Capital Tonight: Plot twists, Twitter typos and low voter turnout

Early primary voting has come and gone, and it looks like many Texans decided to either stay away from the polls or wait until election day. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says the turnout is lower than expected, even with a number of high-profile races on the Republican side.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we talked to election officials and voters about why that might be the case.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

A lawsuit against the Texas ban on same-sex marriage saw a new twist this week, and a candidate’s Twitter typo made waves nationally. We sat down with Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News and KUT’s Ben Philpott to sort through those stories and more.

 

FACT CHECK FEVER

Plus, Attorney General Greg Abbott has denounced a controversial comment by Ted Nugent, but the Motor City Madman himself isn’t completely backing down. PolitiFact’s Gardner Selby joined us to clear up the latest claim.

Capital Tonight: Religious leaders respond to same-sex marriage ruling

A federal ruling on same-sex marriage is drawing all the expected responses from Republicans and Democrats, but among religious leaders, the debate is a little more complex.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we sidestepped the politicians to hear what two pastors think about gay rights and religious freedom.

CAPITAL COMMENTARY

The debate over same-sex marriage could become an increasingly large factor in the race for governor. Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, weighed in on that issue and more.

VOTER ACCESS

Voter access has been a hot-button issue in Texas lately, but it’s nothing new for an organization that’s been around for more than 90 years. We sat down with Jacklyn Williams of the League of Women Voters to go over the issues they’re focusing on this election.

Capital Tonight: Texans react to judge’s same-sex marriage ruling

Federal Judge Orlando Garcia deemed the Texas ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional Wednesday. Marriage equality advocates praised the decision, while opponents say Texans have already weighed in on the issue. The case will likely be appealed to a higher court.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard reaction from same-sex marriage advocates and state leaders, plus we looked at how the state could play a role in the next round of national conventions.

TEXAS WRITER’S TAKE

Freelance writer Robert Draper has been drawing the nation’s attention to Texas with in-depth profiles on Wendy Davis and the state’s Democratic party. We spoke one-on-one with Draper about his view of the efforts to turn Texas blue.

BATTLEGROUND BIRTHDAY

Harvey Kronberg discussed the constitutionality of the new same-sex ruling and the progress of Battleground Texas on its one-year anniversary.

State officials respond to judge’s ruling on same-sex marriage

Gov. Rick Perry joined a wide range of state officials in responding to a federal judge’s ruling against the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas.

In a press release sent shortly after the ruling was announced, the governor had this to say:

“Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens. The 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions, and this is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn’t be achieved at the ballot box. We will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state.”

A long list of Republican lawmakers echoed the governor’s sentiments, either through official statements or social media. All four candidates running for lieutenant governor decried the ruling as well, although Sen. Dan Patrick drew the most attention with an uncharacteristic typo, which was later deleted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte joined Rep. Garnet Coleman, Sen. Kirk Watson and other Democratic lawmakers in support of the decision. Van de Putte’s statement read:

“There’s a growing movement to apply the law equally to everyone without prejudice. And I welcome it, because that’s who we are at our best. Nothing about this interferes with communities of faith. Given today’s Texas decision, along with federal courts in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and other states, I hope this issue is resolved quickly by the Supreme Court so that the government no longer dictates our private lives.”

Sen. Van de Putte is also running for lieutenant governor, meaning the divide between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of same-sex marriage will likely be put into stark relief during the general election. However, Attorney General Greg Abbott seemed to try to bridge that divide Wednesday, at least in tone:

“This is an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides. And, as the lower court acknowledged today, it’s an issue that will ultimately be resolved by a higher court. Texas will begin that process by appealing today’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit. Because the judge has stayed his own decision, his ruling has no immediate practical effect. Instead, the ultimate decision about Texas law will be made by the Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.”

As attorney general, Abbott will be tasked with defending the state’s ban when it goes before an appeals court later this year. Abbott expressed optimism that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals would honor previous rulings and overturn Wednesday’s decision.

Federal judge rules against Texas’ same-sex marriage ban

A federal judge in San Antonio has struck down Texas’ ban on gay marriage, declaring it unconstitutional but allowing it to remain in place pending an appeals court ruling.

District Judge Orlando Garcia granted an injunction against the ban Wednesday. The case stems from two same-sex couples — including one from Austin — who sued to overturn the state law.

Earlier this month, the couples argued they should be granted equal opportunity rights under the U.S. Constitution, despite the state’s law. Attorneys for the state have maintained that the voters overwhelmingly approved the amendment in 2005 that put the ban on the books.

Despite the judge’s ruling, same-sex couples won’t be able to get married right now. Garcia issued a stay, meaning the law stays on the books while the state appeals the decision.

Capital Tonight: New poll numbers redefine statewide races

A recent poll is shedding new light on the 2014 elections. Attorney General Greg Abbott led Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis by eleven points in a new UT Austin/Texas Tribune poll. However, timing likely distorted that margin, as the poll was conducted after Sen. Davis’ biography was called into question and before Abbott campaigned with the controversial Ted Nugent.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we dug deeper into the poll numbers and took a closer look at the 2016 presidential race, which could include Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Rick Perry on the Republican side.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS

James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, provided perspective on how various factors impacted the poll numbers of the GOP primary races and the governor’s race.

FUNDRAISING NUMBERS

Harvey Kronberg gave his analysis of how the latest fundraising totals will influence the nearing GOP primary races and the governor’s race.

 

Davis war chest dwarfed by Abbott’s despite $2.85M haul

In spite of a significant month of fundraising, Sen. Wendy Davis’s team still trails her likely opponent by more than $18 million in cash on hand.

The Davis campaign reports raising $2.85 million between Jan. 24 and Feb. 22, more than $1.2 million of which comes from a joint effort with Battleground Texas known as the Texas Victory Committee. Although the Davis campaign is spinning it as a win — Abbott’s campaign pulled in $2.45 million during the same period — the size of the two candidates’ war chests still shows a stark divide.

Abbott has announced he has $29.98 million in cash to spend on his bid for governor. Compare that to Davis’ total war chest of $11.3 million after expenditures.

Both campaigns are making sure to highlight the source of their money. Abbott’s team points out that 98 percent of the donations came from donors in Texas, while the Davis campaign points out that 85 percent of contributions were in amounts of $50 or less.

 

Capital Tonight: Reporters weigh in on a week of controversy

After a string of negative reports about the state’s child protective services, lawmakers are evaluating changes meant to improve the overall system. Those changes include an increase in the number of case workers and more money for training, but those closest to the field say it’s not all about extra head-count.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke to the people working closest to ground-level about what needs to be done.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

Senator Dan Patrick took flack this week for the long-ago hiring of an illegal immigrant. We sat down with Mike Ward of the Austin American-Statesman, Reuters reporter Karen Brooks Harper and Terrence Stutz of The Dallas Morning News to explore whether the story will stick.

HISTORY LESSON

Outspoken rocker Ted Nugent issued a rare apology Friday, after drawing increasing criticism for his description of the president as a “subhuman mongrel.” Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas joined us to verify a claim made about the origin of Nugent’s phrase.

Capital Tonight: Fight over women’s health returns to Capitol

It was supposed to be a routine hearing, but the debate over women’s health services drew dozens of demonstrators to the Capitol Thursday for a committee meeting on state health services.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we heard how health officials are evaluating changes to women’s health programs, and how lawmakers and activists are hoping to influence the conversation.

CANDIDATE CONVERSATION

The race to be the state’s top accountant is going full speed ahead. Republican comptroller candidate Sen. Glenn Hegar joined us to talk about financial transparency, spending reform and more.

WAR OVER WORDS

Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi weighed in on the national attention surrounding gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, following his decision to bring outspoken musician Ted Nugent along on the campaign trail.

Dewhurst responds to opponent’s undocumented worker troubles

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is responding to a recent Dallas Morning News article drawing negative attention to his opponent, Sen. Dan Patrick, for allowing undocumented immigrants to work under him 30 years ago.

“I’m shocked and disappointed at the hypocrisy of Dan Patrick. It’s just one more example of preaching one thing and doing something else,” Dewhurst said.

Dewhurst addressed the controversy while speaking to reporters at an early voting event in Austin Thursday. Sen. Patrick has said he wasn’t aware that four men working in his Houston-area sports bars in the 1980s were in the country illegally, and that the workers falsified their employment forms.

The information came to light after a private investigator hired by one of Patrick’s opponents, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, contacted one of the workers.

Sen. Patrick has made border security and illegal immigration key issues in his campaign, and the revelation sparked criticism from all three of Sen. Patrick’s opponents in the lieutenant governor’s race.