Archive for April, 2014

Capital Tonight: More questions about Texas’ execution drugs

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is responding to questions about its death penalty procedures, following a botched execution in Oklahoma in which an inmate returned to consciousness before eventually dying of a heart attack.

Texas currently uses one large dose of the drug pentobarbital for lethal injections, not a mixed-drug method like Oklahoma. But newly released documents show the state has one of the drugs Oklahoma used in stock.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we learned more about the kind of lethal drugs the TDCJ has on hand, and how opponents and supporters of the death penalty are reacting.


The numbers suggest that Texas is a very Republican state, but Democrats believe they can prove otherwise by getting more people to the polls in November. We sat down with Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa to talk about new support for Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a perceived snub from Democratic Governor’s Association and their plans for the summer convention.


Wednesday brought a new wave of back-and-forth attacks in the Republican runoff race for lieutenant governor. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about that development and more.

Patrick refutes new Dewhurst ad

Sen. Dan Patrick was quick with a response to a new negative campaign ad released by Republican opponent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Patrick posted clarification online and in a media email blast, just hours after the ad hit airwaves. Patrick’s campaign refutes claims that he pocketed money by filing for bankruptcy and that he changed his name to hide from his debts.

Last week, PolitiFact Texas declared a claim made in a previous Dewhurst ad that Patrick changed his name from Danny Goeb in an effort to cover up bankruptcy, “Pants on Fire.” 

To be fair, the latest ad doesn’t claim that Patrick changed his name to hide his debts, only that he changed his name to run for public office.

Sen. Dan Patrick is also highly critical of unflattering photos that appear in the Dewhurst ad. One picture shows Patrick in an unbuttoned shirt and tie. In a statement, his campaign said:

“Seeking to portray Dan Patrick in an unflattering light, Dewhurst uses photos of Patrick taken while raising money for children with multiple disabilities, literally giving them the shirt off his back as a charity auction item. Patrick has helped raise over $16,000,000 to benefit the Be An Angel Foundation since 1988.”

Dewhurst slams Patrick on ethics in new ad

The ad wars in the lieutenant governor’s race are are heating up, with yet another hitting airwaves today. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s new television spot targets Sen. Dan Patrick’s ethics and takes aim at his troubled financial past.

On Monday, Sen. Patrick released his second TV spot in less than a week, aimed at Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s record on immigration.

Dewhurst and Patrick are locked in an ugly race for the state’s second most powerful position. Dewhurst, the incumbent, came in second in the March primary. The winner of the May 27 runoff will face Democrat Leticia Van de Putte in November.

Van de Putte picks up endorsement from Howard Dean

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s campaign is touting a new endorsement from a nationally known figure in the Democratic Party, albeit one with a slightly dented public image.

Today, former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean announced he supports Sen. Van de Putte in her run for lieutenant governor. Dean is perhaps best known for his run for the 2004 Democratic nomination for president, which many believe was derailed by an off-putting scream in an Iowa campaign speech. After dropping out of the race, Dean went on to form the group Democracy for America, which raises money and volunteer support for Democratic candidates around the country. Today’s endorsement means the group will now work to raise money for Van de Putte as well.

“I got to know Leticia when she co-chaired the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, the year we nominated Barack Obama to be our next president,” Dean said in a press release. “She is a leader who has dedicated her career to protecting families and working for prosperity for all Texans.”

The announcement follows a perceived snub toward another Texas Democrat running for higher office. Yesterday, the chairman of the Democratic Governor’s Association failed to include Sen. Wendy Davis’ run for governor among the group’s targeted races.

Meanwhile, Dean and Democracy for America continue to tout their endorsement for Davis, calling her and Van de Putte’s campaigns the “best opportunity in a generation to turn Texas blue.”


Capital Tonight: Keep It Red organizers explain efforts to counter Battleground Texas

While the two candidates for governor will likely be the main draw this November, proponents for more transportation funding hope some of that attention turns into support for a ballot measure as well. Proposition 1 will ask voters whether or not to approve an increase in transportation funding by diverting a portion of the state’s oil and gas revenue away from the Rainy Day Fund.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we checked in on the campaign for Proposition 1 and heard why some are trying to put on the brakes.


Battleground Texas has been trying to turn Texas blue for a little over a year now, but Sen. John Cornyn and the Keep it Red campaign are hoping to stop them in their tracks. We sat down with Cornyn campaign manager Brendan Steinhauser to talk about their efforts.


The attacks are still flying in the Republican runoff race for lieutenant governor, and Sen. Dan Patrick is trying to shift the debate to immigration issues. Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report weighed in on that and more.

Patrick attacks Dewhurst on immigration in new TV ad

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Sen. Dan Patrick is out with his second attack ad in less than a week. This time, he’s going after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on immigration. He accuses Dewhurst of failing to secure the border and allowing the Senate to expand in-state tuition and free healthcare for illegal immigrants on his watch.

The ad started airing this morning on Fox News in 14 Texas markets. You can watch the ad here:

Dewhurst and Patrick are facing off in the Republican primary runoff election on May 27. The winner will take on Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in November.

Capital Tonight: Looking back at a week of high-profile investigations

A grand jury has met for the first time to hear evidence on whether Gov. Rick Perry’s threat to veto funding for the state’s Public Integrity Unit amounted to coercion of a public servant.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we checked in from the Travis County Criminal Justice Complex for the latest.


A committee’s look into a UT regent has now become a criminal investigation, but the possibility of impeachment is still up in the air. We discussed what’s next for Wallace Hall with Robert Garrett of The Dallas Morning News, Reeve Hamilton of the Texas Tribune and David Rauf of the San Antonio Express-News.


And the attacks are still flying in the Republican runoff race for lieutenant governor.
Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to sort out which ones are true.

Capital Tonight: Committee member opens up about UT regent investigation

May 12 could prove to be a fateful day for UT Regent Wallace Hall. That’s when state lawmakers say they’ll vote on whether or not to recommend Hall’s impeachment. Thursday, a House panel met for the first time since a draft report on Hall’s efforts to oust UT President Bill Powers was released.

Lawmakers met behind closed doors most of the time, but in Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke to Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer for some insight into what action the committee is considering next.


More behind-the-scenes negotiations are coming to light about Governor Perry’s veto of Public Integrity Unit Funding. Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi weighed in on what the latest twist could mean.


In a move that could radically change how Internet content is delivered, the Federal Communications Commission is proposing new rules giving online providers the right to charge more for so-called “fast lanes” into your home or office. We checked in on the latest from Washington on what the change could mean.

Texas lawmaker leading Sriracha delegation to California

Texans take their hot sauce seriously. And so, apparently, do its lawmakers. A so-called “Sriracha Delegation” is headed to California, in an effort to “bring the heat” home.

The Sriracha saga started when residents of the California town of Irwindale began complaining that the chili fumes from the factory were burning their eyes and causing coughing fits. Now, the company’s future is uncertain, as the city council contemplates declaring the factory a public nuisance.

That’s where Texas Rep. Jason Villalba comes in. He and other state leaders have invited Sriracha to relocate to Texas, where there are fewer regulations. Now, they are taking their offensive on the road. They will meet with the company’s CEO and tour the facility on May 12 to make their pitch in person.

“I am astonished and dismayed by the recent actions of the Irwindale City Council to further hinder the operations of local small business, Huy Fong Foods,” Villalba said. “As a long-time fan of Sriracha, I am deeply troubled that one of the fastest growing and universally beloved condiments in the world – made right here in the USA – could face such blatant obstructionism by a local city government.”

Villalba will be joined by Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and one of Attorney General Greg Abbott’s top aides, as will the state’s Director of Business Development, Jose Romano. 

Cuomo on Perry debate: “I don’t think so”

Political watchers hoping for a debate between two of the biggest states in the nation will have to contain their disappointment. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined an invitation from Texas Gov. Rick Perry to face off in a forum on jobs, the economy and education.

Perry issued the challenge during an interview with a New York talk radio program. “It was just something that jumped into my head, and I pitched it out and it sounded like a good idea,” Perry told reporters Tuesday. “And I really hope he accepts.”

When asked about the challenge shortly after, Cuomo told reporters, “I don’t think so.” He continued, “I think I’m going to let the numbers speak for the state of New York. We have start up zones that are zero tax zones — zero taxes for 10 years. I believe it makes it the least expensive state to site a business.”