COVID Cases Rise, but Hospitalizations Remain Low
New infections continue on an upward trend, with 1,428 new cases reported by the state yesterday. The number of new infections reported daily have remained at about the same number for the past two weeks. These cases are apparently mild in nature because, hospitalizations continue to remain low. As of Monday, May 16th, there were 773 people hospitalized with COVID related illness, which is consistent with the running seven day average.
Early Voting Underway
Many Texans already have election fatigue after the March primaries and the municipal elections earlier this month. But, there are several statewide and legislative elections that are still yet to be settled. May 24th is the election day for the primary runoffs, and early voting started today and runs through May 20th. On the Republican side, there are runoffs for state Attorney General, Land Commissioner, and Railroad Commssioner. On the Democratic side, there are runoffs also for Attorney General, Lt. Governor, Land Commissioner, and Agriculture Commissioner. There are also 23 runoffs for legislative seats throughout the state. For all information related to the runoff, go to https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/laws/current-elections-information.shtml
Electric Grid Under Stress During First Heatwave
With much of the state experiencing temperatures near 100 degrees over the weekend, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has asked Texans to conserve energy as hot temperatures are expected to last through the week. This warning came after six power producing plants went off line on Friday affecting service to 580,000 homes in the state. ERCOT did not identify which plants had gone offline or what caused them to go offline, but did announce this morning that five of the six plants were back up and working. ERCOT did not believe that rolling blackouts would be necessary, as there is apparently enough power in reserves to meet demand, but they did admit to having less in reserves since May is not considered to be a month that calls for excessive demand. The electric grid and its management by state officials have been under intense scrutiny since the winter storm of 2021 where millions of Texans were left without power for several days during the longest and most severe cold snap in the state’s history. Lawmakers addressed part of the issue during the 2021 session by requiring power providers to weatherize their plants, but skeptics point to situations like this to claim that much more needs to be done to address increasing demand for a consistent and reliable power delivery system.
More Polling Info
The Dallas Morning News/UT Tyler released a poll on Sunday that asked many different questions regarding preferences for candidates and issues facing the state today. Gov. Abbott continues to maintain his lead over Beto O’Rourke by a 46% to 39% margin. However, even though Abbott remains the leader in a head to head competition, the voters in the state feel like the state is headed in the wrong direction. When asked, 56% of the respondents feel the state is on the wrong track, and that is up from 49% in February. What’s more interesting is that the increase in the wrong track category was consistent across all party affiliation and racial-ethnic categories. While Texans place most of the blame for high inflation and rising home prices on federal lawmakers and the Biden administration, they place the blame squarely on Abbott and state lawmakers for the constantly rising property taxes. All statewide runoff races were polled along with questions on several issues including border policy, election integrity, and the COVID response. The full poll and its methodology can be found here: https://www.uttyler.edu/politicalscience/files/dmn-uttyler-may2022.pdf
Paxton Goes on Offensive
In the above mentioned poll, Paxton enjoys a 46% to 31% advantage over Land Commissioner George P. Bush in the Republican runoff for Attorney General among “certain” Republican primary voters. However, he went aggressively on the attack against Bush last week, probably because there are still over 20% of the likely primary voters that are still undecided. So, Paxton has sent out mailers and gone to the airwaves attacking Bush for his management of the Alamo during his tenure as Land Commissioner. Paxton’s claim in the ads is that Bush has aligned himself with the “woke” far left crowd to reimagine the Alamo, saying that “we can’t trust RINO George Bush to protect our freedoms and values from the far left”. Most are perplexed as to why Paxton has taken this line of attack, Bush did advocate for moving statutes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson a total of 500 feet as part of a restoration project, but he has never sought the removal of any of the statues or historical pieces that are part of the Alamo. Bush has not responded to these specific attacks.
Criticism Over Baby Formula Comments
We have all seen in the news the very real and serious shortage of baby formula that is available all over the country. Last week, Gov. Abbott criticized the Biden administration for storing and providing baby formula for migrants that are being detained after attempting to enter the US. This is part of the ongoing theme of Abbott’s reelection campaign, primarily focusing on the failure of the Biden administration to control migration at the Texas/Mexico border. Abbott criticized the policy of withholding available baby formula that could be made available in retail outlets throughout the state. Criticism was swift, coming from several religious organizations including the Catholic Conference of Bishops that claimed formula should be more readily available for all babies, regardless of immigration status. Abbott, through lack of a response to the criticism, has stood by his comments.
Incumbent Stephanie Klick (R, Fort Worth) is in a runoff in the race to retain her Tarrant County state House seat. Her opponent is now defending a website domain that he owned named FindSomeSex.com. David Lowe, who is challenging Klick, claims that many years ago, he would buy and sell domain names to make ends meet. His claim is that when he returned from a tour in Afghanistan, he was faced with no job and was going through a divorce, and the only way he had to make money was to buy and sell domain names. Klick has pounced on the opportunity by saying that someone that would be associated with such a website should not be trusted to be a part of the lawmaking process in Austin. She went on to call Lowe a “pornographer and sex trafficker” in mailers she has sent out in conjunction with the May 24th runoff.
Former President Donald Trump appeared in Austin on Saturday night, speaking to a crowd of about 8,000 at the Austin Convention Center. The rhetoric was basically the same as he has given during his American Freedom Tour, and he also emphasized several endorsements he has made in preparation for the May 24th runoffs. There were the usual protests outside of the downtown convention center, but all in all, the event was held in relatively peaceful terms.
Rumors in Austin started circulating last week that current state Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa will give up his chairmanship of the party at this summer’s convention and be replaced by former state Senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Hinojosa has been in his role since 2012, and has seen little success for the Democratic party. No Democrat has won statewide office since 1994, and the Republicans have maintained a solid control of the House and Senate in the legislature. Davis, who served one term as a state Senator from 2010 to 2014, was also the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2014, losing badly to incumbent Greg Abbott. She also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2020 against Republican Chip Roy of Dripping Springs. Davis rose to fame in the special sessions of 2013 when she filibustered legislation restricting abortion access.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has made two new appointments to the powerful Senate State Affairs Committee. Patrick appointed Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston and Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, both Republicans, to the committee. They replace Sen. Beverly Powell (D, Fort Worth) who recently abandoned her reelection bid and Sen. Jane Nelson (R, Flower Mound), who is not seeking reelection. The State Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over high profile matters such as election integrity, abortion and pro-life legislation, human trafficking, privacy and transparency, and state investment practices. The 9 member committee will now have 7 Republicans and 2 Democrats.
Early voting is underway for the May 24th runoff election. In addition, numerous committee hearings are taking place, and many are scheduled in the coming weeks.
Several committees such as House Insurance, and Public Education Committees, as well as the Senate Finance, Education, and State Affairs committees have all posted hearings.
The schedule and details of all interim hearings can be found here: https://capitol.texas.gov