pace yourself. It’s going to be a long day.

A full listing of those Friday fundraisers is in today’s Texas Weekly calendar.

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

Inside Intelligence: About Those Presidential Debates...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about the debates between the candidates for president and vice president.

We began by quizzing our insiders on the winners and losers in the first presidential debate. On this one, the insiders were in remarkable agreement. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was seen as the one most helped by the first debate by nearly four in five of the insiders.

Even more remarkable, not a single person concluded that Republican candidate Donald Trump was most helped by the first debate.

Another 2 percent concluded that both candidates were equally helped and 19 percent thought neither candidates reaped benefits from their first televised encounter.

We then asked who was hurt the most by the first debate. On this one, 85 percent said Trump was hurt the most while just 2 percent chose Clinton. Another 4 percent said they were equally hurt but 10 percent said neither one was particularly damaged.

With that said, more than half thought the debates this year move the needle with the electorate with a little more than third saying that the debates won't have a measurable effect.

We closed with a question about the vice-presidential debate held earlier this week. We asked what's the purpose this debate, whether it be the nominees for veep showcasing their qualifications, attacking the opposing ticket or supporting their ticket. Responses were more or less evenly split among all options with the most popular choice being this: Who are these guys anyway?

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


Who was helped the most by the first debate?

• "Independent conservatives were looking for an opportunity to give Trump a chance and he screwed up in a YUGE way."

• "Didn't watch. So over this election."

• "I think Hillary's uptick this past week was due more to Trump and Ms. Machado's back and forth than Trump's horrific debate performance."

• "Trump good for a half-hour and then followed every rabbit trail Lester Holt and Hillary threw at him. Critical issues facing the nation, who cares!"

• "Trump was terrible but apparently only lost a point in RCP."


Who was hurt the most by the first debate?

• "Trump failed to prepare, lost numerous opportunities to exploit Clinton weaknesses."

• "Trump has his base and they will never falter. However, the purpose was to increase his popularity and he failed."

• "We, the people, were most hurt. We're damned if we do, and damned if we don't."

• "Someone who's not an establishment Republican may see it differently. Call me old school — guilty."

• "He was hurt only modestly in the debate but responded with more goofiness. He needs to play error free ball to win from here."


Based on what you know now, do the debates this year move the needle with the electorate?

• "I just don't know anymore. I'm struggling to understand this whole election without using something useless like rationalization. Ping me when it's over, I'll be the one helping House friends in Dallas County."

• "Everyone I know is resolute in their hatred for one, the other, or both. I suppose if Trump really steps in it, it could move him backwards, but I've been saying that for over a year. Hillary probably won't mess up."

• "This election cycle has been different in every way imaginable and unimaginable. With a few weeks left, everything moves the needle, including the debates."

• "So many undecideds — if polls suggest 9 percent undecided, this could equal unmotivated to vote. Debates represent last real good opportunities to move the needle."

• "Trump's base (over 50, white, undereducated men) support him more passionately, while everyone else is either moving to Clinton, Johnson/Weld, not voting, or moving to Canada."


What's the main purpose of this week's vice presidential debate?

• "Both veep candidates got in good shots on the opposition. Kaine actually put more fire on the target, but he did it in an obnoxious manner."

• "Expand on their ticket's policy initiatives... except Trump/Pence ticket has no policy initiatives, so in Pence's case, making the case for why he accepted Trump's invitation to be on the ticket so he can salvage some sort of exit plan for himself..."

• "I know a few people who have said their decision will hinge on this, but I don't believe it."

• "Hey, we got two almost 70-year-olds with questionable health. No. 2 could easily become President."

• "None of the above. It has no real purpose. Who started these stupid VP debates anyway?"

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Brandon Alderete, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Blaine Bull, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Marc Campos, Elna Christopher, Harold Cook, Kevin Cooper, Randy Cubriel, Beth Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, June Deadrick, Tom Duffy, Richard Dyer, Jack Erskine, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Tom Forbes, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Kathy Hutto, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Myra Leo, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Jason McElvaney, Steve Minick, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Nelson Nease, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, A.J. Rodriguez, Grant Ruckel, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Nancy Sims, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Sherry Sylvester, Sara Tays, Vicki Truitt, Chris Wallace, Ware Wendell, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Michael Williams, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Friday, Oct. 7

  • Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) Annual Membership Meeting; Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol, 701 E. 11th St., Austin (8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • Annie’s List San Antonio Luncheon featuring Abby Wambach; Marriott Riverwalk, 889 E. Market St., San Antonio (12-1:15 p.m.)
  • LBB Criminal Justice Forum - February 2015 Recidivism and Uniform Cost; Robert E. Johnson Conference Center, 1501 N. Congress Ave., Austin (1:30-3 p.m.)

TX/OU Fundraising Receptions

  • Pancake Breakfast Reception honoring state Reps. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, and Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas; The Warwick Melrose Hotel, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (8:30-10 a.m.)
  • Brunch Reception honoring state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills; Warwick Melrose Hotel, Library Bar, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.)
  • State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, Birthday Fundraiser; Mattito's Tex-Mex, 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, fundraiser; Mattito's Tex-Mex, 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (12-4 p.m.)
  • State Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, fundraiser; Steel Restaurant, 3180 Welborn St., Dallas (2-5 p.m.)
  • State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, fundraiser; Scardello's, 3511 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (2-4 p.m.)
  • State Reps. Four Price, R-Amarillo, and John Kuempel, R-Seguin, fundraiser; Warwick Melrose Hotel, Landmark Room, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (3:30-5:30 p.m.)
  • State Sens. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and Republican SD-24 candidate Dawn Buckingham fundraiser; Warwick Melrose Hotel, Terrace Room, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (4-6 p.m.)
  • State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, fundraiser; Mattito's Tex-Mex, 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (4-6 p.m.)
  • State Reps. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, Linda Koop, R-Dallas, and Republican HD-33 candidate Justin Holland fundraiser; Warwick Melrose Hotel, Bridewell Room, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (4-5:30 p.m.)
  • State Reps. Oscar Longoria, D-Mission, John Raney, R-College Station, and John Wray, R-Waxahachie, fundraiser; 3800 Stratford Ave., Dallas (4:30-6:30 p.m.)
  • State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, fundraiser; Warwick Melrose Hotel, Suite 219, 3015 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas (4:30-6:30 p.m.)
  • State Reps. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, and Republican HD-64 candidate Lynn Stucky fundraiser with special guest Speaker Joe Straus; 3 Willowood, Dallas (4:30-6 p.m.)
  • State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, fundraiser; Circle R Ranch, 5901 Cross Timbers Road, Flower Mound (5-7 p.m.)

Saturday, Oct. 8

  • Senate Hispanic Caucus Latina/o Summit; Texas Tech University Museum, Helen DeVitt Jones Auditorium, 3301 Fourth St., Lubbock (8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.)

Sunday, Oct. 9

  • Annual Conference for Middle Level Education; Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St., Austin (Oct. 9-12)
  • Democratic HD-117 candidate Philip Cortez "Welcome Home" celebration and reception; Taqueria Mexico, 7167 Somerset Road, San Antonio (6:30-7:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, Oct. 11

  • Last day to register to vote for Nov. 8 general elections
  • 30-day campaign finance reports due

Wednesday, Oct. 12

  • Texas Public Policy Foundation presents "Economic Development: A Debate on Corporate Welfare in Texas"; 901 Congress Ave., Austin (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • Texas Politics Speaker Series — A Conversation with Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar; Dorothy L. Gebauer Building (GEB), Dean's Conference Room 3.312, 116 Inner Campus Drive, Austin (3 p.m.)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

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In the state's most competitive congressional race, Democratic CD-23 challenger Pete Gallego pushed back Thursday on claims that he became a lobbyist after losing the seat to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is jumping into the fray over a controversial Austin ordinance that regulates short-term home rentals made popular by websites like Airbnb and HomeAway. He is asking a Travis County district judge for permission to intervene in the suit homeowners already filed against the city.

After vowing six months ago to reach a consensus on a plan to protect the Houston Ship Channel's oil refineries and chemical plants from a direct-hit hurricane, the region's scientists said Wednesday they aren't there yet — and won't be until next year at the earliest.

A Texas senator on Wednesday called Texas Ethics Commission members “arrogant” and “haughty,” during a hearing that comes came amid a battle between the commission and conservative groups, particularly those that are set up under a part of the tax code that does not require them to disclose their donors.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and Austin Police Department will begin including information about how drivers can file complaints against officers on the citations they issue, one quick result from ongoing legislative efforts to improve relations between police and communities.

On any given day in the past six months, nearly a thousand of Texas' "highest-priority" children — considered by the state to be at immediate risk of physical or sexual abuse — were not checked on even once by Child Protective Services investigators. The numbers, publicly released on Tuesday, paint a disturbing picture of the Texas child welfare system as it buckles under a funding crisis.

Disclosure: HomeAway 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

Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday morning endorsed Pete Gallego in his campaign to reclaim the CD-23 seat. Biden wasn’t the only high-profile national Democrat this week to support Gallego’s challenge to freshman Republican Will Hurd. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer visited San Antonio on Thursday to boost Gallego’s bid.

Republican HD-126 candidate Kevin Roberts announced on Tuesday his endorsement by the political arm of the Texas Association of Business. He is running to succeed state Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, who opted not to run for re-election this year.

Miranda Goodsheller has departed the office of state Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, for a job as governmental affairs manager at the Texas Association of Business. Goodsheller was chief of staff for Crownover, who is not running for re-election this year.

Price Ashley has joined the consulting firm Imperium Public Affairs. He previously worked in the public and regulatory practice group at Winstead PC and as legislative coordinator for the Texas Association of Manufacturers.

Students for Concealed Carry announced that Brian Bensimon, who previously served as SCC director for the state of Texas, has been named the organization’s new Southwest regional director. Outgoing regional director Antonia Okafor assisted with the lead-up and implementation of SB 11, otherwise known as “campus carry,” at Texas universities.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has named state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, the vice chair of the organization’s Labor and Economic Development Committee.

Ed Archuleta, who is largely responsible for the placement of a water desalination plant in El Paso, was given the Texas Desalination Pioneer Award by the Texas Desalination Association at its annual conference in Austin last week. Currently the director of water initiatives at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Archuleta previously served as president and CEO of El Paso Water Utilities.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at El Paso, Texas Association of Business, the Texas Desalination Association and Patricia and Sam Harless have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Quotes of the Week

Not seeing kids who may be child abuse victims is not acceptable. That's our job and we have to be better.

Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins on new figures that show close to a thousand children at immediate risk of abuse are not being seen by an investigator

Y’all are going to have to decide whether you want these laws enforced or not. There’s enough liars in politics that we ought to know who’s telling the lies.

Attorney Steve Bresnen, at a Texas Ethics Commission hearing Wednesday where he encouraged lawmakers to pass legislation strengthening the state's ethics laws

We've got to come together. We're our biggest detriment to getting this done. We need to have a plan.

State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, on the inability of the state so far to come up with a consensus approach to better protecting the coast against a catastrophic tropical storm

Texas women like people to give it as it is. He's a bottom-line guy, and that's why I think they're good with him.

Republican National Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell on Donald Trump's popularity with some Texas women

Obviously the man has a problem with women — self-respecting women, anyway. How am I going to look my daughter in the face and say, 'Yeah, sure, that's OK'?

Conservative activist Toby Marie Walker on Trump's problems in winning over some Texas women