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: 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.

Race to Watch: U.S. Senate

November 5th, 2012 at 6:54 pm by under Politics

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz

The U.S. Senate race in Texas this election season has been a turbulent one. Both major parties had runoffs. The Republicans ended up with former solicitor general Ted Cruz, who beat out Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Democrats chose former state Rep. Paul Sadler.

In a recent ad, Sadler – a lawyer from Henderson – has labeled his opponent – a tea party favorite – as “the most extreme Senate candidate in Texas history.”

Cruz has seen a nationwide boost from a host of conservative groups. His fundraising far surpasses Sadler’s – giving him a definite edge on television sets across Texas. One of his latest ads features his father, who fled fighting and capture in Cuba.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Paul Sadler

Cruz’s campaign has waged war on President Barack Obama’s administration. Sadler has been most prominent as a fiery debater, challenging Cruz to six such events – Cruz agreed to two.

The winner of this race might help shape the face of the Senate, as Cruz could be expected to back Texas’ other Senator – John Cornyn – in a run for the party’s second highest leadership post – majority whip. Cruz has yet to indicate his support publicly.

This Senate seat is being vacated by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. Libertarian John Jay Myers – a Dallas businessman – and the Green Party’s David Collins – a Houston activist – are also running.

Race to Watch: Texas House District 48

November 5th, 2012 at 6:11 pm by under Politics

HD 48 candidate Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin

In one of the few at-play Texas House district races, a pair of Austin candidates have faced a challenge campaigning where 60 percent of their constituents are new. HD 48 looks a lot different geographically than it did last election, now stretching into the southwest side of the city. Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, won that election by just four votes. Her new opponent, Republican Robert Thomas, isn’t making this one any easier on her.

As education will no doubt rise to the top of political issues in the upcoming legislative session, both candidates boast school-supporting backgrounds. Howard – a former registered nurse – once served on the school board of the Eanes ISD and also sponsored an amendment in the last session to use extra money from the state’s rainy day fund to pay for enrollment growth. She also supports the full restoration of funds cuts from public education and health care in the last session.

Robert Thomas, Republican HD 48 candidate

Thomas has a steady background in various parent organizations with the Austin ISD. He also serves on the district’s bond oversight committee. When it comes to school finance, he is pushing tax reform as the first step in fixing the state’s troubles.

Though recent redistricting changed the majority of this district’s makeup, it is now much more Democratic – which might be a plus for Howard. However, Thomas – a lawyer and business owner – has pointed to the number of undecided voters in HD 48 as a reason for both candidates to get personally acquainted with their new neighbors ahead of Election Day.

Libertarian Joe Edgar is also running. A former candidate for Travis County Precinct constable, Edgar grew up on an Indian reservation in Chiloquin, Oregon.

Dallas tornadoes inspire interest in safety rules

April 4th, 2012 at 8:27 pm by under Weather

  The best report coming out of the North Texas tornado outbreak Tuesday is that miraculously, no one was killed.  We are hearing several stories of survival from people who sought shelter in the only place left standing in their destroyed homes–interior rooms.

This has inspired renewed interest from some of our viewers in our severe weather special, Surviving the Storm, which we broadcast last Saturday night.  Our special this year was focused on exactly what you should do, and where you should go during tornadoes and other severe storms.

We have posted the special on our YouTube Channel, in five parts. You can watch them by clicking here:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five



Another day, in the bay…..

September 22nd, 2011 at 9:59 am by under Photo/Video, Uncategorized

For the last few days, I have become intimately acquainted with the cargo area of a Ford Explorer. It’s only been in the low nighties this week and I’ve only been discovered once. Just my tripod, camera, 2way and me. I’ve been there, while shooting an electrical, a/c contractor sting.
After rolling hours of video from multiple sources, its now time to get it all in one place.
The edit bay.

If there is one thing that i can say that i have been watching over attentively for the last couple of hours, it would have to be the dreaded status bar. It just sits there and laughs at you while you watch your blinking percentage change from 27 to 28. What else can you do. You can’t edit if the video is not in the computer so you just have to sit there, watching and waiting. Don’t even get me started about consolidation, for reals!
I think that once i get it in one place, i can cut it down to something a little more consumable. Making it easier to log and hopefully small enough to transfer to my laptop.
Don’t get me wrong, the bay is great! But i would rather edit eksewhere. Oh look, it’s at 67%.




KXAN On the Road: Iowa Straw Poll & Perry’s Waterloo Welcome

August 13th, 2011 at 12:50 pm by under Politics

Robert Hadlock and Josh Hinkle outside Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa, during Gov. Rick Perry's first Iowa trip as a presidential candidate


Sunday 9:30 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa

Robert and I have finally finished up our reports for the late newscasts and are now desperately trying to make our way to a restaurant still serving food this late. We settle on a Waterloo location, though we eventually have to drive an hour south to Cedar Rapids for tonight’s hotel.

Robert somehow finds a random place with an open kitchen. In a perfect end to the night, we eat fried mushrooms and listen to hilarious locals belt out mid-90s karaoke. Iowa has been fun, but our plane ride back to Austin comes early tomorrow.

Rep. Michele Bachmann shows off news of her win in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier


Sunday 5:30 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa

After candidate Rick Santorum, Perry takes the stage with a speech bashing the Obama administration and boasting over his own job creation record. Bachmann takes the stage after Perry, telling the media to back away from the crowd. In addition to taking a similar anti-Washington approach, she hands out an apple pie to the oldest Republican mother in the crowd. She was 100, by the way.

Perry scoots out the door quickly, as he has two more days in Iowa ahead of him on this trip. Bachmann stays behind to sign autographs.

Gov. Rick Perry and wife Anita work their way through Waterloo GOP crowd


Sunday 4:30 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa

The venue is packed, apparently sold out. Perry, his wife Anita, and their children have arrived and entered the building. His status as presidential candidate apparently comes with papparazi. I’ve never seen anything like it. I hand Robert the mic and grab the camera. We squeeze through the immense crowd surrounding the governor.

Perry works his way around the maze of tables with no specific direction in mind. It makes following him very difficult. But our persistence works. Perry recognizes Robert among the dozens of media. Robert asks him about his trip to Iowa and he describes is as nice, almost like being back in Texas.

As we continue to track the governor, we’re able to grab Texas’ first lady’s attention to talk about the hours since Perry’s announcement on Saturday. She says it’s been busy but something she and the “children” have enjoyed.

Gov. Rick Perry addresses Waterloo GOP crowd


Sunday 2:00 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa

The Black Hawk County Republican Party just told us that the Lincoln Dinner tonight would be its biggest fundraiser of the year. Most of the money will go toward its February caucus, one of the largest in the state with an estimated 6,000 voters. That’s very important for the GOP candidates coming tonight, trying to appeal to the state that casts its ballot first in the nation.

Perry, Bachmann, and Rick Santorum were all on the lineup. As we prepared for their arrival, Robert and I shot a story for our early newscast and worked through the technological isolation that was the reality of our remote location. This is going to be a very long, full night. I can already tell.

Sunday 1:00 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa

The morning talk shows were all abuzz over Perry when I woke up. Robert and I headed out to eat a real Iowa steak, knowing it might be our only meal for a while today. Now, we are at Waterloo’s Electric Park Ballroom, where Perry will speak this evening.

Driving up to the Electric Park Ballroom was a bit of a surprise. It didn’t exactly look presidential, but then we found out how rooted in the community it really was. It’s probably the perfect place to talk to locals, if you’re running for president.

Iowa Straw Poll voters watch Perry announce candidacy in South Carolina (Robert Hadlock/KXAN)


Sunday 1:00 a.m. – Waterloo, Iowa

I’m finally in my hotel room and just watched Perry’s announcement for the first time on CNN. His trip to Waterloo later today will involve a speech before the Black Hawk County Republican Party. He is among a host of GOP leaders who have been invited to speak. Along with his acceptance, another presidential candidate will speak. Fresh from her straw poll win, Michele Bachmann will take the stage right after Perry. This city is her birthplace and where she announced her own candidacy earlier this year. How will Perry’s run effect her popularity here?

Saturday 10:00 p.m. – Ames, Iowa

Farewell to Ames. It was fun, but now it’s on to the eastern side of the state. Robert is driving, so I can wrap up things on the laptop during the trip to Waterloo. I’m curious to see what kind of crowd Perry draws tomorrow in his new capacity as presidential candidate. Americans for Rick Perry organizers called my cell tonight and said they wouldn’t be at the event. Sounds like they’re letting the campaign staff “take over.”

Josh and Robert at Iowa Straw Poll


Saturday 6:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa

Robert and I are sitting in a booth in an Old Chicago. It’s the first free moment we’ve had to eat all day. He’s having a pizza. I’m having a burger, eating with one hand and editing on my laptop with the other. We have two separate stories – one about the straw poll, the other about Perry’s support there. No time to blog!

Saturday 5:45 p.m. – Ames, Iowa

The results are in. Bachmann leads the pack, but in close second is Texas Congressman Ron Paul. And that’s the name you hear people inside and outside of the Coliseum chanting. I think there are some big upsets with Pawlenty, Santorum, and Cain. We’ll see what they do in the coming days, as some candidates who finished lower than they liked in the past have dropped out soon after.

Here’s something interesting. The write-in thing kind of worked for Perry. He got 712 votes, about 4 percent of the total count. That’s more than Romney!

Saturday 4:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa

It’s crunch time for us. I’m shooting and editing everything today. Robert is busy writing while I’m loading the video from the day into the laptop. As soon as that’s finished, I’ll shoot our standups (the part where you see us on camera) and eventually send everything back to the station in Austin through FTP. Let’s cross our fingers it won’t take too long to upload!

Robert interviews Don and Mary Godwin, Iowa voters


Saturday 4:00 p.m. – Ames, Iowa

I was pleasantly surprised to just run into Bruce Aune, the main anchor at my former station in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was inside the Coliseum covering the event – like I did last time – for KCRG. So great to see him. There wasn’t much time to talk though, because Herman Cain took the mic shortly after. He was the last of the candidates to speak today.

The room wasn’t empty, but it certainly wasn’t packed either. The day was definitely winding down, as the period to vote was closing quickly. There is anticipation in the air, as people are guessing who will win. I keep hearing some talk about the write-in option this year – a first for the Iowa Straw Poll since its inception in 1979. I know those people wearing the Perry shirts told me of their plans to write in his name. Will it even matter since most people here already seem to have their minds made up?

Is it a good indication of the rest of the campaign season? Is it too late for Perry to enter? Or is the straw poll just not as important as people once thought it was. After all, Mitt Romney won it back in 2007, but he didn’t win the Iowa Caucus or the GOP nomination. In fact, he’s not making a showing this year, even though he’s the clear national frontrunner.

Michele Bachmann blimp at Iowa Straw Poll


Saturday 3:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa

This really is like the Iowa State Fair. There’s a Bachmann blimp overhead, a “test your strength” game, Randy Travis, balloon animals, and a man dressed up like a Tea Party Patriot (old-timey accent and all). We just ran into one of the organizers for tomorrow’s event in Waterloo where Perry will make his first Iowa stop as a presidential contender, and he said he’s already issued more than 70 media credentials. That’s a lot, especially considering Perry’s a late addition to the line-up.

Saturday 2:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa

We have just spent the past hour scouring the crowd for people wearing maroon T-shirts with the words “Americans for Rick Perry” across the front. It’s that PAC I mentioned earlier. Apparently, they don’t have a tent here, but they hit up what supporters they could at the local Holiday Inn this morning, I’m told.


Sherry and Don Harwood of Norway, Iowa

The few people we can find with the shirts are proud to wear them and have no problem telling others in the crowd why they’re bucking the Bachmann, Cain, or Pawlenty trends. Those are the three that have the biggest presence here, so far, it seems.

Saturday 1:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa

As we hit the Ames exit, campaign signs were already dotting the shoulders. They led straight to Iowa State University, where more than 16,000 people would vote for their favorite Republican over the course of the day. We were lucky to find a parking spot in the lot nearest to the Colosseum where the main event was blaring out the candidates’ speeches live.

Within the lot were dozens upon dozens of tour buses from across the nation. If you could rally your supporters to come all the way to Iowa, you’d probably stand a good chance in a campaign. That’s dedication, and it’s only going to get more intense as the day continued.

Josh at Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines

Saturday 11:30 a.m. – Des Moines, Iowa

79 degree high. 59 degree low. It was the first thing Robert and I noticed when we stepped off the plane at the Des Moines airport. Actually, we learned those stats on the radio in out rental car a few minutes later, but it was still a welcome change from the triple-digit Texas temps, for sure. The second thing we noticed – the news. People were talking about politics. Every television in the terminal talked about the Iowa Straw Poll and the presidency.

Thousands were in the Capitol City for the Iowa State Fair – butter cow and all. Still at the top of the political talk was Sarah Palin. The yet-to-declare presidential contender made a stop at the fair yesterday and seemed to draw a lot of attention to her. But now political-minded Iowans’ attention is shifting to something happening in another state. Gov. Rick Perry spelled out his plans and reasons for running for president on his newly-launched website just before hitting the stage at a conservative bloggers’ conference where he would further that announcement in South Carolina very shortly.

Robert at Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines

It was also the talk radio buzz on our jaunt north on I-35 to Ames, where the majority of other GOP presidential candidates are already a few hours into the Iowa Straw Poll. It’s been compared to a state fair itself – Ferris wheels, funnel cake, and plenty of other attractions – up until a winner is announced this evening. It should be an interesting – if not tense – observation of how the candidates in attendance react to Perry’s undoubtedly scene-stealing announcement today.

Saturday 7:00 a.m. – Austin, Texas

Robert Hadlock and I are flying out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on our way to Iowa for a weekend of political fun. The Iowa Straw Poll awaits us in Ames today, and tomorrow it’s on to Waterloo – where Gov. Rick Perry will make his first appearance in the Hawkeye State since becoming a presidential contender.

This will be a nostalgic trip for me, since I lived and worked in Iowa during the last presidential election cycle. Waterloo was part of my television market, and I was in Ames when Mitt Romney won the straw poll in 2007. Of course, he later lost the state’s caucus and eventually the GOP nomination. This year, he’s the frontrunner again, but he’s bypassing the event altogether this time around.

Perry won’t be there either, as he’s yet to officially announce his candidacy (though that’s expected today in South Carolina). But I hear a PAC called Americans for Rick Perry has a presence at the straw poll.

Session ’11 Guest Lineup for April 24, 2011

April 21st, 2011 at 8:44 pm by under Politics

Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin (Courtesy: Texas House of Representatives)


This Sunday, Reps. Mark Strama, D-Austin, and Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock,

Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock (Courtesy: Texas House of Representatives)

discuss redistricting challenges for central Texas as the House prepares to vote on a statewide map. Also, our onpolitix Panel breaks down digs into the latest budget developments, including a Senate panel’s decision to tap the rainy day fund. Join us at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday for Session ’11.Plus, you can check out our previously broadcast Session ’11 programs here.


Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin

Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock


onpolitix Panel

Christy Hoppe, Dallas Morning News

Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle

Chicago: A Viciously Shaken Snow Globe

February 2nd, 2011 at 8:05 pm by under Photo/Video, Weather

“Welcome Aboard Flight 7454 with non-stop service to Antarctica Chicago.”

You know you are headed for travel trouble when this is the first thing out of your flight attendant’s mouth.  His funny joke was followed up seconds later with the pilot warning us passengers to buckle up, bumpy skies are ahead.

Weather Strands Travelers at ABIA

If you know me, you know I do not fly well.  I had to return to Chicago for a personal matter and had to deal with whatever the weather dealt.  So, I said a prayer, buckled up and for the first time read the safety pamphlet. The flight was mostly smooth, perhaps the scariest part was not having any visibility until we were 70 seconds away from landing at O’Hare.  Hitting the runway was more like taking to a  slip and slide.

Runways were coated with snow at O'Hare (Jacqueline Ingles/KXAN)

Landing was not the worst part. Fast forward three hours and Chicago looked like a snow globe an overzealous child shook.  In all the decades I called Chicago home, I have never seen snow or weather like this “Blizzard of 2011.” Within hours, snow accumulated in record numbers. Making matters worse were 50 mph wind gusts stirring up the powder into the sky.  Those who chose to walk in Downtown Chicago were practically blown over. A man was killed when the wind blew him into Lake Michigan.  People driving on Lake Shore Drive were stranded and at the mercy of rescuers on snowmobiles. Those cars and some people were still stuck 24 hours later.

Snow Filled Evergreens

Aerial Shot of Chicago

Snow clearing is now underway, car ars are being towed off of Lake Shore Drive and the airports should be re-opening. But, this blizzard is not over yet.  The temperature is plunging here and we are going to be -30 degrees overnight.  I am bundling up in sweats to sleep…tomorrow though…the trek into the city should be fun and challenging.

Will I make it in?