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Election Day 2016: Texas Races We’re Watching

The day has finally arrived. Election Day 2016. It’s hard to believe that this election cycle started in March 2015 with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announcing his candidacy at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

 

Overall, Texas saw quite a bit of action during this election season. The state had five presidential candidates with Texas ties. Former Governor Rick Perry, native Texan Jeb Bush, Austin-born Carly Fiorina and Sen. Rand Paul who grew up in Texas and went to Baylor University joined Sen. Cruz in the crowded field of 17 Republican candidates.

 

But in the end, Donald Trump won the GOP nomination and Hillary Clinton became the Democrats’ nominee.

 

While much of the last few months have been solely focused on that contentious presidential race, there are several state races that could end in upsets for the incumbents.

 

Here’s a list of the races we are watching tonight:

Congressional District 23 – San Antonio

Republican Rep. Will Hurd vs. Democrat Pete Gallego

 

State House Races

San Antonio

Republican Rep. John Lujan vs. Democrat Tomas Uresti

Republican Rep. Rick Galindo vs. Democrat Phil Cortez

 

North Texas

Republican Rep. Rodney Anderson vs. Democrat Terry Meza

Republican Rep. Kenneth Sheets vs. Democrat Victoria Neave

Republican Rep. Linda Koop vs. Democrat Laura Irvin

Republican Rep. Cindy Burkett vs. Rhetta Andrews Bowers

Republican Rep. Jason Villalba vs. Democrat Jim Burke

 

Kingsville

Republican Rep. J.M. Lozano vs. Democrat Marisa Yvette Garcia-Utley

 

Pasadena
Republican Rep. Gilbert Pena vs. Democrat Mary Ann Perez
Galveston

Republican Rep. Wayne Faircloth vs. Democrat Lloyd Criss
Houston

Republican Rep. Sarah Davis vs. Democrat Ben Rose

 

Central Texas

Republican Rep. Tony Dale vs. Democrat Paul Gordon

Republican Rep. Paul Workman vs. Democrat Ana Jordan
Even if Democrats do pick up a few Texas House seats, the balance of power is still firmly in Republicans’ grip at the Texas Legislature.

 

Join us at 6 p.m. tonight for complete coverage of the presidential, state and local races.

 

 

Cruz Will Vote for Trump

After the bitter back and forth during the presidential campaign, Sen. Ted Cruz said he’s searched his own conscience and will vote for Donald Trump in November.

“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Cruz said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.

 

Trump quickly responded to Cruz’s endorsement saying:

“I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Senator Cruz. We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again.”

 

 

Here’s Cruz’s full statement:

This election is unlike any other in our nation’s history. Like many other voters, I have struggled to determine the right course of action in this general election.

In Cleveland, I urged voters, “please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket whom you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word.

Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable — that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.

Six key policy differences inform my decision. First, and most important, the Supreme Court. For anyone concerned about the Bill of Rights — free speech, religious liberty, the Second Amendment — the Court hangs in the balance. I have spent my professional career fighting before the Court to defend the Constitution. We are only one justice away from losing our most basic rights, and the next president will appoint as many as four new justices. We know, without a doubt, that every Clinton appointee would be a left-wing ideologue. Trump, in contrast, has promised to appoint justices “in the mold of Scalia.”

For some time, I have been seeking greater specificity on this issue, and today the Trump campaign provided that, releasing a very strong list of potential Supreme Court nominees — including Sen. Mike Lee, who would make an extraordinary justice — and making an explicit commitment to nominate only from that list. This commitment matters, and it provides a serious reason for voters to choose to support Trump.

Second, Obamacare. The failed healthcare law is hurting millions of Americans. If Republicans hold Congress, leadership has committed to passing legislation repealing Obamacare. Clinton, we know beyond a shadow of doubt, would veto that legislation. Trump has said he would sign it.

Third, energy. Clinton would continue the Obama administration’s war on coal and relentless efforts to crush the oil and gas industry. Trump has said he will reduce regulations and allow the blossoming American energy renaissance to create millions of new high-paying jobs.

Fourth, immigration. Clinton would continue and even expand President Obama’s lawless executive amnesty. Trump has promised that he would revoke those illegal executive orders.

Fifth, national security. Clinton would continue the Obama administration’s willful blindness to radical Islamic terrorism. She would continue importing Middle Eastern refugees whom the FBI cannot vet to make sure they are not terrorists. Trump has promised to stop the deluge of unvetted refugees.

Sixth, Internet freedom. Clinton supports Obama’s plan to hand over control of the Internet to an international community of stakeholders, including Russia, China, and Iran. Just this week, Trump came out strongly against that plan, and in support of free speech online.

These are six vital issues where the candidates’ positions present a clear choice for the American people.

If Clinton wins, we know — with 100% certainty — that she would deliver on her left-wing promises, with devastating results for our country.

My conscience tells me I must do whatever I can to stop that.

We also have seen, over the past few weeks and months, a Trump campaign focusing more and more on freedom — including emphasizing school choice and the power of economic growth to lift African-Americans and Hispanics to prosperity.

Finally, after eight years of a lawless Obama administration, targeting and persecuting those disfavored by the administration, fidelity to the rule of law has never been more important.

The Supreme Court will be critical in preserving the rule of law. And, if the next administration fails to honor the Constitution and Bill of Rights, then I hope that Republicans and Democrats will stand united in protecting our fundamental liberties.

Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way.

A year ago, I pledged to endorse the Republican nominee, and I am honoring that commitment. And if you don’t want to see a Hillary Clinton presidency, I encourage you to vote for him.

—————–

Watch Capital Tonight at 7 for full analysis from our reporter roundtable on Cruz’s decision to endorse Trump.

Report: Limit Texas Pre-K Class Sizes

A new report done by the Texas Education Agency and the Department of Family and Protective Services recommends Texas limit its pre-kindergarten classroom sizes to 22 students. The report said most pre-K programs statewide already have 22 students or less, but an estimated 13 to 16-percent of those classrooms in the study exceed the suggested limit.

The report also found pre-K classrooms with an 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio or less preformed the best. The current average of student-to-teacher ratio in Texas pre-K classrooms is 12:1.

Results of this study were determined through classroom observations, data voluntarily reported by 18-percent of Texas school districts from the 2014-2015 school year, and a review of national research on pre-K quality.

Stephanie Ruben, CEO of Texans Care for Children, said her group “wholeheartedly” agrees with the report.

“Pre-K is a proven strategy to help children succeed in school and provide a great return on investment for taxpayers, but only if class sizes and teacher-student ratios are manageable and teachers can effectively engage their students,” said Ruben. “During the next legislative session our state lawmakers should build on HB 4 and establish these quality standards for all pre-K classes.”

You can read the full statement from Ruben’s organization here.

The legislature had the TEA and DFPS look into pre-K class sizes, as part of the state’s sweeping 2015 pre-K initiative under House Bill 4. Under the legislation, Texas Governor Greg Abbott had pledged districts get up to $1,500 per student, if they put into place stricter pre-K standards. However, qualifying districts currently only receive $734 per pupil.

 

Judge Blocks Obama’s Transgender Guidelines for Schools

A federal judge in Fort Worth temporarily blocked the Obama’s administration’s guidelines directing the nation’s public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that conform to their gender identity. It comes as millions of Texas students head back to class this week.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued the preliminary injunction late Sunday.

The judge ruled the directive violated federal notice and comment requirements noting the administration didn’t follow proper rule-making procedures in crafting the guidelines.

Texas led a 13-state coalition asking that the guidelines be stopped after the federal government issued the directive in May.

While the injunction applies nationwide, the judge said states that have chosen to accommodate transgender students “will not be impacted.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the decision. Here’s his response:

“We are pleased that the court ruled against the Obama Administration’s latest illegal federal overreach. This President is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threatening to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform. That cannot be allowed to continue, which is why we took action to protect States and School Districts, who are charged under state law to establish a safe and disciplined environment conducive to student learning.”

 

You can read the judge’s 38-page order here.

Watch Capital Tonight at 7 for reaction from both sides of the issue, plus we discuss what happens next.

Texas Republican Leaders Plan to Participate in Trump’s Austin Rally

Donald Trump will take the stage in Austin next week. His campaign announced Friday morning that he’ll hold a rally at the Travis County Expo Center following a fundraising event in town earlier that day. It’s Trump’s first public event in Texas since becoming his party’s nominee. The rally is schedule for 7:30 Tuesday night.

 

We reached out to top Texas Republican leaders to see who plans to join him. Governor Greg Abbott’s team said he won’t be able to attend the events because he has a previously scheduled treatment visit at the San Antonio burn unit.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is a yes. So is Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who’s team said he’s been coordinating with the Trump campaign and will possibly speak at one of the events.

We haven’t heard of Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s plans yet.

Former Governor Rick Perry has been a big Trump backer and will attend the fundraising event prior to the rally. A spokesman said he won’t be able to attend the rally due to a previously scheduled out-of-town commitment.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign, not surprisingly, told us he will not be in attendance.

 

Meanwhile, Texas Democrats were quick to question who would welcome Trump to the state. Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle said in a news release:

“The biggest question for Texas voters:  Will Texas Republican leaders show up? Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, George P. Bush, Sid Miller and indicted AG Ken Paxton have all endorsed the divisive and destructive GOP nominee—will they welcome Trump to Texas and take the stage with him on Tuesday? Will Republicans who have been “waiting” on Trump – like Will Hurd in Congressional District 23 –  finally guts up and join Trump, or keep hiding behind weak, passive and dishonest excuses?”

 

 

 

PPP Survey: Perry Could Beat Cruz in 2018

A new poll released Wednesday suggests Texas voters would pick former Governor Rick Perry over Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. The democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling survey shows Perry would beat Cruz by nine percentage points in the race for US Senate. The poll found Perry would get 46 percent of the vote, Cruz 37 percent and 18 were not sure who they would pick.

 

Speculation has been growing about who might challenge Cruz in 2018 after a failed presidential bid and frustration from some supporters after he refused to endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump at their party’s convention last month. Of those surveyed, 39 percent said they approved of the job Cruz was doing, while 48 percent disapprove. Still, 50 percent of Texas Republican voters surveyed said they want Cruz as the Republican candidate for Senate in 2018. Forty-three percent said they would like someone else.

 

The poll also matched Cruz up against two other potential challengers, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Cruz beat McCaul 51 to 19 percent. The state’s junior senator is also ahead of Patrick 49 to 27 percent.

 

When put up against a Democrat, Cruz also wins. He beats both US Housing Secretary Julian Castro and former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis by 12 points.

 

PPP surveyed 944 likely Texas voters from August 12-14. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Holds Narrow Lead Over Clinton in Texas

Donald Trump has a relatively narrow lead over rival Hillary Clinton in a new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday. In a head-to-head matchup, Trump leads by just six points, 50 to 44 percent. In 2016, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 16 points.

When you include minor party candidates, the margin remains the same with Trump at 44 percent to Clinton’s 38 percent. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson received 6 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein got 2 percent.

PPP is a democratic-leaning firm based in North Carolina. It points out that a Democratic victory in Texas this year is still a stretch but the numbers show “there are signs of Democrats being positioned to become seriously competitive in the years ahead.”

The poll shows that Trump’s advantage is “based entirely” on a wide lead over Clinton among seniors, 63 to 33 percent. Clinton leads Trump with voters under 65, 49 to 45 percent.

The poll of 944 likely voters was conducted Friday through Sunday. It has a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

 

Trump Taps Perry, Miller to Advise on Agriculture

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tapped several Texans to advise him on agriculture policy as he campaigns for the White House. He announced his new Agriculture Advisory Committee Tuesday. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller had already made public his position with Trump’s agriculture team. But this is the first time we’ve heard former Governor Rick Perry will be part of it. The 64-member team also includes several other prominent Texans.

 

In a news release, the Trump campaign said the committee “will provide pioneering new ideas to strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry as well as provide support to our rural communities.”

“The members of my agricultural advisory committee represent the best that America can offer to help serve agricultural communities,” Trump said in a statement. “Many of these officials have been elected by their communities to solve the issues that impact our rural areas every day. I’m very proud to stand with these men and women, and look forward to serving those who serve all Americans from the White House.”

 

Here’s the complete list of Trump’s agriculture team (* indicates Texans on panel):

 

Charles Herbster – National Chairman of the Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President

Sam Clovis – National Chief Policy Advisor for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President

Rebeckah Adcock –CropLife, Senior Director, Government Affairs

Robert Aderholt – Congressman from Alabama; Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture

Jay Armstrong – Kansas Wheat Commission; Chairman, Farm Foundation

Gary Black – Commissioner Agriculture, Georgia

John Block – Former Sec. of USDA

*Mike Brandenburg – State Legislator, North Dakota

Terry Branstad – Governor of Iowa

Sam Brownback – Governor of Kansas

Chuck Conner – CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Mike Conaway – House Agriculture Chairman

Jack Dalrymple – Governor of North Dakota

Dennis Daugaard – Governor of South Dakota

Rodney Davis – Congressman from Illinois; House Agriculture committee and Subcommittee Chair of Bio Tech

Mary Fallin – Governor of Oklahoma

Eddie Fields – Senator, Oklahoma; Chair Senate Ag and Rural Development

Steve Foglesong – Former President National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Jim Gilmore – Former Governor Virginia; Chairman of Report on Terrorism and Agro-Terrorism

Bob Goodale – Former CEO of Harris Teeter

Bob Goodlatte – Congressman, Virginia; Former Chairman House Agriculture Committee

Mike Green – State Senator, Michigan; Appropriations Agriculture Chair; Senate Agriculture Committee Vice Chair

*Helen Groves – Rancher; daughter of Robert Kleberg (King Ranch); Well known in TX/ranching world

Ron Heck – Iowa farmer and Past President of the American Soybean Assoc.

Dave Heineman – Former Gov. Nebraska

Hans Hunts – State Legislator, Wyoming; Wyoming House Ag Committee; Rancher

Cindy Hyde – Smith – Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi

Brent Jackson – State Senator, North Carolina

A.G. Kawamura – Former Sec. Food & Agriculture, California

John Kautz – California wine producer; CEO Ironstone Vineyards

Charlotte Kelly – Tennessee cotton grower along with her husband (14,000 acres) plus operating a cotton gin processing 30,000 plus bales and a leader in the cotton industry

Mark Killian – Commissioner of Agriculture, Arizona; Farmer and rancher AZ

Brian Klippenstein – Protect the Harvest

Tsosie Lewis – Former CEO of Navaho Nation’s Agricultural Products Industries

Forrest Lucas – CEO Lucas Oil; Protect the Harvest

Mike McCloskey – CEO Fair Oaks Farms- one of largest dairies in U.S.

Beau McCoy – State Senator; Nebraska Nat. Chr. Council State Govts

Ted McKinney – Former Director of Global Corp. Affairs for Elanco Animal Health

*Sid Miller – Commissioner of Agriculture, Texas

Jim Moseley – Former consultant on agriculture at EPA; Former Deputy Secretary of USDA

Brian Munzlinger – Chairman Missouri Senate Ag Committee

Casey Murdock – State Senator, Oklahoma

Tom Nassif – President Western Growers; Former Ambassador

Garry Niemeyer – Former President National Corn Growers

Bill Northy – Secretary of Ag, Iowa

Sonny Perdue – Former Gov. Georgia

*Rick Perry – Former Gov. Texas

Ryan Quarles – Commissioner of Agriculture, Kentucky

Bruce Rastetter – Summit Ag Group of Alden, Iowa; Hosted first Republican Presidential debate

Jim Reese – Secretary of Agriculture for Gov. Mary Fallin of OK

Larry Rhoden – Senator South Dakota; House Majority Leader and Sen Majority Whip; Chair Senate Ag Committee

Pete Ricketts –Governor of Nebraska

Pat Roberts – U.S. Senator Kansas

Marcus Rust – CEO Rose Acre Farms- second largest egg producer in U.S.

Leslie Rutledge – Attorney General, Arkansas; Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorney General Agriculture Committee and is married to a soybean producer

David Spears – Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Dole Ag Advisor; Senior Vice President, Mid-Kansas Cooperative, Inc.

Dr. Mike Strain – Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana

*Red Steagall – Official Cowboy Poet of Texas

Annette Sweeney – Former Iowa House Agriculture, Chair; Farmer; Agriculture Advocate

Kip Tom – CEO, Tom Farms LLC-Largest Agri-Business farm operator in Indiana; Operates farms in South America

*Johnny Trotter – CEO of BarG- 125,000 feedlot operation and farms 10,0000 acres in TX

Steve Wellman – Former President of the American Soybean Association

Walt Whitcomb – Ag Commissioner, Maine

John Wilkinson – Chairman, Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Georgia State Senate

STAAR Accountability Ratings Show More Districts Falling Short

Academic performance by individual schools in the state showed slight improvement according the 2016 STAAR accountability ratings released by the Texas Education Agency on Monday, but overall performance within entire school districts dropped slightly.

The TEA reports 1,131 (93.7-percent) Texas public school districts or charters received a passing rating of “Met Standard” or “Alternative Standard” in 2016, and 66 districts (5.5-percent) were given an “Improvement Required,” or failing, rating.

In the 2015 school year, 1,152 districts (94.5-percent)  met standards or alternative standards, and 55 (4.5-percent) had an “Improvement Required” rating.

However, individual campuses across the state showed improvement compared to last school year, with 7,667 schools (88.4-percent) garnering a passing rating, while 467 (5.4-percent) required improvement.

In 2015, 7,476 (86.5-percent) individual campuses met standards or alternative standards while 603 (7-percent) required improvement.

To find out how schools in Austin ISD and San Antonio ISD performed, you can use this district accountability report finder provided by the TEA.

This year’s accountability ratings come amidst a battle over the validity of the STAAR test in Texas schools. Technical snafus this past testing year prompted Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to cancel some exams, and not require students to retake tests from March or May if they didn’t perform well.

And in July, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessment sent several recommendations to Gov. Greg Abbott for tracking academic performance.

Those recommendations included reducing the amount of material students should be tested on, and allowing school districts to develop their own writing assessments instead of using the STAAR writing assessments in fourth, seventh and high school grades.

The legislature will decide on whether or not to approve these recommendations in the upcoming session.

After First Day in Court, No Ruling in Lawsuit Over Transgender Directive

The state’s hopes of temporarily halting the Obama Administration’s directive on transgender bathroom rights in public schools will have to wait another day. A U.S. District Judge in Fort Worth did not issue a ruling on Friday over the Texas led, multi-state lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction on the directive.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a 13-state coalition suing the federal government over the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice in May. The guidelines say all U.S. public school districts must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their chosen gender identity. But Paxton, along with several other top state Republican leaders, argue the directive threatens privacy safeguards.

Here’s how Paxton is responding to Friday’s hearing:

PaxtonTransgenderDirectiveHearing

Several national civil and LGBT rights groups are urging the U.S. District Court to reject the state’s efforts to block the directive. They also sent out a response shortly after Friday’s hearing concluded.

CivilLGBTRightsGroups

 

The Obama Administration’s directive came just days after the DOJ sued North Carolina in May over their statewide law requiring people to use public restrooms that coordinate with the sex on their birth certificate. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had compared that state’s policies to racial segregation. And following the release of the transgender bathroom guidelines, Lynch said there is “no room in our schools” for discrimination.

But shortly after the directive was announced, Paxton held a press conference announcing Texas was leading the multi-state lawsuit against the Justice and Education Departments, and also seeking a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the directive.

“It represents just the latest example of the current administration’s attempt to accomplish by executive fiat, what they couldn’t accomplish democratically through Congress,” Paxton had said at the news conference.

A tiny North Texas school district also joined Paxton in the lawsuit. Harrold ISD has about 100 students, and according to the superintendent David Thweatt, none of them are transgender. But none-the-less, the school adopted a policy opposite of the federal guidelines, allowing only students to access bathrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

“Washington’s mandate doesn’t fit our schools so we are suing to keep the federal government out of our children’s locker rooms and restrooms,” Thweatt told reporters at the news conference.

It was later discovered Harrold ISD wasn’t the first Texas school district to be approached by Paxton. The A.G.’s Office also asked Wichita Falls ISD if they would join the lawsuit, but the school district declined.