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Van de Putte to Run for San Antonio Mayor

After months of speculation, Democratic State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte says she’s running for San Antonio mayor.

The announcement comes just a couple weeks after Van de Putte suffered a huge loss to Republican Dan Patrick in the Lt. Governor’s race. But although she lost big to Patrick two weeks ago, Van de Putte won more than 50 percent of the Bexar County vote. The city election is May 9th.

Meantime, Van de Putte’s decision to run sets up a political “domino effect” among state lawmakers from San Antonio. State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D, District 123) is also running for mayor — and has resigned from the House.

And two other Texas House members from San Antonio have expressed interested in running for Van de Putte’s Senate seat. Today, State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D, District 116) officially declared he is a candidate. And State Rep. Jose Menendez (D, District 124) has already publicly indicated he would be interested.

Van de Putte plans let Gov. Rick Perry know today her intention to resign from the Senate, so he can call for a special election.

 

‘Big 3′ extend border surge

Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus have signed an agreement to extend the border surge through the end of August 2015.

Perry and other state officials said in a statement Tuesday that the’ll now await the approval of the Legislative Budget Board, which meets next month.

If members give the $86 million plan the go ahead, the move allows enhanced patrols by the Department of Public Safety, the Texas National Guard and other personnel to continue their response to a surge in immigrants entering illegally into the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley.

Officials want to divert nearly $48 million in general revenue bonds and other monies to help cover the cost.

“Texas has proven beyond any doubt that this border can be secured, even if the federal government refuses to take the steps necessary to do so as required by the Constitution,” Perry said in a press release. “This agreement will ensure the hardworking men and women from DPS, the Texas National Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife, who have been working with local and federal partners, have the resources they need to maintain a robust law enforcement presence along the border until the Legislature can act.”

According to the Governor’s Office, funds for DPS would include the addition of new shallow-water boats and other technological capabilities, “which would be used to extend tactical capabilities as well as the surge footprint beyond the Rio Grande Valley Sector.”

 

Abbott Holds Commanding Lead in New Poll

With fewer than two weeks until Election Day, a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows Republican Greg Abbott leading Democrat Wendy Davis by 16 points in the race for governor. The poll shows Abbott with 54 percent to Davis’ 38 percent.

In the race for lieutenant governor, Republican Dan Patrick is maintaining a commanding lead over Democrat Leticia Van de Putte. The poll puts Patrick ahead 52 percent to 35 percent.

Texas’ Senators Applaud Holder Resignation

Texas Republicans are applauding Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to step down.

Sen. John Cornyn has been calling for Holder’s resignation since the 2012 “Fast and Furious” scandal, which allowed guns into Mexico with the intention of tracking them to drug cartels. Cornyn took Holder to task for what he said was failing to appoint a special prosecutor, leaking confidential information and withholding documents from Congress.

In a statement, Cornyn said:

“Unfortunately the American people, myself included, lost confidence in the Attorney General’s ability to lead a long time ago because of his continued willingness to put politics before the law.”

Senator Ted Cruz shared similar sentiments. Cruz has accused Holder of covering up important information concerning the investigation into accusations the IRS unfairly targeted Tea Party groups.

In a statement, he said:

“It is good news that Eric Holder has announced his resignation. Sadly, he has proven to be the most partisan attorney general in our history, repeatedly defying and refusing to enforce the law.  It did not have to be this way, but Holder’s leadership has grievously undermined the Department of Justice’s long bipartisan tradition of independence and fidelity to law.

Holder had an opportunity to fairly investigate the IRS’s illegal targeting of citizen groups; rather than do so, he entrusted the investigation to a major Democratic donor, and brazenly refused to appoint a special prosecutor.  For two years now, the Department has obstructed justice and impeded any fair investigation of the IRS’s abuse of power; in response to Holder’s partisan dereliction of duty, I publicly called for his impeachment.”

 

Holder will remain in his position until a new attorney general is confirmed. Sen. Cruz is requesting that confirmation hearings for his replacement be delayed until a new Congress is in place in January.

Van de Putte Fires First Shot in Lt. Gov. Ad War

Lt. Gov. candidate Leticia Van de Putte is focusing on education reforms in her first statewide TV ad. The 30-second spot touts Van de Putte’s Senate vote against education cuts during the 2011 legislative session and her bipartisan efforts to restore some of the funding in 2013.

The ad is critical of her Republican opponent Dan Patrick’s nay votes during both sessions. “If education isn’t your priority,” she said, “You’re not prepared to lead Texas.”

The ads will air in both English and Spanish.

New Davis Ad Hits Abbott on Education

Sen. Wendy Davis is focusing on her education platform in a new ad in the race for governor. The 30-second spot, which starts airing this evening, focuses on Davis’ Senate voting record on school funding and standardized testing.

Davis also criticized Abbott for his role as Attorney General for defending the state’s school finance funding in state district court. Last week, a judge ruled that the way the state pays for its public education system is unconstitutional. The state attorney general’s office, led by Abbott, is appealing the decision.

This new ad is the first issue-based ad for Davis. The campaign’s previous commercials were aimed at attacking Abbott’s record as a former Texas Supreme Court judge and later, as attorney general.

 

Gubernatorial Debate Debate Continues, Candidates Unable to Agree

Updated with Sen. Wendy Davis Response:

The candidates for governor are still sparring over the format and sponsor for a September 30 debate. Democrat Wendy Davis announced today that she would be willing concede to a change in the debate format for the originally agreed upon WFAA-TV sponsored debate.

Last week, Republican Greg Abbott backed out of the round-table match-up, citing a disagreement over formatting. Instead, he proposed an alternative statewide televised debate on KERA/KXAS-TV. Abbott had previously turned down that offer, but changed his mind on Friday.

Tuesday, the Davis campaign released a statement saying they would be willing to reconsider. “We have spoken with WFAA this afternoon and expressed our willingness to alter the previously agreed upon debate format to accommodate the Abbott campaign’s concerns about the lack of timed responses,” said campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas.

The Abbott campaign, however, says it will not return to the negotiating table. ”Greg Abbott is and has been ready, willing and eager to participate in two statewide debates,” campaign manager Wayne Hamilton said. “Only after losing the debate to other outlets did WFAA ask for and receive permission from the Davis campaign to restructure the debate – something they could have done three months ago or even three days ago.”

Update:

Davis is leaving the door open to the possibility of the alternate debate, however the campaign is critical of Abbott’s refusal to participate in a format with looser restrictions. In a statement, spokesman Zac Petkanas said:

“If Greg Abbott isn’t tough enough to handle a roundtable discussion in front of a statewide audience, it’s hard to see how he’s tough enough to be Governor of Texas. However, the fact that Greg Abbott isn’t willing to keep his word shouldn’t deprive voters of the chance to see both candidates debate issues like his defense of $5.4 billion in public education cuts.  In that spirit, we will open discussions with KERA tomorrow regarding the possibility of a debate.”

Attorney General Abbott says he will still take part in the KERA/KXAS-TV debate. Both candidates have also agreed to a September 19 debate in the Rio Grande Valley. That debate will be seen on Sinclair stations across Texas.

 

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.