Archive for December, 2013

Capital Tonight: After filing deadline, reassessing the field

The paperwork has been signed and the candidates for the 2014 elections are now in place. Republicans saw a last-minute surprise, after U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman filed as a primary challenger to Sen. John Cornyn, and Democrats got an early Christmas present in the form of one judge’s party switch.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we took a closer look at where the top-tier candidates stand, along with Rep. Stockman’s chances now that the dust has settled.


It was day two of the civil trial over Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a process that will ultimately decide whether she can keep her job.

We heard more about the events leading up to her drunk driving arrest back in April, plus we talked to political analysts Harold Cook and Ted Delisi about what’s next for her office and the Public Integrity Unit.


Texas has a reputation for being tough on crime, but a new poll shows many voters are in favor of going easier on certain criminals in hopes of lowering costs. We talked to Sarah Rumpf with the Right on Crime initiative about what the numbers mean for elected officials.

Rep. Steve Stockman files as primary challenger to Cornyn

With just minutes to go before the filing deadline, Republican Congressman Steve Stockman filed the necessary papers to run against Sen. John Cornyn in the Republican primary. Stockman also withdrew his application for his current congressional seat.

It’s a possibility that political pundits have been speculating about for months, after the fight in Washington over defunding the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Cornyn drew fire from the right flank of his party for not following Sen. Ted Cruz’s lead in risking a government shutdown over funding. Even though at least five other Republicans have filed as candidates for the seat, the threat of a high-profile challenger appeared to blow over as the filing deadline approached.

Stockman has drawn publicity in recent years as an instigator, most notably for bringing Ted Nugent to the State of the Union address after the conservative rock guitarist had been investigated by the Secret Service for threatening the president.

Capital Tonight: Lawmakers tout ‘Merry Christmas’ law

It’s OK for Santa to show up at public schools, but what about the phrase “Merry Christmas?”

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we checked in on a new state law that makes sure teachers don’t have to check twice, plus we got an update on the first day of testimony over whether Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg can keep her job after being arrested for drunk driving earlier this year.


The campaign filing deadline has come and gone. We spoke to theQuorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg about who’s safe from a challenger and who could have a fight on their hands.


Plus, we sat down with Republican candidate for comptroller, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran.

Capital Tonight: More fallout from cancer research funding scandal

A Travis County grand jury has indicted a former executive of the state’s embattled cancer-fighting agency, known as CPRIT. Jerald Cobbs is charged with withholding information and securing execution of a document by deception, a first degree felony.

The fallout from Cobbs’ involvement in improperly awarding an $11 million grant to a company now known as Peloton Therapeutics could go beyond criminal charges, though. In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at whether the state’s top officeholders could face political repercussions as they vie for higher office.


The online exchange tied to the Affordable Care Act got a shot in the arm this week, but state leaders are already eyeing new complications stemming from the law. Our reporter roundtable weighed in on that and other developments.


Plus, we continued our series of conversations with the Republican candidates for lieutenant governor. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson joined us to talk about gun rights, border security and more.

Former cancer agency executive indicted over $11M grant

A Travis County grand jury has indicted former CPRIT executive Jerald Cobbs regarding an improperly vetted grant to a Dallas-based pharmaceutical company

The indictment charges Cobbs with presenting a grant proposal for Peloton Therapeutics to the agency’s oversight committee in August 2010, without revealing that it hadn’t gone through the agency’s review process. Cobbs is charged with “securing the execution of a document by deception,” a first-degree felony.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas first came under fire in 2012, when an audit revealed the agency doled out more than $50 million outside of the proper channels.

Cobb has since retired from the agency.



Capital Tonight: Food stamp fight has effect on Central Texas

Lawmakers are working to pass a key piece of legislation before they head on holiday break. The debate is over the farm bill, and the biggest sticking point involves cuts to the $80-billion-a-year food stamp program. As the Congressional fight continues, those who receive the help are already feeling pinched, including many here in Central Texas.


In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we began a series of interviews with the Republican candidates for lieutenant governor. Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples joined us to talk about border security and immigration, and to explain his stance on in-state tuition for undocumented students.


With Republican Tom Pauken’s announcement that he will withdraw from the race for governor, campaign tactics could soon shift for the remaining candidates. Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, talked about what presumed frontrunner Greg Abbott could do heading into the March primary election.

Pauken withdraws from governor’s race

Former Republican Party of Texas chairman Tom Pauken has announced he won’t be running in his party’s primary race for governor.

In a letter to supporters, Pauken said the fundraising gap between him and Attorney General Greg Abbott was too great, and that there didn’t appear to be a realistic path to victory.

“Filing deadline is only days away, and I have to be realistic about our prospects. When I first filed our exploratory committee in March, I said at the time that there were certain, minimum objectives we needed to achieve to win the Republican nomination: (1) We had to raise a minimum of $2 million; (2) We had to build a strong, statewide organization; (3) We had to develop a major social media presence in a short period of time.

Even though I have worked hard to get our message out across the state the past six months, unfortunately we are nowhere near where we need to be financially and organizationally to win this race.” 

As of their last fundraising reports, Abbot’s campaign claimed more than $22 million in cash on hand, compared to just over $200,000 for Pauken. Abbott released a statement shortly after Pauken’s announcement, praising him for his public service.

“As a Vietnam veteran, a member of the Reagan Administration, former Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and head of the Texas Workforce Commission, Tom has dedicated his career to public service and advancing conservatism. Tom has been an insightful and effective voice for common-sense solutions in Texas. In the race for Governor, Tom offered thoughtful ideas in areas such as vocational education and workforce development. I thank him for his valuable contributions to the race, and I look forward to working together with him to build an even better Texas.”

Pauken hasn’t said what he plans to do next, but promised to continue work to end “insider cronyism” and to “fight for our founding principles.”

Capital Tonight: Dewhurst pushes for increased border security funding

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is praising tighter border security measures and pushing to make them permanent. Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw joined Dewhurst at the Capitol Wednesday, to announce that the most recent three-week increase in land, air and water surveillance was effective in curbing crimes by drug cartels and stopping smuggling across the border.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at whether the so-called surge can get long-term support in spite of $60 million in funding needs and a history of local criticism.


The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about the strategy House Speaker John Boehner may be taking on immigration reform.


Plus, a new study suggests child poverty in Texas has increased over the last decade, even as the economy improved. The director for Kids Count, Frances Deviney, joined us to break down the data and talk about how to reverse it.

Capital Tonight: Abbott campaign pivots toward education issues

The race for the state’s top spot is now focusing in on education. Attorney General Greg Abbott kicked off a series of classroom roundtables this week, marking the first time the Republican frontrunner in the race for governor has zeroed in on the topic. It’s an issue Senator Wendy Davis — the lead Democrat in the race — has been campaigning on since the beginning.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at where the candidates stand on the issue, and what they’ve said in the past.


The White House is reporting over a million people visited the website Monday, on the first full business day after a series of repairs. Government officials now say the federal online health insurance exchange is now functioning 90 percent of the time.

We spoke with Mimi Garcia of Enroll America about their efforts to get the word out about health insurance options through the Affordable Care Act in states like Texas, where the federally created website is the only one available.


Plus, our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, joined us to look at what’s next for the Affordable Care Act and how Republicans and Democrats will position themselves around the law.

Capital Tonight: Checking up on the federal enrollment website

White House officials are touting fixes to the online health insurance exchange nearly two months after a botched rollout on October 1. The Obama administration says 175,000 people logged onto before noon Monday, the first full business day since a self-imposed deadline to fix a host of problems.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at whether the changes are noticeable in Texas, where a number of groups are working to get people enrolled and get the word out.


The campaign filing deadline is one week away, and it could mean some last-minute scrambling for a few candidates. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to explain why.


Plus, we sat down with Republican gubernatorial candidate Miriam Martinez. Click the image below to hear about Martinez’s unique background and her thoughts on immigration reform, the Republican party and more.