Here’s a quick recap of what happened over the last week:

Patrick, Paxton Hosting Fundraiser for Speaker’s Opponent

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton announced they are hosting a fundraiser in Dallas next month to benefit David Covey, the opponent of incumbent House Speaker Dade Phelan.  The May 1st event will be at the home of Doug Deason, an investment banker and Republican donor and activist.  The host list includes many long time DFW area Republican donors, along with several Dallas area incumbent House members and incoming House candidates who have recently won the Republican nomination in House races.

More regarding the Speaker’s race.  Midlothian Rep. Brian Harrison – a vocal critic of Speaker Phelan – told an Austin TV station over the weekend that “people are asking me to do that….I’m focused on reforming the House” in response to a question about becoming a candidate for Speaker.  So far, Rep. Tom Oliverson of Houston is the only declared candidate challenging Speaker Phelan.

Phelan is also having no trouble raising money for the runoff.  Earlier this week in Dallas, one of Gov. Abbott’s largest donors – University of Texas Regent Kelcy Warren – hosted a fundraiser for the Speaker that included many influential members of the Dallas area business and political communities.  Phelan goes to Houston in early May for a fundraiser hosted by developer George Pontikes that promises to have that area’s most influential Republican donors as well.

ERCOT Preparing for Warmer Temperatures

The entity that controls the state’s electric grid – the Electric Reliability Council of Texas – is taking steps this week to prepare for the warmer than usual temperatures that many parts of the state are experiencing much earlier in the year than usual.  ERCOT has asked power generators throughout the state to stop their previously scheduled maintenance on some of their facilities and come back online to help with the expected increase in demand that has occurred this week and is expected to continue.

This time of year generally sees much milder temperatures.  Thus, many power generating companies take some of their facilities offline to perform routine maintenance.  Since the milder temperatures usually bring along much lower demand, the timing of the maintenance is well timed.  However, ERCOT is now anticipating increased demand and wants to avoid any strain on the grid as more residences and businesses run their air conditioning systems.

State regulators continue to assure all Texans that the grid is ready for the long hot summer that will be here soon.  Increased maintenance requirements, alternative sources of power such as wind and solar, and increased awareness by the public to engage in conservation measures helped the state sustain the unusually hot summer that the entire state experienced last year.

Due to La Nina – stronger than normal trade winds that push the jet stream north and cause warmer and drier conditions in southern parts of the US – the Climate Prediction Center is predicting our summer will be hotter and drier than usual.  Very bad news, especially for the many lakes and reservoirs throughout the state that are already far below their normal levels.

Book Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

In an effort to keep obscene and sexually explicit books out of public school libraries, the Texas legislature passed House Bill 900 during the 2023 regular session.  Booksellers and national publishing organizations sued the state to stop the implementation of the law which required vendors to rate materials based on references to sex before selling the books to public school districts.  The law would have also required booksellers to review all past sales to school districts and recall any books deemed inappropriate.  The plaintiffs sued on the basis that the law was unworkable and would create an excessive financial burden to implement.

In January of this year, a three-judge panel of the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled the law violated free speech and created an undue burden on their businesses.  This week, the full 17-judge Court refused to reconsider the initial ruling of the panel, thus deeming the law unconstitutional and prohibiting it from going into effect.  The state of Texas will now have to decide if they want to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court.

Border News

Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to expedite the case over the installation of razor wire by the state along the US/Mexico border.  Last fall, the state of Texas sued the US Department of Homeland Security for trying to cut away and remove the wire near the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass.  Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court sided with the federal government saying they had the right to cut and remove the wire while the case was pending before the 5th Circuit.  The letter Paxton submitted this week to the 5th Circuit states that the federal government is no longer attempting to remove the wire, thus proving the federal agents can operate along the border without destroying property installed and owned by the state.  Paxton further asks in his letter that the court should expedite the resolution of the case so the state of Texas can continue all border security measures.

Democrats Focus on Abortion, IVF to Defeat Cruz

Democrat Colin Allred is saying abortion rights and the recent Alabama state ruling regarding IVF are the top issues that will motivate voters to defeat incumbent Republican Ted Cruz in November.  Allred has said the state’s “cruel abortion ban” is endangering women’s health, and that the federal government must step in and codify the Roe v. Wade decision regarding abortion rights.  Cruz counters by saying Allred’s stance on abortion is “wildly out of step with the American people”, and that there is overwhelming support for limits to abortion access.

Since the 2022 US Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, several states including Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia have seen Democratic candidates defeat Republican opponents by bringing abortion access to the forefront.  However, Texas voters have not sent the same message.  In 2021, the legislature passed the Heartbeat Act, which bans abortion after the detection of a heartbeat in the fetus, which usually occurs in the 6th week of pregnancy.  The 2022 statewide elections saw the Republicans once again sweep all statewide races, even though several Democratic candidates tried to bring the abortion access issue to the attention of Texas voters.

Politico reported this week that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee will spend $79 million to try and maintain their slim one seat US Senate majority. This is in addition to a $239 million budget for Senate Majority, a Super PAC formed to try and hold the Democratic majority.  The money will go to TV, radio, and digital advertising in nine key states — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Montana, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada – where Democratic incumbents are up for reelection.  The plan also includes spending in Texas and Florida, where Democrats are hoping to unseat Republicans Ted Cruz and Rick Scott.

Political Notes

With Trump endorsements playing such a huge role in state House races this year, the Trump campaign has sent out a letter to all Republican campaign vendors throughout the country asking for a 5% donation if their candidates use Trump’s name or image on campaign materials.  This means if a down ballot candidate – such as a state House candidate or officeholder – touts Trump’s endorsement on campaign materials, they are now asked to donate 5% of their fundraising solicitations to the Trump campaign.  The Trump campaign says this is not a money grab, but the request is necessary to dissuade scammers from using the Trump brand without permission.

In the heated runoff for state House District 64, incumbent Rep. Lynn Stucky of Denton is in a rematch against Andy Hopper, who Stucky narrowly defeated in 2022.  This time, Gov. Abbott has endorsed Stucky, and even went up to the district to knock on doors on behalf of the incumbent last weekend.  Now US Senator Ted Cruz has made an endorsement, but on the other side.  Cruz has announced his endorsement of challenger Andy Hopper and will go to Denton to rally for Hopper next week.  Hopper led the field of candidates after the first round of voting with nearly 47% of the vote compared to 43% for Stucky.  Stucky won in 2022 by less than 200 votes.

With Rep. Oliverson of Houston assuming the chairmanship of the Texas House Republican Caucus – former chair Rep. Craig Goldman recently resigned to concentrate on his Congressional runoff race – the office of vice-chair is now open.  Three candidates have announced their intention to run for second in command of the caucus – Rep. Lacey Hull of Houston, Rep. Cecil Bell of Magnolia, and Rep. Mark Dorazio of San Antonio.  Since the legislature is not in session, voting is done electronically and continues until the end of the day today.

Politico is reporting the Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is under serious consideration as the leading candidate to become the Secretary of Agriculture if Donald Trump is elected President.  Miller has been an unwavering supporter of Trump and has consistently declared the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.  Miller also is likely to immediately reverse the Biden administration policies regarding climate change that have targeted many segments of the agriculture industry.  Miller would not come without some baggage.  He has been the subject of several ethics probes – a former top aide is under indictment for bribery charges related to the awarding of agency contracts — that he dismisses by saying he is constantly under attack by the “establishment elites”, which is a reference to his criticism of Gov. Abbott’s COVID shutdown policies and rumored challenge to Abbott in 2026.  Regarding interest in the cabinet position, Miller says the talk is premature and he’s only concentrating on getting Trump elected.

What’s Next??

Hard to say what’s next for the House , interim study issues may not be released until after the runoff – if at all.  With interim studies issued in the Senate, look for hearings to begin in the next couple of weeks.

With 8 incumbents being forced into runoffs, the fundraising for the May 28th election is in full swing. And, those of you in areas with contested races have already begun to see television ads for the upcoming runoff vote.