Capital Tonight: The strategy behind all those campaign ads

Early voting for the march primary starts soon, but many of the advertisements airing on TV now were paid for months ago.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke to political experts about the strategy behind getting your attention.


From the Washington Post to the New York Times, Sen. Wendy Davis dominated headlines this week. Can she change the popular narrative on guns, abortion law and her life story? Robert Garrett of The Dallas Morning News, Emily Ramshaw of the Texas Tribune and Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report joined us to explore that question and more.



Plus, Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman researched a pair of statements by two candidates for lieutenant governor — all over the 17th Amendment.

Capital Tonight: Civil rights groups call for ban on tasers in schools

An incident at a Bastrop high school is prompting a larger debate over the use of tasers and pepper spray in Texas schools. Several civil rights groups want to ban what they’re calling “less-than-lethal” weapons. They called on the Texas Education Agency to take action to prohibit school officers from carrying the items on campuses, but the TEA has responded, saying it doesn’t have that authority.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we heard how lawmakers and state agencies are involved in the debate over school safety.


Lawmakers managed to avoid a government shutdown this week, but the complicated vote to get it passed may have widened the gap between Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, weighed in on that story and more.


Talk of changing Texas drug laws is gaining serious traction in Texas lately, but one Austin-area lawmaker been making the case for years. Rep. Elliott Naishtat joined us in-studio to elaborate on his call for changing how medical marijuana possession is prosecuted.

Patrick touts Christian conservative past in new ad

Sen. Dan Patrick released a new statewide television Thursday. Patrick, who is running for lieutenant governor, is touting his Christian conservative leadership in the Texas Senate.

Patrick points to several laws he sponsored during his time in the legislature, including the controversial sonogram bill in 2011 and legislation to include more faith-based language. “My faith means everything to me. That’s why I placed ‘In God we Trust’ in the Senate and ‘Under God’ in our state pledge.”

Patrick faces Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples in the March Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Leticia Van de Putte in the general election.

Capital Tonight: Texas could play key role in fight over same-sex marriage

Two same-sex couples pleaded their case today in San Antonio against the Texas constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between opposite-sex couples. The plaintiffs base their argument on equal opportunity rights provided in the U.S. Constitution.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the possible outcomes of the case and the likelihood it will be appealed to the Supreme Court.


Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, detailed how a federal judge struck down Kentucky’s gay marriage ban and how new federal rules announced by Attorney General Eric Holder will affect the LGBT community.


Harvey Kronberg examined how a comment by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and new support of medical marijuana from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis impact their electoral chances.

Capital Tonight: Candidates walk careful line on border issues

Attorney General Greg Abbott is standing by his comments comparing corruption in border communities to practices found in “third-world countries.” But he is clarifying that he wasn’t singling out the Rio Grande Valley.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how Abbott is dealing with the political backlash and heard how his fellow Republicans are responding.


He’s the only statewide-elected official among the three Republican candidates for attorney general, but Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman has a tough challenge ahead of him. We spoke one-on-one with Smitherman about his campaign, immigration reform and more.


While most candidates for statewide office are taking a tough stance on border security, some Republicans worry the tone of the conversation could alienate potential voters. Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined us to talk about how the debate could shape future elections.


Capital Tonight: What’s next for UT system after Chancellor Cigarroa?

The University of Texas System will soon enter a new era. UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa formally announced that he will be stepping down from his position to return to medicine.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we heard from lawmakers who believe the move was possibly related to an unsuccessful push to remove UT Austin President Bill Powers. Plus, we looked at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ claim that Attorney General Greg Abbott didn’t do enough to fix the inadequate education funding during the last legislative session.


Agriculture Commissioner candidate Kinky Friedman joined us to explain how he believes hemp can replace cotton and why marijuana should be legal in Texas.


Harvey Kronberg joined us to comment on the day’s political news, plus a quote from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who says Texas could change into a blue state unless the GOP evolves.

Cigarroa steps down as UT System chancellor, says fight over Powers unrelated

The head of the University of Texas System formally announced he would end his five-year tenure to return to transplant surgery.

In a press conference Monday, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said he had accomplished everything he’d set out to do as chancellor, and that it always had been his intention to return to medicine full-time. Cigarroa has accepted a job as head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Cigarroa touted his accomplishments as chancellor, including the establishment of two new medical schools: the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Dell School of Medicine at UT Austin. He also cited his Framework for Advancing Excellence, which the UT Board of Regents adopted in 2011. The plan called for increased engineering education, expanded online learning and the Horizon Fund, which provides seed money for the commercialization of UT research.

The chancellor’s departure comes during a tumultuous time for the Board of Regents, UT Austin President Bill Powers and the Texas Legislature. In December, Cigarroa announced Powers would stay on as president, but cited strained tensions with the board. Meanwhile, a joint committee of lawmakers is investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall, who has been accused of a “witch hunt” against Powers. Cigarroa said the controversy surrounding the UT Austin president had nothing to do with his decision.

“I evaluate all presidents as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance,” Cigarroa said. “I support President Powers, and I will continue to evaluate presidents every day — not only President Powers but all 15.”

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who has been supportive of Powers, says she believes the decision has more to do with the fight over leadership than Cigarroa would admit.

“Although I am confident that he will deny any disharmony, I am equally confident that his decision was influenced by the continued negative circumstances at hand. His action personifies the harmful repercussions of the current attack on those who pursue excellence, protect the privacy of students and strive for true transparency for all,” Zaffirini said in a statement.

Cigarroa said he will remain as chancellor until his replacement is found, a process UT Board of Regents Chair Paul Foster says will likely to take 4-6 months. He will also continue to serve the board as an adviser for the UT Rio Grande Valley medical school.


Capital Tonight: Weighing the impact of open carry gun laws

The topic of more permissive gun laws is back up for discussion, and with both frontrunner candidates for governor supporting the open carry of handguns, there’s a better chance it could pass next session.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we examined the real-world implications of the law and saw how Texas gun laws compare to other states.


Immigration and border security are big topics for Republican primary candidates, but is the rhetoric starting to alienate even Latino voters on the right? Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News, the Texas Tribune‘s Jay Root of Texas Monthly senior editor Erica Grieder weighed in on that question and more.


Plus, a new week brings a new round of campaign claims. Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas joined us to take a closer look at two of them.

Capital Tonight: Davis’ support for open carry draws mixed reactions

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis is now on record as supporting the open carry of handguns, after registering her position in an Associated Press questionnaire. Davis’ stance puts her on similar ground as her Republican rival for governor, Attorney General Greg Abbott.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the reaction from Sen. Davis’ fellow Democrats, as well as pro-gun Republicans.


The four candidates vying for the lieutenant governor’s office made their cases to the Texas business community Thursday. They’ve done dozens of forums leading into the March primary, but with less than two weeks until early voting starts, the effort to find differences between the candidates is starting to bear fruit.

We sat down with Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to talk about the state’s drug laws, the Emerging Technology Fund and what separates him from the pack.


Plus, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi weighed in on the Davis decision and the Patterson campaign from a political strategist’s perspective.

Capital Tonight: EPA fight spills over into attorney general race

Republican candidates competing to be the next attorney general lashed out at the President today, giving his Affordable Care Act the worst possible rating and pledging to sue the administration. The candidates also anticipate conflict with EPA regulations they see as burdensome and unnecessary.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we took a look at the merits of the EPA’s new air and farm regulations.


Debra Medina, a Republican candidate to be the Texas Comptroller, articulated how cronyism is a problem in Texas and how we can achieve greater prosperity through use of the free market.


Harvey Kronberg gave an insider’s perspective on recent fundraising and how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be perceived on his trip to Texas.