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Recently Posted News & Analysis

Two Congressional Districts Invalidated, Must Be Redrawn

Two of the state’s congressional districts were struck down by a unanimous panel of federal judges and must be redrawn: CD27, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), and CD35, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin).

Judges determined that Hispanic/Latino voters in CD27 were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice” while CD35 was drawn predominantly on the basis of race. “The racially discriminatory intent and effects … previously found in the 2011 plans carry over into the 2013 plans where those district lines remain unchanged,” the court wrote in its 107-page ruling.

However, the court did not strike down other districts challenged by the suit’s plaintiffs. In the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the court found that intentional discrimination woven into the 2011 plan was remediated in the 2013 plan, and plaintiffs failed to prove “that any alleged cracking and packing that remains in DFW was intentionally dilutive.” The court rejected claims against Houston-area districts.

Importantly, the court determined that CD23, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), “is a Latino opportunity district and there is no evidence of intentional discrimination/dilution.”

The court ordered the Office of the Attorney General to tell the court within three business days whether the Legislature intends to take up redistricting. The Legislature has adjourned sine die, and the state has previously informed the court that the Legislature would not address the subject. Absent legislative action, the Court will hold a hearing to consider remedial plans beginning September 5.

The ruling of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas does not affect state House districts, and their status remains unresolved.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

Election News for August 15

Special Session: The First Called Session of the Texas Legislature has adjourned sine die. Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill increasing penalties for committing mail-ballot fraud. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) also repeals a bill, which Abbott previously signed into law, passed during the regular session that permitted election officials to assist voters at nursing facilities.

GOV: Texas resident Daniel Ray Wooten established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of Gov. Greg Abbott (R). We were unable to determine his hometown, profession or political affiliation definitively.

SD8: Richardson transgender activist Pamela Curry established a campaign committee and announced she would seek the Democratic nomination for the seat expected to be vacated by Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano), who is expected to run for Congress.

HD52: Round Rock medical researcher Christopher Ward established a campaign committee for a potential primary challenge of Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock). In a Facebook post discussing the filing, Ward said the “path to fiscal responsibility, protection of property rights, and accountability will be cleared once again.” His Facebook page includes a number of shares from Empower Texans and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

See our 2018 Challengers page for all 235 challengers and open-seat candidates who we confirm have taken a formal step toward running for state and federal office from Texas in 2018.

Erath Co.: County Judge Tab Thompson and County Treasurer Donna Kelly announced they would not seek re-election.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

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Our subscribers have access to our complete reports and analyses, including our archives, that cover the gamut from breaking campaign news to thoughtful exploration of the deeper trends in Texas. Links to our latest reports and updates are emailed straight to our subscribers’ inboxes.

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Our subscribers have access to our Crib Sheets: complete, up-to-date and accurate lists of candidates running for Congress, statewide office and the Legislature and more. See their latest campaign finance figures, past election results and other helpful information.

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On Election Nights, our subscribers receive relevant results fast, often before they appear on publicly available outlets, and get our analysis of trends and their implications while votes are still being counted. Know who’s winning before everyone else!

Election News for August 10

GOV: Austin musician Thor Harris announced on Twitter that he would challenge Gov. Greg Abbott (R) but did not indicate a political affiliation.

House Speaker: Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), chair of the House Republican Caucus, has called a meeting of the caucus for next Thursday to discuss the way the Speaker is elected. Last week, the House Freedom Caucus wrote to Parker asking for such a meeting.

Special Session: The House gave final approval to a bill intended to reduce mail-in ballot fraud. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) would increase penalties for voter fraud committed via mail-in ballots, particularly for individuals convicted of prior or concurrent election fraud offenses or the victim was a voter aged 65 or older. The bill included an amendment repealing provisions passed during the regular session that permit election officials to provide assistance at nursing facilities. Five Democrats voted for the bill.

Eye on 2020: Julián Castro, former mayor of San Antonio and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, has established a federal committee that could play a role in a potential 2020 presidential bid. The Opportunity First PAC is able to support or oppose federal candidates, including, potentially, Castro.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

Election News for August 9

Special Session: The House, by a 90-37 vote, gave preliminary approval to a bill intended to reduce mail-in ballot fraud. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) would increase penalties for voter fraud committed via mail-in ballots, particularly for individuals convicted of prior or concurrent election fraud offenses or the victim was a voter aged 65 or older. The bill included an amendment repealing provisions passed during the regular session that permit election officials to provide assistance at nursing facilities. Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), the House sponsor of Senate Bill 5, said the nursing facility provisions would have stretched the resources of county election administrators. “It’s basically an unfunded mandate,” he said during House debate on his amendment.

SC4: District Judge R.K. Sandill announced he would challenge Justice John Devine (R) as a Democrat. He was first elected to the 127th District Court in Harris Co. in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012 and 2016. According to his web site, Sandill was the first person of South Asian descent to be elected a district judge in Texas.

See our 2018 Challengers page for all 232 challengers and open-seat candidates who we confirm have taken a formal step toward running for state and federal office from Texas in 2018.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

Election News for August 7 and 8

HD142: Houston resident Richard Bonton established a campaign committee for a potential primary challenge of Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston).

CD10: Austin resident Richie DeGrow established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin) as a Democrat.

See our 2018 Challengers page for all 230 challengers and open-seat candidates who we confirm have taken a formal step toward running for state and federal office from Texas in 2018.

Since yesterday’s article did not get emailed to all of our subscribers, we reprint it below:

Redistricting: Parties in the ongoing lawsuit over the state’s congressional and house districts were advised to keep September 5-8 open for a potential remedial hearing. The court also asked attorneys representing the state to provide their availability later in the month.

Special Session: On party-line votes, the House Elections Committee approved two bills intended to reduce mail-in ballot fraud. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) would increase penalties for voter fraud committed via mail-in ballots, particularly for individuals convicted of prior or concurrent election fraud offenses or the victim was a voter aged 65 or older. House Bill 184 by Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) is similar to Senate Bill 5 but would repeal a law passed during the regular session giving priority to certain disabled voters and permitting elections officials to assist voters in nursing facilities.

SD17: Houston attorney and progressive activist Fran Watson established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) as a Democrat. Watson is the immediate past president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

Rowlett: Early voting began today for the August 26 special election to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Todd Gottel, who is leaving office to run for Dallas Co. Commissioner, and the three city council members seeking his chair. Council members Tammy Dana-Bashian (P2), Bruce Hargrave (P3) and Robbert van Bloemendaal (P1) are among the five candidates running for mayor, which resulted in special elections for their seats. All are serving until successors are elected. Collectively, the likely few voters who turn out to cast ballots will decide a majority of the council.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

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Election News for August 7

Redistricting: Parties in the ongoing lawsuit over the state’s congressional and house districts were advised to keep September 5-8 open for a potential remedial hearing. The court also asked attorneys representing the state to provide their availability later in the month.

Special Session: On party-line votes, the House Elections Committee approved two bills intended to reduce mail-in ballot fraud. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) would increase penalties for voter fraud committed via mail-in ballots, particularly for individuals convicted of prior or concurrent election fraud offenses or the victim was a voter aged 65 or older. House Bill 184 by Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) is similar to Senate Bill 5 but would repeal a law passed during the regular session giving priority to certain disabled voters and permitting elections officials to assist voters in nursing facilities.

SD17: Houston attorney and progressive activist Fran Watson established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) as a Democrat. Watson is the immediate past president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

See our 2018 Challengers page for all 228 challengers and open-seat candidates who we confirm have taken a formal step toward running for state and federal office from Texas in 2018.

Rowlett: Early voting begins tomorrow for the August 26 special election to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Todd Gottel, who is leaving office to run for Dallas Co. Commissioner, and the three city council members seeking his chair. Council members Tammy Dana-Bashian (P2), Bruce Hargrave (P3) and Robbert van Bloemendaal (P1) are among the five candidates running for mayor, which resulted in special elections for their seats. All are serving until successors are elected. Collectively, the likely few voters who turn out to cast ballots will decide a majority of the council.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

Six New Challengers Establish Campaign Committees

HD87: Panhandle resident and Fritch city manager Drew Brassfield established a campaign committee for a potential primary challenge of Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo).

HD109: Glenn Heights resident Casey Littlejohn established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of Rep. Helen Giddings (D-Dallas) as a Republican.

HD127: Humble resident Kyle Brandon Stephenson established a campaign committee for a potential state representative race but did not indicate which seat he may seek. According to voter registration records, Stephenson’s residence is located in HD127, which is represented by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble). We were unable to determine his profession and political affiliation conclusively.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

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Election News for August 3

House Speaker: The House Freedom Caucus wrote to Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), chair of the Texas House Republican Caucus, asking him to call a meeting “for the sole purpose of discussing and/or adopting a procedure to determine our nominee for Speaker of the House” for the 2019 legislative session. The House adopts a resolution shortly after it convenes to establish the process for nominating candidates and electing its presiding officer. The Freedom Caucus’s letter indicates it wants the Republican members to nominate a single candidate that has “the confidence of a majority of his or her fellow Republicans.” Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) was unanimously elected to the post for a fifth term in January.

HD41: Rep. Bobby Guerra (D-McAllen) announced he would seek re-election.

CD16: El Paso immigration attorney Enrique Garcia established a campaign committee for a potential run for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) as a Democrat.

No One, Part Two: Last week, we reported on a town in Michigan where no one filed to run for mayor. This week, no one struck again. An Iowa town’s special election drew zero voters to the polls. On the ballot were two proposed amendments to the McIntire city charter that would increase the terms of the mayor and council to four years from two. Not a single one of the town’s 70 registered voters, including the mayor and council members, cast ballots. Even the poll workers did not vote, but they were unable to participate. None of them were residents of McIntire.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

Election News for August 2

CD23: Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer from San Antonio, announced she will challenge U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) as a Democrat. Former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) has formed an exploratory committee for what would be a third race against Hurd, and Boerne construction manager Devin Fitzpatrick has launched a web site declaring himself a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination. Other Democrats believed to be considering the race are Judy Canales, a former U.S. Dept. of Agriculture appointee from Eagle Pass, and San Antonio federal prosecutor Jay Hulings.

CD32: Dallas resident David Dean Henry established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) as a Democrat. He is at least the 10th person to take a formal step toward running in the Democratic primary.

See our 2018 Challengers page for all 221 challengers and open-seat candidates who we confirm have taken a formal step toward running for state and federal office from Texas in 2018.

Fort Bend Co.: District Attorney John Healey (R) announced he would not seek re-election. Healey has served as the fast-growing county’s top prosecutor since 1992, winning re-election six times, most recently in 2014 (58%).

Weslaco: Former Rep. Miguel Wise (D-Weslaco) has filed for a seat on the city council. Wise is challenging incumbent D2 council member Greg Kerr. Wise served in the Texas House from 1997 until he was defeated in the 2004 Democratic primary by Rep. Mando Martinez, 53%-47%. Wise was elected mayor of Weslaco in 2010. He resigned in late 2013 to run unsuccessfully for district judge. He currently serves as a municipal court judge.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

Election News for August 1

SD15: Houston attorney Damian LaCroix said via Twitter that he is considering a primary rematch against Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston). LaCroix received 26% of the vote against Whitmire in the 2014 Democratic primary.

HD46: In a statement, Travis Co. District Attorney Margaret Moore said her offer to Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) to avoid trial has expired. She said her office received no contact from her or her attorneys. Moore offered to drop the criminal charges against Dukes if she resigned and met other conditions. Dukes is scheduled to stand trial before District Judge Brad Urrutia on October 16.

Meanwhile, it appears that Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) is representing Dukes. He signed a statement rejecting the Moore plea deal. Yesterday, two of the attorneys representing Dukes asked to be excused from the case.

HD62: Van Alstyne electrical engineer Brent Lawson announced he would challenge Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) in the Republican primary.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

Constitutional Amendment Election Set

Secretary of State Rolando Pablos drew the ballot positions for the seven proposed constitutional amendments on the November 2017 general election ballot:

  • Prop 1 is HJR 21, regarding property tax exemptions for property donated to partially disabled veterans and their spouses
  • Prop 2 is SJR 60, amending home equity lending provisions
  • Prop 3 is SJR 34, limiting the service of certain appointed officeholders after their terms have expired
  • Prop 4 is SJR 6, regarding notifying the state of a constitutional challenge of a state law
  • Prop 5 is HJR 100, regarding professional sports team foundation raffles
  • Prop 6 is SJR 1, regarding property tax exemptions for homesteads of the surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty; and
  • Prop 7 is HJR 37, granting authority for credit unions and other financial institutions to offer prize drawings.

Since 1979, 256 proposed constitutional amendments have been sent to the voters in odd-numbered general election years. Voters have approved 88% of them by majority vote.

Constitutional Amendments Sent to the Voters, 1979-2017

The seven proposals tie the lowest number submitted to the voters since 1979, when just three were on the ballot. The graphic and figures cited do not include constitutional amendments submitted to the voters in even-year general elections and special elections.

Subscribers can read the rest of this report.

Dukes Deal and a Duo of Redistricting News

HD46: The Austin-American Statesman’s Ryan Autullo reported that Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) has been offered a deal to drop the criminal charges against her if she resigns by Tuesday. “It is truly not dignifying this new low that such character assassination has hit in this web woven to influence a court of public opinion,” Dukes said in a Facebook post. “As such, it would be indecorous of me to respond to impertinent allegations …. I refuse to dignify through statement any of the numerous elements alleged.”

Rep. Dawnna Dukes

Rep. Dawnna Dukes

The offer is reported to be similar to a deal she previously rejected, and she reneged on her announcement to resign prior to the beginning of the regular legislative session in January. Dukes was subsequently indicted on 13 felony counts of tampering with public records and two misdemeanor counts of abuse of official capacity. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 28 years in prison. Dukes pleaded not guilty to the charges and has maintained her innocence. She recently hinted that she may seek re-election in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, two of Dukes’s attorneys have requested to withdraw from representing her because, citing an inability “to effectively communicate with the defendant on matters essential to the representation.”

Redistricting: Today was the deadline for parties in the state’s legislative and congressional redistricting case to file post-trial briefs. A remedial hearing is expected to be scheduled between mid-August and early September.

Meanwhile, a federal district court has denied plaintiffs’ motion calling for special elections for North Carolina’s legislative districts and given the General Assembly until September 1 to draw new maps for the 2018 election. Last year, the court ruled that 28 legislative districts were racially gerrymandered in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Assembly can earn an additional two weeks to draw the maps if it adopts a good faith public feedback process it outlines in a motion filed by August 21. Plaintiffs will have two weeks to lodge objections against the new maps once they are adopted.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

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Jeff Blaylock

Jeff Blaylock

Publisher

Jeff is a political junkie, longtime public policy wonk and former Texas Legislature staffer who has worked political campaigns in Texas and several other states, ranging from school boards to legislators to governors to referenda. He is a public and government affairs consultant based in Austin, Texas, who offers his keen insights about Lone Star State politics as Texas Election Source.

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