Capital Tonight: Policy and Personalities Kindle Fight over UT Leadership

While the issue of UT President Bill Powers’ future is now known, another part of the UT system’s ongoing leadership puzzle remains: What will happen to Regent Wallace Hall?

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we checked in on the committee currently drawing up articles of impeachment against Hall. Plus, we spoke to Thomas Lindsay, who heads up the Center for Higher Education for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, to get his take on the UT power struggle.

IMMIGRATION MAZE

We’ve heard the debate over the thousands of immigrant children at our doorstep, but what about the backlog of more than 300,000 who are already here? Our John Salazar focused on one immigration courtroom to learn more about the legal maze that determines whether they stay or go.

FUNDRAISING BREAKDOWN

Plus, Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report joined us to evaluate how both campaigns in the governor’s race are measuring up.

Patrick, Van de Putte Running Close Financial Race

Republican Sen. Dan Patrick and Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte are running a tight financial race to be the next Texas lieutenant governor.

According to campaign fundraising numbers released this week, Patrick has raised nearly $7.8 million since he started his campaign in July 2013. Patrick, who ran a bitter primary against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, attributes about $1 million of that money to the post-runoff donations. Patrick has about $950,000 in cash on hand.

Democrat Leticia Van de Putte, meanwhile, has $1.6 million in her campaign bank account. Van de Putte, who ran unopposed during the primary, has raked in a total of $2.3 million since her campaign launched last November; about four months after Sen. Patrick announced his candidacy.

Abbott Posts Record-Breaking Fundraising Totals

Attorney General Greg Abbott released his own record-breaking fundraising totals Tuesday. Abbott raised $11.1 million in the last four months, bringing his total cash on hand to nearly $36 million. According to the Abbott campaign, that is more cash on hand than any other candidate in Texas history.

The Abbott campaign also pointed out that 95 percent of his contributions came from Texas.

“The strength of this campaign builds each day, and we continue to be overwhelmed by the support we’re receiving from across Texas,” Abbott Campaign Manager Wayne Hamilton said. “We are incredibly thankful to the many Texans who have contributed to our effort to ensure that Greg Abbott can continue to travel the state promoting his vision to improve education, grow jobs, preserve freedom and ultimately achieve victory in November.”

The Democratic nominee, State Sen. Wendy Davis, has raised a total of $27 million and has about $13 million in the bank. Those totals include money donated to Battleground Texas and the Texas Victory Committee.

Davis Campaign Reports $27 Million in Campaign Contributions

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has raised $27 million in her bid for governor. According to the campaign, $11.2 million of that was raised between February and June and the average donation was about $105 dollars. After expenditures, the campaign has about $13 million in the bank.

The money raised includes contributions made directly to the campaign, as well as money donated to Battleground Texas and the Texas Victory Committee, which is a joint fundraising venture for Sen. Davis and Battleground Texas.

The campaign is calling its campaign finance figures “historic.” “Not only has this campaign raised record-breaking resources from more than 140,000 grassroots supporters, we have made unprecedented investments on the ground and online that will translate the excitement for Wendy Davis into votes on Election Day,” said campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas.

The Davis campaign likely still has a massive financial disadvantage. As of the last reporting period, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott had nearly $30 million in cash on hand. He has not announced his totals for this reporting period yet.

Capital Tonight: Lawmakers Respond to President’s Plan for Immigrant Kids

Lawmakers in Washington are pushing back against the president’s request for funding to deal with the surge of immigrant children, and suggesting ideas of their own.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the response to the president’s plan for nearly $4 billion in emergency funds, and we outlined a bipartisan proposal from Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar.

PERRY VS. PAUL

Gov. Rick Perry is still in the national spotlight. This time, he’s trading blows with Rand Paul over foreign policy. Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report weighed in on the fight over Iraq, isolationism and even eyewear.

CANDIDATE CONVERSATION

And the Texas Railroad Commission has tightened up its policy on media access. Has the agency overseeing the state’s oil and gas industry gone too quiet? We spoke with the Libertarian Party candidate for railroad commissioner, Mark Miller, to get his take.

New Abbott Ad Hits the Silver Screen

The next time you go to the movies, you might find yourself screening a new ad in the governor’s race. Attorney General Greg Abbott is airing a 30-second spot at two dozen movie theaters across Texas. It urges patrons to text their support for the Republican’s run for governor. According to the Abbott campaign, this ad appears to be the first of its kind.

Capital Tonight: Texas Democrats Renew Call for Obama to Visit Border

With rolled up sleeves, the President leaned on the podium and asked the audience to choose hope over cynicism during his only public speech in Austin Thursday. Then, he went on to lambaste House Republicans for nearly half an hour over what he called partisan politics in Congress.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, looked at the highlights of the president’s speech, including his handling of two protesters calling for immigration reform.

FOCUS ON THE BORDER

While the president hoped to turn the conversation toward the economy, plenty of elected officials in Texas are happy to keep talking about border issues. We heard what state leaders in town for an education conference had to say. Plus, Congressman Henry Cuellar explained his recent criticism of the president in a one-on-one interview.

REGENTS RESPOND

While most of the focus was on President Obama Thursday, many here in Texas are still tracking the ongoing tension surrounding UT Austin President Bill Powers. UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa accepted Powers’ resignation only yesterday, meaning the head of UT’s Austin campus will be staying on until June 2015. But that doesn’t mean things are completely resolved. We checked in on the fight over UT leadership.

Powers to Remain UT Austin President until 2015

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers will likely keep his job until 2015, according to a statement from the head of the UT System, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

Last week, word leaked that Cigarroa had asked President Powers to offer his resignation before a Thursday meeting of the UT Board of Regents or be fired. Cigarroa had suggested he leave in October of this year.

Powers sent a letter in response, offering to stay on until June 2, 2015 so he can see through some of the long-term initiatives he’s started. Cigarroa accepted that offer this afternoon. Powers has led UT’s flagship university since 2006, but has often found himself at odds with the governor-appointed regents. Cigarroa has described his own relationship with Powers as “fractured” and lacking trust.

Cigarroa says the UT Board of Regents will start searching for Powers’ replacement next month. That process will include faculty, students and at least two current presidents of other UT campuses, along with at least one member of the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents was expected to consider Powers’ employment at a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

One member, UT Regent Wallace Hall, is under investigation from a legislative committee for what some have called a witch hunt to oust Powers.

You can read Cigarroa’s full response below.

Statement from Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. regarding UT Austin President Bill Powers

Today UT Austin President Bill Powers submitted a letter of resignation, effective June 2, 2015, and I have accepted it.

President Powers, who has led great advancements for the University, has expressed a desire to remain in his position long enough to complete several important initiatives, lead the University through the upcoming legislative session, and allow for a smooth transition to new leadership. I honor his commitment to UT Austin and agree that this is the best course forward.

Next month, Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster plans to initiate an exhaustive national search process that will utilize a search advisory committee to assist in the selection of UT Austin’s next president. The committee will include representation of faculty, deans, students and community representatives of the University, as well as at least two current presidents from UT institutions and at least one member of the Board of Regents.

There is no doubt that UT Austin is the crown jewel of public higher education in Texas. As chancellor, I have done everything in my power to provide UT Austin with the resources it needs to reach even higher vistas, to ultimately achieve its goal to be recognized as the finest public research university in America. I believe that is a goal well within our sights.

President Powers is an admired leader who, as I’ve said before, has advanced the University in many ways. He is concluding a record-breaking $3 billion capital campaign, has worked with the UT System and the Board of Regents in the past year to establish the Dell Medical School and to launch construction of a $310 million Engineering Education and Research Center – which together will be a major catalyst for UT Austin to achieve the ranking and recognition it deserves – and he has earned the reputation as a national leader in higher education.

It is, however, time for an orderly change in leadership. While ultimately productive, the past years have not been without struggle and, at times, conflict and controversy. There was no single incident that prompted my decision to ask President Powers for his resignation last week, but a long history of issues with communication, responsiveness and a willingness to collaborate.

I truly believe that it is time for a fresh start and a chance to build a strong relationship. We will all be successful if we keep the future of UT in our hearts and minds. I sincerely thank the UT Austin faculty, students, staff and the UT System’s Faculty Advisory Council for their important input over the past week.