Case Counts – Tuesday, January 25th (1:30 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 5,013,748 (35,572 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 13,291 (7,378 available beds, 301 available adult ICU beds)
Fatalities – 77,058 (154 new deaths)
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Monday, January 24th was 33.06% (down slightly). One month ago, there were 15,100 new cases reported, one week ago there were 55,900 new cases reported, compared to the 35,572 reported yesterday. The 13,291 COVID patients in hospitals now is 947 MORE patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 21.5% of total hospital beds in the state.
As of Monday, January 24th, 19.9 million Texans, or 68.4% of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 16.8 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, which is 57.7% of the state. So far, 5.7 million, or 19.7% of the state have gotten a booster shot. Including booster shots, a total of 41.2 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.
Court to Hear First Redistricting Challenge
There are several challenges to the redistricting plans that were passed recently by the legislature and are now in effect for the 2022 elections. The first case was heard yesterday in El Paso by a federal district judge, and focuses solely on one district in north Texas. This case challenges the new lines drawn for Senate District 10, currently represented by Democrat Beverly Powell. The current district is wholly in Tarrant County, taking in all of downtown, as well as parts east and south of the city. The redrawn district takes in southern Tarrant County, but then moves west to Albany (Shackelford County) and south to Brownwood. The lawsuit, brought forth by Senator Powell and six residents of Tarrant County, alleges the new district dilutes the voting strength of minorities. This is just one of several lawsuits that have been filed against the new maps from organizations such as LULAC, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Southwest Voter Registration Project, and others that all allege a purposeful dilution of the voting strength of minorities. There are no firm dates, at this time, for any of the other redistricting lawsuits.
More Legal Battles for Paxton
The Travis County District Attorney has ordered AG Ken Paxton to turn over records and communications requested by several media outlets regarding Paxton’s involvement in the January 6th incident at the Capitol building in Washington, DC. The DA says that Paxton is violating open records laws by not turning over documents, emails, text messages, and other accounts related to his trip to DC. The DA’s office became involved in the case when five of the state’s newspapers complained to the DA that Paxton was withholding communications, which they believe are subject to the state’s open records law. Paxton’s office sent a letter to the Travis County DA last week saying that the complaints by the newspapers are based on a misunderstanding of the state’s Public Information Act, and there were no violations that had occurred. The Public Information Act grants the public access to government records, even if those records are on personal devices of an elected official. The Travis County DA has not responded to Paxton’s letter. Paxton is also facing a pending felony indictment for securities fraud, and is under investigation for interfering with a whistleblower lawsuit in which several of his former employees have accused him of bribery and misuse of office.
O’Rourke Says No to Biden
Last week, likely Democratic nominee for Governor Beto O’Rourke said he will not ask, and has no interest in getting assistance from President Biden for his challenge to Governor Abbott. No wonder, as Biden’s approval ratings nationally are hovering in the low 40’s, and are likely much lower in Texas. Instead, O’Rourke says he is starting on a project to reach 2 million voters before the March 1st primary. His main goal is to inform voters of the new provisions from the newly passed election reform bill, and try and get them registered properly to vote. O’Rourke plans to reach out via block walking, phone and text messages, as well as emails to inform voters that since Washington DC is plagued with problems and an inability to pass meaningful legislation, that he will try and meet the demands of voter education in the state.
State Economy Strong, Austin in Hottest Job Market
In December, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the state was 5.0%, a decrease of .2% from November. Texas added 50,000 jobs last month, marking the 19th month out of the last 20 where the state posted job gains. The Austin area posted the lowest unemployment rate among the state’s major metro areas at 2.9%. This is the first time since the pandemic began that unemployment in the area was below 3%. These figures are from the latest employment report issued by the Texas Workforce Commission. In the report, a UT economist predicted that the rate for the Austin metro area could even dip below 2.5% at some point this year. The region is spurred by the demand for more workers due to the relocation and growth of major companies such as Apple, Tesla, Samsung, and Oracle. Even though the Omicron variant has dampened some activity in the region, such as the leisure and hospitality industries, the area as a whole is “booming”, with the fast pace of hiring expected to continue throughout the year.
Some Polling News
Tarrant County is now the largest county in the state that is still controlled at the local level and with the legislative delegation by Republicans. The other major counties in the state such as Harris, Dallas, and Bexar have all long ago gone under control of the Democrats. The Tarrant County Republican Party recently conducted a straw poll of all the statewide candidates. While this is by no means scientific, the meeting had over 3,000 in attendance, and this straw poll in the past has been a fairly decent indicator of Republican voter preferences in the primary races. There are some interesting results. According to the poll, Abbott would be forced into a runoff, having received only 45% of the vote, followed by Allen West at 25% and Don Huffines at 21%. Other statewide incumbents — Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller — all held substantial leads over their nearest rivals. In the heated race for Attorney General, incumbent Ken Paxton received 30%, followed closely by Congressman Louie Gohmert at 29%. George P. Bush and Eva Guzman both received 20%.
Falling under the “way too early” category, Morning Consult and Politico conducted a poll of likely national Republican primary voters regarding the 2024 Presidential election. Former President Trump was favored by 49% of the 390 respondents, followed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 14% and Mike Pence at 13%. Texas Senator Ted Cruz was only favored by 2%, and Governor Abbott registered no support.
Speaking of Trump, he is holding a rally in Montgomery County, north of Houston on Saturday. This will be a festival like setting, with music, speeches from other elected officials, and merchandise for sale all leading up to Trump taking the stage in the evening.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick went up on TV with advertising yesterday. The first ads of the political season for the two term incumbent are airing in 15 mostly mid-sized markets such as the Rio Grande Valley, Midland-Odessa, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Waco, and Corpus Christi.
Houston Congressman Dan Crenshaw is taking matters into his own hands regarding the latest controversies surrounding the new requirements for applications for mail in ballots. His campaign is sending out mailers to constituents that contain the actual application for mail in ballots. Local clerks, including the Harris County clerk, were criticized in the 2020 election cycle for sending out applications to voters that did not request them. Crenshaw, a Republican, defends his actions by saying he also sent out the applications in 2020, and the actions of the legislature have no bearing on his campaign strategy. Crenshaw, in his first term, faces four Republicans and two Democrats in his Harris County Congressional district that stretches from the Aldine area in the north to South Houston.
Political commercials will be on your local stations in full force between now and the March 1st election day. The last day to register to vote is January 31st. The last day to apply to vote by mail is February 18th. Early voting starts February 14th and lasts until February 25th.