Politics

Texas 2014: Faces In the Races

July 31st, 2013 at 5:31 pm by under Politics
Top L to R: GOP gubernatorial candidates former Texas Workforce Chairman Tom Pauken and Attorney General Greg Abbott. Bottom L to R: possible Democratic gubernatorial contenders Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worh, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro

Top L to R: GOP gubernatorial candidates former Texas Workforce Chairman Tom Pauken and Attorney General Greg Abbott. Bottom L to R: possible Democratic gubernatorial contenders Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro

During the 2014 election season, virtually every statewide office in Texas is up for grabs, because Gov. Rick Perry is stepping down. Here is a list of the big races people will be watching: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner, comptroller and railroad commissioner.

The only declared GOP gubernatorial candidate beyond Attorney General Greg Abbott is former Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken. Perry appointed him to that post years ago, yet he did not support Perry in last year’s presidential election.

Pauken has much less money than his primary competitor, who already has more than $20 million to spend. Abbott’s campaign has also been outshining Pauken’s, making a splash on the road and with media. While Abbott considered the heir apparent to Perry, insiders say the two men do not always see eye-to-eye. And Perry has yet to publicly support Abbott’s bid.

Democrats literally have no candidates for any statewide office at the time, except a dark horse for land commissioner – a former El Paso mayor. Most Democrats are waiting to see if Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth or San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will throw their hat in the race for governor first. On a side note, Castro’s twin brother, Joaquin, will be up for reelection in Congress next year, too.

While the abortion filibuster did a tremendous service for Davis’ popularity in the state, some have suggested she run for lieutenant governor instead and leave the top bid for governor to Castro. However, Matt Angle – a Davis adviser – and Harold Cook, former head of the Texas Democratic Party, have publicly said lieutenant governor would be an unwise move for Davis.

Texas GOP lieutenant governor candidates. Top L to R: Ag Commissioner Todd Staples and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Bottom L to R: Sen. Dan Patrick, Houston, and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson

GOP lieutenant governor candidates. Top L to R: Ag Commissioner Todd Staples and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Bottom L to R: Sen. Dan Patrick, Houston, and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson

The lieutenant governor race will include some of the biggest names in Texas politics. It certainly has the most declared candidates, so far – all in the Republican Party, of course. Lt. Gov David Dewhurst might have a tough time holding the spot after losing to Ted Cruz last year for U.S. Senate and also for what many people see as poor leadership in the Texas Senate this session.

The other three candidates all have very strong campaigns, making this an extremely competitive race: Ag Commissioner Todd Staples, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and perhaps the most conservative member of the State Senate, Dan Patrick – who just scored a major endorsement from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Then there are the federal races. In the U.S. Senate, Republican John Cornyn will run for reelection, as he has held the office since 2002. Cruz’ seat is not up until 2018.

All U.S. House seats are at stake. In the Central Texas area, those include:

  • District 10 (now held by Republican Michael McCaul)
  • District 17 (now held by Republican Bill Flores)
  • District 21 (now held by Republican Lamar Smith)
  • District 25 (now held by Republican Roger Williams)
  • District 35 (now held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett)

All State House members must run for reelection next year. Regarding Central Texas races, the only seat that should be competitive is HD 50, currently held by Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin. There is a special election this coming November for someone to hold the seat until next year’s election, as he steps aside to lead Google Fiber. Whoever wins the special election would have a big leg up going into 2014.

Some State Senate seats are up for grabs across Texas, as well. Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, drew one of the short straws this session. That means the term he was elected to in 2012 expires in 2014. Each legislative session after redistricting, the 31 senators hold a lottery to determine which get a four-year terms and which get a two-year term. In between redistricting, the terms are all for four years. Watson’s seat is considered safe for any Democrat

Among the local delegation, Watson joins long-serving Democrat Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, whose district snakes north to Austin. There are also freshman Republicans Charles Schwertner of Georgetown and Donna Campbell of San Marcos in the two-year club. Veteran Republican Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay drew a four-year term.

Additionally, if and when the legislature passes the transportation funding amendment in this third special session, voters will likely have to approve it in next year’s November election. Voter approval is required to amend the Constitution, in this case diverting money from the Rainy Day Fund.


Behind the scenes: Texas lawmakers debate abortion measures

June 24th, 2013 at 6:53 am by under Politics

Texas lawmakers worked overnight, debating a handful of controversial abortion-related measures. KXAN had crews at the Capitol during the 15-hour standoff between Democrats and Republicans. Take a peek behind the scenes at our live shots during the morning show by clicking on the Instagram video box/link below:


In Session. In-depth: Texas Gun Business

May 7th, 2013 at 3:48 pm by under Politics
Gov. Rick Perry welcomes Shield Tactical from California to Shiner. (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)

Gov. Rick Perry welcomes Shield Tactical from California to Shiner. (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)

This weekend on “In Session. In-depth,” we focus on gun control and big business. One state’s loss might be Texas’ gain. As much of the country restricts firearms, Gov. Rick Perry is asking gun companies to set up shop here. But more business might mean more competition for an already booming industry.

We speak with the governor one-on-one, then our political roundtable weighs in on his plan and other gun items at the Capitol.

  • Paul Burka, Texas Monthly
  • Christy Hoppe, Dallas Morning News
  • Jay Root, Texas Tribune.

Join us for “In Session. In-depth.” this Sunday at 8:30 a.m.


In Session. In-depth: Sen. John Whitmire

April 11th, 2013 at 4:50 pm by under Politics
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Austin (Texas Senate)

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Austin (Texas Senate)

This weekend on “In Session. In-depth,” Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, talks with us about his new proposal to update the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” defense – a change that could help gay teens. Plus, hear what he has to say about security for lawmakers in the wake of the Kaufman County shootings.

Joining the criminal justice roundtable – Brandi Grissom of the Texas Tribune, Mike Ward of the Austin American-Statesman and Ana Yáñez-Correa of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Watch “In Session. In-depth.” this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on KXAN News.


In Session. In-depth: Medicaid Expansion Debate

April 4th, 2013 at 6:01 pm by under Politics

capitolThis weekend on “In Session. In-depth,” the debate over expanding Medicaid in Texas rises to the top. The past week ranged from the governor’s high-profile meeting denouncing the idea to a contentious conversation among House members hammering out the budget. And now, two policy leaders join the program on opposite sides of the issue – Peggy Venable with Americans for Prosperity and Anne Dunkelberg from the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Plus, our roundtable of political journalists – Emily Ramshaw with the Texas Tribune, Ryan Poppe with Texas Public Radio and John Reynolds with the Quorum Report. Watch “In Session. In-depth.” this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on KXAN News.


In Session. In-depth: Sen. Wendy Davis

March 29th, 2013 at 4:33 pm by under Politics
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth (Texas Senate)

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth (Texas Senate)

This weekend on “In Session. In-depth,” Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, talks to us about the fight for more education funding. What are the true difference between the Senate and House versions of the budget? And could more money come before lawmakers wrap up in May? Davis found herself in the political spotlight after filibustering the school finance bill last session, and now she speaks out about reports of a possible run for governor.

Plus, Reps. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, join our roundtable. The duo is among a small handful of Central Texas lawmakers on the House budget-writing team. Hear their predictions for the remaining financial fight this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on KXAN News.


In Session. In-depth: Halftime at the Capitol

March 21st, 2013 at 6:12 pm by under Politics

It’s halftime at the Texas State Capitol! What issues rank the highest on the scoreboard? Who are the legislature’s MVPs? And who are those standout rookies?

Joining us on the political roundtable this week – Mike Ward with the Austin American-Statesman, Corrie MacLaggan with Reuters and Brian Sweany with Texas Monthly.

Plus, we take a look at an ongoing “water war” between Texas and Mexico. Join us for “In Session. In-depth.” this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on KXAN News.

Texas State Capitol (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)

Texas State Capitol (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)


In Session. In-depth: Rep. Richard Pena Raymond

March 14th, 2013 at 5:57 pm by under Politics
Rep. Richard Pena Raymond, D-Laredo (Texas House of Representatives)

Rep. Richard Pena Raymond, D-Laredo (Texas House of Representatives)

Ever wondered why Texas lawmakers meet only once every two years? One lawmaker says the state’s size, population and massive budget deserve more attention. We speak with Rep. Richard Pena Raymond, D-Laredo, about his proposal to gather the legislature in Austin annually.

We also break down the technology driving lawmakers this session. Plus, a group of “little” lobbyists mix pie with politics at the State Capitol. Join us for “In Session. In-depth.” this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on KXAN News.


In Session. In-depth: Texas Wildfire Recovery Funding

March 6th, 2013 at 5:01 pm by under Politics

Tree burned in wildfire at Bastrop State Park (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)

This week on “In Session. In-depth,” we travel to Bastrop to talk about the costs associated with a devastating wildfire in 2011. Nearly $5 million in state money could soon come to Bastrop State Park for recovery, but lawmakers still have to sign off on the funding project.

Plus, they have to consider the bill owed for that disastrous season statewide – $161 million. Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, joins us from the State Capitol to talk about the push for Central Texas funding.

And our roundtable goes on the road for an in-depth look at the fire’s impact in Bastrop and the progress being made there. Join us for “In Session. In-depth.” this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on KXAN News.


Austin House member signs on to bill to increase hit-and-run penalty

February 22nd, 2013 at 5:25 pm by under Politics

Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin (Texas House)

After a visit from the grieving parents of a high-profile hit-and-run victim, an Austin House member joined a growing list of state lawmakers looking to increase the penalty for this fatal crime. Weeks ago, Bart and Kelly Griffin reached out to Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, in response to the death of their daughter, Courtney, according to the legislator’s office.

Griffin was killed on a West Austin street in the early morning hours of May 27, 2011. On Friday, a jury recommended 10 years probation for criminally negligent homicide for Gabrielle Nestande – the former Capitol staffer who was behind the wheel that early morning.

While in the drafting phase of his own legislation, Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, signed on to an identical, existing proposal – House Bill 72 – filed in November by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cyprus. The goal of the bill is to motivate people to stop and help victims of accidents.

HB 72 would increase the penalty for the offense of leaving the scene of an accident from a “third degree felony” to a “second degree felony.” That could mean a stricter penalty – the same as people convicted of sexual assault, robbery or manslaughter.

Second-degree 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000
Third-degree 2 to 10 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000

Another Austin Democrat, Sen. Kirk Watson, filed similar legislation – Senate Bill 275 – last month after speaking with Griffin’s father.