Archive for January, 2014

Capital Tonight: Davis campaign wades through messaging missteps

It’s a tough race to the governor’s office and the attacks on Sen. Wendy Davis are already getting personal. But is the campaign being too careful about controlling the candidate and the message?

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we explored criticism from political journalists, and we heard the Travis County Democratic Party’s response to complaints after a mostly closed-off event.


From education reform to the race for lieutenant governor, the political world had plenty of food for thought this week. Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News, Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report and Morgan Smith of the Texas Tribune joined us to sort out the most important stories.


Plus, Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to look into claims by Rep. Louie Gohmert and Sen. Davis.

Dewhurst, Straus issue interim committee charges

The leaders in the Texas House and Senate laid out new agendas for their respective committees during the interim legislative session. This is the work lawmakers will be tasked with accomplishing before the legislature reconvenes in 2015.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced interim charges for the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs during the annual Department of Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars Mid-Winter Conference. He is calling on lawmakers to study ways to improve access to support services, monitor the implementation of new mental health legislation and to study the impact of federal spending cuts on local veterans programs.

“Here in Texas, we honor our veterans because of their sacrifices and service to our country and the positive impact their leadership, experience, and education have on our economy,” Dewhurst said. “I am committed to making Texas the most vet-friendly state in the country.”

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus also laid out his interim charges to help the committees prepare for the 2015 legislative session. According to the Speaker, the 44-page list is based on requests and suggestions made by House members. Among them is a call for House members to investigate the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people.

“Today’s interim charges, combined with the initiatives that I will announce in the weeks to come, will help Members prepare to tackle serious challenges in the next session,” said Straus. “I am confident that we can continue to address these issues in a responsible, bipartisan way.”

You can read the full list of charges below.


83rd Interim Charges

Panel posts reviews of controversial CSCOPE lesson plans

A four-member panel created to re-evaluate a set of controversial lesson plans has posted its work online.

State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill created the panel, known as the CSCOPE Ad Hoc Committee, after growing concern from parents, educators and conservative bloggers that the CSCOPE lesson plans presented an anti-American and anti-Christian bias. The panel is made up of four SBOE members, along with 140 parents, teachers and other stakeholders chosen by all SBOE members, according to the review committee’s website.

CSCOPE was an online tool created by regional education service centers to help smaller school districts adhere to the state’s education guidelines. An effort in the legislature to kill the system actually moved it into the public domain, where any district can use it., but only after a thorough public review process. It’s now known as the TEKS Resource System.


Capital Tonight: President’s minimum wage proposal draws mixed reactions

As the President hits the road to advance the ideas laid out in his State of the Union address, local experts are weighing in. Proponents argue that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would aid poor working Americans, but some economic researchers contend that artificially upping the minimum wage won’t help small businesses or low income Americans.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard different perspectives on the debate, plus we checked in on the implementation of a sweeping education law.


Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report joined us for an explanation of how the President’s State of the Union address intertwines with the politics of the governor’s race and more.


Property taxes have been a popular punching bag on the campaign trail. Travis County Tax Assessor/Collector Bruce Elfant joined us to explain where the tax money goes and how it is collected.

Capital Tonight: Texas lawmakers respond to president’s address

In spite of icy roads and some closed poll locations, Democrat Celia Israel pulled off a win for the House District 50 seat against Republican Mike VanDeWalle. Israel will serve out the remainder of Mark Strama’s term.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard reaction from both candidates after the results came in.

Executive Action

President Barack Obama pledged to sidestep Congress in his fifth State of the Union address to achieve several goals, before calling on lawmakers to pass immigration reform, a new retirement savings program and legislation fighting income inequality. We heard from Texas lawmakers after the president’s speech, including Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Lloyd Doggett and Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Candidate Conversation

Democrat Hugh Fitzsimons joined us to discuss his campaign for agriculture commissioner, including how he would deal with water conservation, oil and gas regulations and more.

Capital Tonight: Reporters share story behind Wendy Davis details

With months to go until the general election, the debate surrounding the two frontrunner candidates for governor has already turned personal. The latest round includes a hidden-camera video calling negative attention to the “Stand With Wendy” slogan, while a recording released by the Lone Star Project brings gender and disability into play.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we put the public attacks into context and hear how the Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott campaigns are responding.


The week started off with Sen. Davis defending her personal narrative, after an article in The Dallas Morning News called some biographical details into question. Eventually, even the article’s author, Wayne Slater, was drawn into the fray. We sat down with Slater and Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle to talk about how Davis became the week’s biggest story.


Plus, Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas joined us to verify a new claim from Sen. Ted Cruz about the Obamacare rollout.


Capital Tonight: ‘School choice’ debate sparks organizing, fundraising

Education reform advocates rallied at the south steps of the Capitol Monday, calling for the use of state money for non-public schools in the form of vouchers and scholarships. Last session, lawmakers passed reforms that expanded charter schools across the state, but funding for vouchers failed to pass.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we analyzed how the “School Choice” movement could shape education in Texas.


Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report joined us to talk about U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, who missed 17 House votes during an unexplained absence from Congress. He also weighed in on the coming debate between San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick.


Both Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis have seen a surge in donations in the race for governor, but the two have developed very different fundraising networks.

We spoke to Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice about where the campaign cash is coming from.


Capital Tonight: Runoff candidates compete for precious few votes

While much of the political world has been focused on the governor’s race and the March primary, there are two candidates urging voters to head to the polls right away. Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VanDeWalle are competing in a runoff election to replace Mark Strama, who resigned last summer, and early voting is almost over.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we highlighted their efforts to get out the vote in spite of cold weather and typically low turnout.


In the primary race for one U.S. Senate seat, it’s the case of the missing candidate. Congressman Steve Stockman is one of seven Republicans challenging John Cornyn for his job. He made waves after filing at the last minute to run against Cornyn, and for inviting outspoken rocker Ted Nugent to the State of the Union address.

But lately, Stockman been missing in action — both on the campaign trail and in Congress.
The Associated Press reports Stockman has missed 17 House votes in a row since Jan. 9 and has been mostly absent from the campaign trail.

We talked to political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi about that story, along with the governor’s race and some headline-grabbing remarks from Gov. Rick Perry in Switzerland.


George P. Bush isn’t the only name in the race for land commissioner. Former El Paso Mayor John Cook joined us live in-studio to talk about his bid for the statewide office.

Davis campaign picks up two education endorsements

Two of the state’s biggest teachers associations have announced their support for Sen. Wendy Davis in her run for governor.

The Texas State Teachers Association and the Texas American Federation of Teachers are both formally endorsing Davis, who has taken steps to make education a central issue in the race. Earlier this month, the Davis campaign unveiled details of her education reform policy, which includes higher pay for teachers and automatic college acceptance for students committed to teaching careers.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is Davis’s likely opponent in the general election, has also focused on education. Abbott has held a series of roundtable meetings across the state touting digital learning and increased flexibility for teachers.


Texas Association of Realtors endorses Dewhurst

The Texas Association of Realtors announced Thursday it is backing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in his reelection bid. The group has actively pushed property rights legislation in the past, including efforts to lower property taxes and reform the property appraisal system.

In a statement, Chairman Dan Hatfield said:

“We believe Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is an excellent leader who understands that we must ensure Texas remains a great place to do business. Through the years, he has shown that he will do what’s right for Texas, which is why we’ve pledged our support. We’re proud to endorse Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s re-election campaign.”

Dewhurst faces Sen. Dan Patrick, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson in the GOP primary. The winner of that race will face Democrat Leticia Van de Putte in the general election in November.