Vol 33, Issue 5 Print Issue

The Election Hotlist for the 2016 Texas Primaries

For our recurring list of the most competitive races in Texas statewide, congressional and legislative elections, we lifted the color scheme from the inventors of the federal terror watch, ranking races by the threat to each incumbent, to the incumbent party, or just by the level of interest and heat generated.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland’s GOP primary challenger, Scott Fisher, has found more than 3,000 of the Bedford Republican’s old posts on the fantasy football site FFtoday.com. The posts offer a rare glimpse at the unscrubbed online life of a political candidate before he took office. 

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is kicking into high gear in Texas with the opening of its first office in Houston Thursday.

Travis County health officials on Thursday confirmed the first case of the Zika virus in the county. A man under the age of 50 contracted the illness while traveling in Colombia, according to the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department.

Anti-abortion activists indicted after infiltrating a Houston Planned Parenthood facility were offered probation deals by Harris County prosecutors. David Daleiden, one of the videographers, rejected the offer and plans to fight the charges.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia's arraignment on a perjury charge related to his arrest of Sandra Bland will be held in March, the Waller County District Clerk's office confirmed. In the meantime, lawyers for the state are trying to hold off a civil lawsuit filed by Bland's family.

Oncor, the state’s largest utility, is warning state regulators that electric rates could increase for millions of Texas customers if they approve a complex reorganization plan offered by the Ray L. Hunt family.

Citing an increasingly diversified Texas economy, former Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday boasted about the “Texas Miracle” and said there’s no reason to be overly concerned about the plummeting price of oil.

Ted Cruz on Wednesday began winning over supporters of Rand Paul in Texas following his Senate colleague's exit from the race for the White House. Most prominent is state Sen. Don Huffines, the Dallas Republican who had chaired the Paul campaign in Texas.

Austin, Galveston and Midland are facing serious questions about how much to alter local statutes in order to persuade Uber, an app-based vehicle-for-hire company, to continue operating. Uber has battled the three cities over approved and proposed rules this week.

A record number of people wrongly convicted of crimes were exonerated in 2015, with 42 wrongful convictions in Harris County drug cases boosting the nationwide tally to 149, according to the National Registry of Exonerations' annual report.

Public health officials in Dallas County have confirmed the first sexually transmitted case of the Zika virus, said to be linked to birth defects.

Ben Carson's campaign said it has accepted an apology from Ted Cruz over messages Cruz's campaign sent to supporters Monday evening in Iowa suggesting that Carson might be about to drop out of the race.

Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign announced his Texas leadership team Tuesday. The team includes current and former state representatives James Frank, Larry Gonzales, Jason Isaac, Linda Harper-Brown, Martha Wong, Peggy Hamric and Myra Crownover.

Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson and former Texas Tech University Vice Chancellor Jodey Arrington were the two highest fundraisers in the nine-person race to succeed U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

With his win Monday night in the Iowa caucuses, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is riding a wave of momentum that can boost his prospects in New Hampshire. Before Monday night, the Texan presidential hopeful was already poised to beat expectations in the Granite State as the beneficiary of a splintered race for establishment support there. With his victory over billionaire Donald Trump in Iowa, however, Cruz now heads to the next state with a wider opening than ever.

Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat, pressed the Department of Homeland Security on Monday to explain why the agency plans to reduce its aerial surveillance on the Texas-Mexico border.

A Texas Ethics Commission opinion that would have allowed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to fund his ongoing legal battle through out-of-state donors failed to pass by one vote Monday.

In the six-way Democratic primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Edinburg, Dolly Elizondo received a boost Monday from EMILY's List, the influential organization that backs exclusively female Democratic candidates.

What is the definition of "tangible personal property?" The arcane question is at the center of a lawsuit that could reap energy companies a multibillion-dollar windfall and drain the state's budget surplus. “This is very serious, real money," Comptroller Glenn Hegar said.

Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at Arlington have been designated as “Carnegie Tier One” schools, by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Disclosure: Texas Tech University, the University of Texas at Arlington and Uber are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. The University of North Texas was a corporate sponsor in 2014. Oncor was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2012. Planned Parenthood was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2011. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Thursday the appointment of 31 members to a task force on infectious disease preparedness and response. Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt was named director of the task force.

Abbott appointed Gerald Ladner Sr. of Austin to the Risk Management Board and reappointed Rosemary Gammon of Plano. They were named to terms to expire Feb. 1, 2021. In addition, Abbott named Lloyd Gardner of Lubbock as the board’s presiding officer.

Ted Cruz's presidential campaign on Tuesday announced the endorsement of Jeff Duncan, a congressman from the first-in-the-South primary state of South Carolina.

A Georgia-based tea party group, the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, has decided to endorse Russ Ramsland, a primary challenger looking to unseat House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Dallas. Ramsland is one of four candidates challenging the incumbent Sessions in the mostly Dallas County-based CD-32.

TEXPAC, the political arm of the Texas Medical Association, announced on Thursday its final batch of endorsements for the March 1 party primary elections. The highlights include a dual endorsement of Dawn Buckingham and Susan King for the open SD-24 GOP primary, an endorsement of the incumbent Stuart Spitzer in the contested HD-4 primary and the endorsement of Bryan Hughes in the open SD-1 GOP primary.

The National Women’s Political Caucus of Texas released an endorsement list numbering 33 candidates. Highlights here include a dual endorsement of Gina Hinojosa and Heather Way in the open HD-49 Democratic contest to succeed Austin Democratic state Rep. Elliott Naishtat. In addition, the group endorsed Helen Madla, the widow of former state Sen. Frank Madla, in her challenge to incumbent state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, in the SD-19 Democratic primary.

Former state Rep. Lon Burnam said on Friday that he’s received an endorsement from former Houston Mayor Bill White in his bid to win the Democratic nomination for Railroad Commissioner.

SD-24 Republican candidate Brent Mayes has won the endorsement of the political arm of the anti-abortion group, Texas Right to Life.

State Rep. Tan Parker, chairman of the House Republican caucus, is endorsing incumbent state Rep. Dan Flynn in his re-election for House District 2, east of Dallas. Flynn also received endorsements this week from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund, the Texas State Rifle Association and former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Republican Terry Wilson has earned the support of former radio host Sgt. Sam Cox in his race to unseat state Rep. Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, in HD-20, north of Austin. Cox was the co-host of “Austin’s Morning News with Mark, Ed and Sgt. Sam” on KLBJ until his retirement last summer.

The political arm of Texans for Lawsuit Reform endorsed on Tuesday state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, for re-election to represent HD-47 in southern and western Travis County.

The Texas Municipal Police Association endorsed Bedford pastor Scott Fisher over state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, in the race for HD-92 in Tarrant County.

The Texas Municipal Police Association and the Dallas Police Association are supporting Republican Andrew Piel in his efforts to unseat state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, in Tarrant County’s HD-94.

State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, is endorsing Dallas lawyer Dan Morenoff in his bid to unseat state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, in HD-114 in Dallas County.

HD-115 GOP challenger Bennett Ratliff announced on Friday an endorsement from the Texas Municipal Police Association in his bid to unseat the incumbent Matt Rinaldi.

The Texas Hospital Association PAC and the Texas Dental Association PAC are supporting Republican Kevin Roberts in his bid to be the next state representative in HD-126 in Harris County. The candidate also received late last week endorsements from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), the Houston Police Retired Officers Association (HPROA), and the TMPA.

Republican Tom Oliverson has earned the support of the Texas Values Action PAC and the United Republicans of Harris County in his race for state representative in HD-130.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association PAC is endorsing state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-University Place, for re-election to the Houston-area HD-134 seat.

Annie’s List announced on Monday the addition of four new board members: Jade Chang Sheppard of Austin; Rita Lucido of Houston; Yvonne Morales Pelayo of San Antonio; and Joyce Townsend of San Antonio.

The Texas Travel Industry Association and the Texas Commercial Airports Association announced last week that they will join forces in advocating for the travel industry in the state. The TTIA’s Homero Lucero and Ron Hinkle will expand their respective duties to also represent the TCAA.

Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association, the Texas Dental Association, the Texas Travel Industry Association are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. Paul and Sherry Workman, Jerry Patterson, Jade Chang Sheppard and Elliott Naishtat are donors to The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.