Sarah Grady

Sarah has been with the YNN family since 2004. She is a native New Yorker and graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I Newhouse School of Public Communications with a BS in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. Sarah joined YNN Austin in August of 2009 and helped launch YNN's nightly political show, Capital Tonight, in 2011. When she’s not in the control room or updating the website, Sarah enjoys being in the field. Some highlights included producing the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and the Presidential Inauguration, as well as YNN’s “9/11 Ten Years Later” special one hour show from New York City.


Posts by Sarah Grady

Update: Abbott Proposes Alternate Dallas Debate

Updated with Wendy Davis Response

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is proposing an alternative statewide televised debate. Abbott announced Friday evening that he would accept an invitation from KERA, NBC5/KXAS-TV, Telemundo 39 and The Dallas Morning News. The announcement came hours after WFAA-TV reported that Abbott was backing out of an already scheduled debate on Sept. 30.

WFAA officials said the Abbott campaign formally accepted the terms of their debate back in May, but then disagreed with a proposed round table format. In a statement on their website, WFAA General Manager said:

“We are deeply disappointed that the Abbott campaign has not lived up to the commitment it made to participate in this important debate. WFAA has produced numerous debates which are balanced and fair to all the candidates. This debate would be no different. The citizens of Texas deserve to hear from the candidates for the most important office in the state.”

In a press release, Abbott said he withdrew from the WFAA debate due to an”inability to agree on a suitable format.”  He said the new proposal would also allow the debate to be distributed statewide without restrictions.

Abbott’s Democratic challenger Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaign issued a statement, saying she will consider the proposal.

“There have been reports that the Abbott campaign has ‘committed’ to another debate, but as we learned today Greg Abbott’s commitments don’t mean very much.

“Wendy Davis has already committed the evening of September 30th to a debate on WFAA.  The station has asked to have a discussion on Tuesday, September 2nd to discuss options given the recent developments and, as Wendy Davis is someone who honors her commitments, the campaign looks forward to having that discussion.”

So far, the only confirmed debate before the November election is scheduled in the Rio Grande Valley, later this month. It will be distributed to Sinclair stations in Austin, San Antonio and certain other Texas markets.

Judge Rules Key Part of Abortion Law Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Austin has struck another blow to the state’s new abortion laws. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Friday that the portion of the law requiring medical and structural upgrades is unconstitutional. That provision of House Bill 2, which passed last legislative session, was set to take effect on Monday.

The costly upgrades would have forced more than a dozen abortion clinics out of business, leaving seven operating abortion clinics in the state.

This latest lawsuit was filed by Whole Women’s Health, which was already forced to close its Austin facility because its lease was running out and they couldn’t afford to wait for a ruling. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the law would put an undue burden on women who would be forced to travel hundreds of miles for care.

Supporters of the law say the regulations were meant to improve safety.

Two other provisions of the state’s stricter abortion regulations were challenged earlier this year. Back in March, a federal appeals court upheld new rules requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. They also upheld stricter limits on the way doctors prescribe abortion inducing drugs. That case could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Exclusive: Perry’s Taxpayer Funded Legal Bill Hits Six Figures

Gov. Rick Perry spent nearly $133,000 in state money on his legal defense – more than the $80,000 previously reported. The governor’s office confirmed to Capital Tonight on Friday that Gov. Perry enlisted three law firms to provide counsel during the grand jury proceedings. Gov. Perry paid $98,000 to Botsford & Roark, $15,000 to Baker Botts and $19,890 to attorney Jack Bacon.

Those fees were paid through appropriations designated for legal fees through the Texas Comptroller’s office. Perry was not required to request access to the funds, nor explain for what purpose they would be used.

“The firms worked with Governor’s Office attorneys to protect the governor’s interest during the grand jury process, including legal research, witness interviews, and dealing with the Court and the prosecutor on a broad range of issues,” said a Perry spokesperson.

Attorneys with two of those firms, David Botsford and Thomas Phillips, remain on Perry’s legal team. Jack Bacon, meanwhile, works for Keel Nassour LLP.

Gov. Perry is facing two felony charges stemming from his 2013 threat to cut funding to the Public Integrity Unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not resign following her drunken driving conviction. When Lehmberg refused, the governor followed through and pulled the funding. Perry’s attorneys have maintained that the governor was within his rights to veto the money and to issue a warning about a possible veto. Monday, they filed a writ of habeus corpus to have the indictment thrown out on the grounds that the charges are unconstitutional.

Perry is currently employing six attorneys, including Botsford and Phillips, as well as consultant Steve Schmidt. Moving forward, their fees are being paid for with campaign funds. The governor’s office has not said if Perry plans to repay the $133,000 already spent.

Davis Responds to Abbott’s Decision to Cancel Debate

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott has backed out of the only scheduled statewide televised debate before the November election. The debate, which was to be hosted by WFAA-TV, was set to be held in Dallas on Sept. 30. Station officials say Abbott’s campaign cited concerns over the format as the reason for the reversal.

In a statement on their website, WFAA-TV General Manager Mike Devlin said,

“We are deeply disappointed that the Abbott campaign has not lived up to the commitment it made to participate in this important debate. WFAA has produced numerous debates which are balanced and fair to all the candidates. This debate would be no different. The citizens of Texas deserve to hear from the candidates for the most important office in the state.”

Abbott’s Democratic challenger Sen. Wendy Davis had initially proposed six debates across the state. Abbott only agreed to a debate in McAllen later this month, and the now-cancelled WFAA debate.

Davis campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas issued this statement, Friday:

“It’s no surprise that Greg Abbott is pulling out of a long planned debate the day after he was defeated in court for protecting billions in public education cuts that have led to overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and shuttered schools. Greg Abbott is clearly too afraid to defend his record of siding with insiders at the expense of Texans – whether it’s defending funding cuts for classrooms, siding with a corporation against a victim of rape or letting his donors take tens of millions of taxpayer dollars intended for cancer research. This is nothing short of an insult to the voters of Texas.”

Texas Candidates for Governor Respond to School Finance Ruling

Any possible changes the Texas Legislature makes to the school finance system will happen under the watch of the next governor. 

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is the current attorney general. His office represents the state in school finance litigation. Officially, his office said he would defend this law in court, just as he would any other law passed by the Legislature.

Later Thursday, his campaign released this statement:

“Our obligation is to improve education for our children rather than just doubling down on an outdated education system constructed decades ago. In my campaign for governor, I have proposed substantial improvements for our schools that will do a better job of educating Texans while spending tax dollars wisely. My plan will make Texas top-ranked in the nation for education by returning genuine local control to school districts, ensuring all children are reading and doing math at grade level by third grade, and graduating more students from high school than ever before.”

Sen. Wendy Davis is also weighing in on today’s ruling. She has long criticized the Legislature’s decision to slash $5.4 billion in school spending in 2011. In a statement Thursday, she said:

“Today is a victory for our schools, for the future of our state and for the promise of opportunity that’s at the core of who we are as Texans. The reality is clear and indefensible: insiders like Greg Abbott haven’t been working for our schools; they’ve been actively working against them. Abbott has been in court for years, defending overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and public-school closings, and today, Judge John Dietz ruled against him. This ruling underscores the crucial need to invest in education and reminds us of just how much our schools, teachers and students have had to sacrifice over the past three years just to get by.”

Judge Declares School Finance System Unconstitutional, Again

State District Judge John Dietz has once again ruled that the state’s school finance system is unconstitutional. The decision comes six months after the second phase of the trial wrapped up in Austin. 

The case stems from 2011, when the Texas legislature cut more than $5 billion in education funding. More than 600 school districts sued, arguing the budget cuts left them without the resources to meet academic standards. They also said the gap between property rich schools and poor property districts was too great.

In a verbal ruling last year, Judge Dietz agreed. He reopened the case, however, after lawmakers restored about $3.5 billion and cut testing requirements during the 2013 session. Today, Dietz reaffirmed that the “Robin Hood” system of property tax sharing doesn’t allocate money fairly among school districts.

The state is expected to appeal this ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. If it’s upheld, the Legislature will have to come up with a new funding formula.

 

Perry Hires Former McCain Consultant

Gov. Rick Perry has now added a seventh person to the team tasked with handling his indictment. Politico is reporting that Perry hired former John McCain adviser Steve Schmidt. Schmidt is a big-dollar campaign strategist and was an instrumental member of McCain’s team during his presidential run. (You may recall he was played by Woody Harrelson in the HBO movie “Game Change.”)

Perry has already hired six high-powered attorneys to aid his defense. Houston trial lawyer Tony Buzbee is leading the team. He is joined by Austin attorney David Botsford, who represented Perry during the grand jury proceedings, and Ben Ginsburg, who is famous for his work with the Florida recount during the 2000 presidential elections.

Yesterday, Perry’s lawyers filed a motion to have the felony charges dismissed. The 60-page brief argues the charges are unconstitutional. Special prosecutor Michael McCrum, however, remains confident that Perry will go to trail.

Gov. Perry is charged with abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. The charges stem from the 2013 legislative session, when Perry warned he would cut funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not step down following a drunk driving conviction. Perry pointed to an embarrassing post-arrest video as grounds for his request. He followed through and slashed the $7.5 million when she refused to resign.

Perry’s attorneys claim his veto explanation falls under his first amendment right to free speech, as well as separation of powers in government. Attorneys also claim the statute being used to prosecute the governor for abuse of power is flawed.

 

 

 

Perry Attorneys Dismiss Democrats’ CPRIT Investigation Accusations

Gov. Rick Perry’s defense team is refuting claims the governor targeted the Travis County Public Integrity unit because its CPRIT investigation.

In a conference call Thursday, attorney Tony Buzbee read from an affidavit signed by a former PIU investigator in charge of the CPRIT investigation. He states that “at no time in the CPRIT investigation was Governor Rick Perry or anyone from the Governor’s office a target.” The investigator, identified as Chris Walling, said he was interviewed by special prosecutor Michael McCrum. Walling said, “I made it clear to him that there was absolutely no evidence even suggesting wrongdoing on the part of Governor Perry.”

Perry was indicted last week on felony charges that he coerced a public official and abused his office. The charges stem from Perry’s 2013 threat to veto $7.5 million for the PIU if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a drunk driving conviction. 

Democrats have pointed to the CPRIT investigation as a possible motive for Gov. Perry to force Lehmberg, who is a Democrat, out of office. However the Travis County Democratic Party has not said the unit was investigating Perry, specifically.

“Probably the worst political issue about this whole thing is that he actually vetoed those funds while the Public Integrity Unit was investigating the cancer research funds that mysteriously went to some of their donors without the proper vetting process,” said chairman Joe Deshotel.

Perry defense attorney Ben Ginsburg called the accusations “a red herring Democrats are trying to make float upstream.”

Gov. Perry Office Confirms He Will Appear for Processing

Gov. Rick Perry will appear at the Travis County Justice Complex at 5:00 this evening to be booked on felony charges. A grand jury indicted Perry on Friday on abuse of official capacity and coercion charges.

The charges stem from 2013 when Perry threatened to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not resign. He followed through and cut $7.5 million when she refused.

Perry and his team of high profile attorneys have maintained that Perry was well within his rights as governor to veto any legislation he saw fit. In regard to the veto threat, Perry attorney David Botsford said, “if he had in, fact said to Rosemary Lehmberg: ‘I do not approve of your conduct. I am not going to fund the Public Integrity Unit unless and until you have resigned.’ There is absolutely no question as a matter of law that that conduct is protected and it is not illegal.”

 

Craddick Elected Railroad Commission Chair

The Texas Railroad Commission unanimously elected Christi Craddick as chairwoman, Tuesday. Craddick was elected to the three member commission in 2012. She will replace Barry Smitherman, who will be leaving the commission following an unsuccessful run for Attorney General.

In recent months, Craddick has been working closely with Red State Women, which is PAC aimed at engaging female voters in Texas. Executive Director Cari Christman released this statement:

“Texas will be well served with Christi Craddick at the helm of the Texas Railroad Commission. As Commissioner, Christi has been an unrelenting crusader for Texans, protecting jobs from the ever-encroaching EPA and looking for ways to improve and innovate our oil and gas industry. A strong Republican female, Christi continues to be a trailblazer and a role model for the women of our great state.”