Say hello to The Blast

Today's issue of Texas Weekly marks the final one in its current format as a weekly electronic newsletter.

Beginning Monday, Texas Weekly becomes The Blast: a five-day-a-week subscription-only email for political insiders who want the behind-the-scenes scoop on what’s going on in the Capitol and on the campaign trail.

The features that have made Texas Weekly a must-read for political insiders at the Capitol — Inside Intelligence, the Calendar, Political People and Their Moves — aren't going anywhere. What's changing is the immediacy in how and when you get that timely, valuable information.

The Blast sends original reporting and those features you rely on directly to your email inbox five days a week. What sets this newsletter apart is its combination of timing and exclusivity — its news and information can be found deep in our reporters’ notebooks, and nowhere else.

We're excited to have this opportunity to continue delivering the valuable information you've relied on for more than 30 years but in a way that better fits the modern, up-to-the-second political news cycles.

We've set up an FAQ page with more information about this transition and, as always, feel free to contact me directly at if there's anything I can help you with.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to serving you in this new chapter of Texas Weekly's existence.

Gallego pushes for more debates in 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 (left) was ousted by Republican Will Hurd, right, in the 2014 CD-23 contest.

Democratic challenger Pete Gallego is ramping up pressure on U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, to up the number of debates ahead of their rematch in Texas' 23rd congressional district.

On Sunday, Gallego's campaign released a list of five debates it said the Alpine Democrat has agreed to with Hurd, who's fighting for re-election in the only competitive congressional race this November in Texas. Hurd has agreed to only one of the debates — a televised debate with KSAT 12 News in San Antonio — according to Gallego's team.

"I challenge Congressman Hurd to quit dodging direct questions from voters and reporters and agree to more opportunities to allow our citizens to hear in person our views" on the issues, Gallego said in a statement.

Asked in August about the possibility of debating Gallego, Hurd told The Texas Tribune he "would love the opportunity to show contrasts between [Gallego's] failure in Congress to do anything and our record of accomplishment."

Gallego is also out with a new ad criticizing Hurd for taking too long to disown his party's presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Courageous leaders in both parties have spoken out," Gallego says in the direct-to-camera spot, which was released Monday morning. "Congressman Hurd waited until it was too late to speak out about Donald Trump."

"Even after Trump insulted Hispanics, women, people with disabilities and military families," a narrator adds.

Hurd disavowed Trump's candidacy over the weekend, following the release of a 2005 clip showing Trump speaking lewdly about women. Hurd, who had never endorsed Trump, said in a statement that Trump "should step aside for a true conservative to beat Hillary Clinton."

Democrats have long hoped Trump's bombastic candidacy would be a drag on Hurd's campaign and open a path for Gallego to reclaim the seat.


House Majority PAC, the super PAC committed to electing Democrats to the U.S. House, will increase its advertising in the final weeks of the campaign for CD-23 by about $445,000, a media buying source exclusively tells the Texas Tribune.

The group supports Gallego in the race.

Hurd can count on significant air support as well. HMP's Republican counterpart, Congressional Leadership Fund, is making heavy investments in the race. The national parties' House campaign arms are also spending big on this race.

The expectation is that the advertising wars will continue up through Election Day. 

The ongoing turmoil in the presidential campaign may mean groups on either side will shift their money between races, as Democrats go on the offensive. But national operatives on both sides say there is little strategic value for either side pulling their money from this southwest Texas seat.


State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, isn’t a Hillary Clinton supporter and made that clear when he posted a comment on a Tribune story that attempted to explain what options are open to Texas Republicans who don’t want to vote for Donald Trump.

After saying that anything other than a vote for Trump is, in effect, a vote for Clinton, Hall added, “I do not condone in any way the things that Trump has said but his comments are no where nearly as bad as the foul, trash, hateful, mean and degrading as the things Hillary has said about our military, law enforcement, FBI, and Secret Service personnel. ... So, stay home or vote for a third person and you will become a member of the Hillary team that will destroy liberty and America as we now know it.”


Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson released the first TV ad of her re-election campaign.

The ad, “Fighting for Us,” highlights the incumbent’s actions taken against illegal game rooms.

She is facing off against Democratic challenger Kim Ogg in a rematch of the 2014 contest won by Anderson.

Hegar forecasts "extremely modest growth" for Texas economy

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is interviewed by Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith on Jan. 21, 2016.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is interviewed by Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith on Jan. 21, 2016.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar expects “extremely modest growth” in the state economy and an “extremely tight” budget year for the 2017 Legislature, but told the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association last Friday that Texas is better off than other energy states.

This isn’t the first time he’s talked about a slowdown; sales taxes have been below previous-year levels in 10 of the last 12 months, Hegar said. He noted that those previous years were also record years, saying the state is fairly well off in spite of the braking.

He said lawmakers will have $10.1 billion in the so-called “Rainy Day Fund” at the end of the year — a big buffer against a drop in state revenue.

And in an afternoon appearance at UT’s Texas Politics Project speaker series this week, Hegar suggested that the custom of having the state’s leaders meet weekly for breakfast might not continue through the end of session.

The meetings have traditionally allowed the leadership to get on the same page on the big issues of the day. But when those meetings go sideways, they sometimes generate unwelcome headlines.

“We’ll see,” Hegar said Wednesday afternoon.

Hegar also talked again about the presidential race, discounting the possibility of voting for Hillary Clinton but refusing to say whether he would vote for his party's nominee, Donald Trump.

Contrast that to his unequivocal statement on Sept. 24 at the Texas Tribune Festival: "I will be voting for Donald Trump."


One state lawmaker is getting national attention for his re-election battle, one of the toughest in the state this November.

On Wednesday morning, the Republican State Leadership Committee named state Rep. John Lujan's bid for a full term one of 16 new "races to watch." The RSLC said the list "illustrates the caliber of our candidates at large — candidates who we will support as they go on to run, win and serve their communities in the government closest to home."

Lujan, a San Antonio Republican, won the HD-118 seat in a special election earlier this year, and is up against Democratic challenger Tomás Uresti in November. It is viewed as one of a few competitive state legislative races this fall in Texas.


The Republican senior justice on the First Court of Appeals based in Houston announced over the weekend that he’s switching parties, according to an announcement from the Harris County Democratic Party.

Terry Jennings was first elected to the appeals court in 2000 and was last re-elected in 2012. He would not be up for re-election again until 2018.

Jennings announced his decision at the county party's Johnson, Rayburn, Richards dinner that took place Saturday. According to the county Democratic party, Jennings said the party he formerly identified with “no longer exists.”

"In 2000, the GOP was a 'big tent' in which I felt comfortable. Sadly, that Republican party no longer exists. The Republican party has chosen a dark path I cannot take. Today in the Republican Party, 'cult of personality' reigns. Principles and facts count for nothing. There is no truth," Jennings said.


Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein will barnstorm through Texas this weekend. Per an announcement from the Stein campaign, the third-party candidate has a Friday evening event scheduled in El Paso, followed by a Saturday stop in Houston and a Sunday swing through San Antonio before winding up her time in Texas with an Austin stop on Monday evening.

The campaign notes that down-ballot Green Party candidates will be featured at each Stein appearance along with an audience Q&A with Stein.

Inside Intelligence: About That Trump Video Fallout...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about the fallout from the 2005 video that caught lewd comments about women made by current GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

We began by asking in a general sense if this latest scandal spells the end of Trump as a viable contender for the presidency. Nearly three-fifths of the insiders said yes, while about 30 percent said no.

We shifted with the next questions to quiz the insiders on what the fallout from the scandal might mean in Texas. We began by asking the insiders about what a legislative candidate in a competitive seat this fall should do in the aftermath of the Trump tape's release.

A third of the insiders advocated dumping Trump while another third said the more nuanced approach of condemning the language while not cutting ties with Trump was the best option. Just 4 percent advocated embracing Trump.

Exactly half of the insiders said that the Trump controversy would result in GOP candidates further down on the state ballot losing their contests but the insiders largely were in agreement on one thing: Trump's problems don't equate to an electoral opening for Hillary Clinton in Texas.

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


With the release of the “Access Hollywood” hot mic video last Friday, is presidential candidate Donald Trump done for?

• "It doesn't matter that the tape is 10 years old. It just confirms what everyone (except his over-50, white, male base) already knew."

• "Texans do NOT want to be told by the mainstream media who to vote for. This is their doing and voters aren't liking it one bit."

• "Like the spawn of a phoenix and cockroach, Trump will again rise from the ashes."

• "If making fun of war heroes, Down syndrome reporters, Megyn Kelly's cycle didn't hurt him, why would this? Some voters are obviously less concerned about his personality disorder and more interested in his ability to deliver much needed change in D.C."

• "He was already in trouble and likely to lose, now he's in a little more trouble and a little more likely to lose. It went from really bad to really, really bad."


You’re a GOP state representative in a competitive district this fall. What do you do?

• "If a state rep in a competitive district, you would condemn and endorse — there is protocol after all."

• "It doesn't help you if you pull your endorsement. When it comes to party politics, you are in for a penny, in for a pound."

• "Seeing how most voters (and certain state representatives and senators ;-)) can't distinguish between D.C. and Austin, I'd rail against the evil D.C. Stoke that anger at the establishment and elites in D.C."

• "You have to be more specific. If I am running in a Houston competitive district, I would drop Trump like he's hot. If I am in a Dallas competitive district, I would just ignore the situation and keep on trucking."

• "We're talking about a very limited number of people here. You have to condemn Trump, which is easy enough to do (everyone else has), but support him so that you can win the primary in 2018."


Does Trump take out GOP candidates below him on the state ballot?

• "There is always a seat to flip somewhere. Don't try to lay that at Trump's doorstep. He has generated more enthusiasm that any Republican presidential candidate in history."

• "Polls I've seen show him as a relatively post-partisan candidate, such that neither he nor Clinton have coattails."

• "No more than usual. When Democrats sweep big cities and counties, they often beat all the Republican officeholders and judges. Trump will be blamed, but probably any Democrat who did well in the cities would get the same result."

• "Trump's coattails are short... like his phalanges."

• "Possibly as many as three House members. Not a big deal. The die was cast when the lines were drawn."


Is Texas now in play for Hillary Clinton?

• "LOL. The lesson of Wendy Davis still holds. Texans will not support a pro-abortion, anti-gun, big-spending liberal who, we just learned, 'dreams' of open borders."

• "Not even Box 13, part 2 could carry Texas for Hillary."

• "It might be closer than in recent elections, but the Texas Democratic Party is just not capable of running a successful statewide election, even against a candidate going down in flames."

• "Best case scenario, she loses by single digits."

• "Texas Republicans will prefer a boorish Yankee know nothing with no qualifications to anyone named Clinton."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Clyde Alexander, Charles Bailey, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Elna Christopher, Kevin Cooper, Randy Cubriel, Beth Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, Glenn Deshields, Tom Duffy, Richard Dyer, Jack Erskine, Jon Fisher, Tom Forbes, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Eric Glenn, Kinnan Golemon, Thomas Graham, John Greytok, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Susan Hays, Kathy Hutto, Deborah Ingersoll, Mark Jones, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Myra Leo, Richard Levy, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Jason McElvaney, Vinny Minchillo, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Propes, Patrick Reinhart, Carl Richie, A.J. Rodriguez, Kim Ross, Grant Ruckel, Tyler Ruud, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Nancy Sims, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Tom Spilman, Colin Strother, Sherry Sylvester, Robert Thetford, Corbin Van Arsdale, Chris Wallace, David White, Michael Williams, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Monday, Oct. 17

  • State Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, fundraiser; Austin Club, 110 E. Ninth St., Austin (4-6 p.m.)

Tuesday, Oct. 18

  • Texas Association of Business conference: Raising the Bar - Quality Pre-K in Texas; Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin, 701 Congress Ave., Austin (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)
  • State Reps. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, and Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, fundraiser; Austin Club, 110 E. Ninth St., Austin (4:30-6:30 p.m.)
  • State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, fundraiser; Brennan's of Houston, 3300 Smith St., Houston (5-7 p.m.)

Wednesday, Oct. 19

  • Minority Advancement Project of Texas' second annual Black Tie & Boots Leadership Awards Gala; Omni Bayfront Hotel, 900 N. Shoreline Blvd., Corpus Christi (6:30-9 p.m.)

Thursday, Oct. 20

  • State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, fundraiser, with special guests Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton and Rafael Cruz; event1013, 1013 E. 15th St., Plano (6-8 p.m.)
  • TexProtects 12th anniversary Awards Gala, honoring House Speaker Joe Straus; The Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St., Dallas (6:15-8:15 p.m.)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The Texas Ethics Commission on Thursday voted to end a long-running investigation into Empower Texans, a politically active nonprofit and one of the state's most influential conservative groups.

Texas has a record-breaking 15 million people registered to vote ahead of the November election — over 777,000 more than were registered in time for the March primaries. The deadline to register to vote was Tuesday.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is wading into another fight over local control — this one about plastic bags at certain retailers. The Republican on Wednesday sued the city of Brownsville over its $1 per-transaction fee on plastic and other one-time use bags offered at grocery stores and certain other businesses, calling it an “illegal sales tax.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants state lawmakers to pay for rifle-resistant vests for almost 60,000 patrol officers. It's unclear where — or whether — they'll find the $20 million to do it.

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office and four other agencies were questioned Wednesday about granting departing employees “emergency leave” as a form of separation payment.

The governor's office has put the Department of Family and Protective Services on notice to come up with a plan to help foster children find home placements faster and seek out those facing abuse.

The highest criminal court in Texas said Wednesday it will not hear Ken Paxton's appeal of securities fraud charges, putting the attorney general on the path to a trial in the coming months.

Attorneys for the state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland will ask a judge to let a second grand jury reconsider the perjury charge he faces.

President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, have decided that they will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery. With that choice, Bush will become the first U.S. president to be buried at the cemetery in East Austin.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, speaking at a Tuesday fundraiser in San Antionio, continued to call out members of his own party for not being fully supportive of him, including U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, whom he accused of "total disloyalty to the party." Ryan on Monday said he'd focus on down-ballot races after a 2005 tape surfaced last week that caught Trump making lewd comments about women.

Political People and their Moves

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appointed on Thursday Windi Grimes, an investment executive from Houston, and Bill Lavers, the executive director of the Development Corporation of Snyder, to the Economic Incentive Oversight Board, which oversees economic incentive programs run by the governor, comptroller, or the agriculture department.

U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Austin, was one of 11 new appointments made late last week to Donald Trump’s national security advisory council.

Outgoing state Rep. Jim Keffer and former Secretary of State Hope Andrade were both announced today as new members of the board of directors for the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Also receiving a seat on the board is Ken Janda, leader of Houston-based Community Health Choice Inc.

Bruce Zimmerman, who oversaw the University of Texas Investment Management Company, which has nearly $37 billion in assets, resigned.

Texas Parent PAC, which advocates for public education, announced Thursday that it has endorsed Democratic challenger Tomás Uresti in the HD-118 race in Bexar County. He is running to unseat John Lujan, a Republican who won a special election in January to succeed Democratic state Rep. Joe Farias.

Rancher Bob McCan has been added to the board of directors of the Texas Agricultural Land Trust, according to a Thursday announcement from the group. McCan manages the McFaddin Ranch near Victoria and is past president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

We wrote last week about Myra Crownover’s chief of staff, Miranda Goodsheller, moving to the Texas Association of Business. The trade organization said Wednesday that she will represent it on education and transportation issues. Crownover is retiring from the Legislature after announcing last year that she wasn’t running for re-election.

Emmis Communications announced Thursday that it is selling Texas Monthly after 18 years of ownership to Genesis Park, a Houston-based private equity firm co-founded by Paul Hobby, son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby. Public Strategies founder Jack Martin will also be affiliated with Texas Monthly under the new ownership.

Deaths: Choco Gonzalez Meza, 64, a longtime Democratic activist in Bexar County, died Sunday. She had a long history in Texas politics, most recently working as a top organizer in San Antonio for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. She had previously served as chairwoman of the Bexar County Democratic Party, was a member of the Democratic National Committee and was an aide to former U.S. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.

Disclosure: Texas Monthly, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the Texas Association of Business, Public Strategies Inc., Windi Grimes, Ken & Tracy Janda, Nancy and Bruce Zimmerman, and the Hobby Family 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

Well, if you have someone who's running for president of the United States who is standing up and reciting Russian propaganda as fact, you have a very, very deep problem.

Journalist Kurt Eichenwald on hearing Donald Trump repeat words that he wrote that had been wrongly attributed earlier to Hillary Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal by a Russian media outlet

Yeah, we talk about girls, but we don't talk that way. Disrespect is not allowed in the locker room.

South Garland High School senior defensive tackle T.J. Williams to The Dallas Morning News on Trump's defense of his lewd comments about women as "locker-room talk"

I personally will withhold contributions and withhold my assistance for anyone who will not support our nominee. I feel congressmen need to be a voice for the people and they need to keep country first.

Mica Mosbacher, former finance co-chair of the Republican National Committee, who is not abandoning Trump after his lewd comments about women became public

The Republican Party in Texas has jumped the shark. Strong condemnations of Donald Trump, while still supporting his candidacy, ring hollow, cynical and hypocritical.

Jenifer Sarver, a former George W. Bush administration official, on the decision by leading GOP elected officials to condemn Trump's language on women but not to pull their endorsements