Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Sunday, November 14th (12:45 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 3,545,738 (481 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 2,693 (10,078 available beds, 761 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 71,624 (38 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Monday, November 15th (12:00 PM data)
Total doses administered – 34,754,507
People vaccinated – 18,152,372
People fully vaccinated – 15,704,206
Doses Shipped by state – 27,022,550
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Sunday, November 14th was 5.47%. One month ago, there were 5,000 new cases reported, one week ago there were 1,300 new cases reported, compared to the 481 reported yesterday. The 2,693 COVID patients in hospitals now is 383 less patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 4.2% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 34,470 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Monday, November 15th 53.6% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
O’Rourke to Challenge Abbott
Ending months of speculation, former Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced this morning he is entering the race for Governor of Texas. O’Rourke served three terms in the US Congress before challenging US Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, losing by just 3 percentage points. He had a very brief run for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020 as well. His message is to focus on what he calls a failed response to the pandemic, a lack of preparation for last winter’s storm, enhanced voting rights, and improving education.
Abbott will try and tie O’Rourke to the incumbent party in the White House by coupling him with the problems regarding border issues, inflation, and the supply chain crisis. Also, in a state that is consistently pro Second Amendment, regardless of party affiliation, O’Rourke will have a very hard time overcoming his crusade to eliminate assault weapons he undertook during his brief Presidential run.
Abbott is expected to easily win his primary battle and O’Rourke will likely have no credible opposition in the Democratic primary.
House Member from South Texas Switches Parties
In a huge boost to the state Republicans ongoing attempt to overcome the Democratic party stronghold in south Texas, Democratic state Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City announced this morning he will seek reelection in 2020 as a Republican. Guillen was joined in Floresville by Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan. In the redistricting process, Guillen’s district was substantially altered, moving from mostly counties along the Rio Grande border to rural counties between Laredo and San Antonio. Democrats immediately criticized Guillen for self-preservation, caving to the realities of the new district. Guillen responded by saying that the current leadership of the Democratic party does not reflect his set of values. Guillen has consistently been listed as the most conservative Democrat in the House. He did not go to Washington, DC for the quorum break this summer, and was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote for the permitless carry of handguns legislation passed earlier this year.
Guillen already has an announced primary opponent. Former Navy officer Mike Monreal of Floresville has previously announced his candidacy. No Democrats have announced for the seat.
Republicans Continue Call for Special Session
Even though we have gone through three special sessions this year, a group of about 20 Republican lawmakers continue to press Gov. Abbott to call a fourth special session. This time, the group wants the legislature to address the issue of vaccine mandates. The issue of vaccine mandates was added to the call of the last special session that ended in October, but neither the House or Senate had enough support to advance relative legislation. Gov. Abbott has said he will not call a fourth special session at this time. Furthermore, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a stay on the previous vaccine mandate issued by the Biden administration. This is not the final judgement on the issue, but the mandate is on hold pending further litigation.
Mask Mandate in Schools Ruled Unconstitutional
In more news from the courts, a federal district judge in Austin last week ruled that the executive order issued by Gov. Abbott that prohibits mask mandates in schools is unconstitutional because it violates the American with Disabilities Act. This, at least for the time being, allows local school officials to once again set their own policies for their students. With that, several public schools have already announced that masks will now be voluntary among students and staff. Attorney General Ken Paxton has said he will explore all avenues to appeal this decision.
Task Force Created in Wake of Astroworld Tragedy
Last week, Gov. Abbott announced that he will be creating a task force to explore ways to try and avoid a repeat of the tragedy that occurred at a concert at Astroworld last week. A nine year old boy passed away this morning due to injuries sustained at the concert, bringing the death toll from the incident to 10. Generally, the host cities have the most oversight authority over security during these large events, but the task force will look for ways to make recommendations to local officials that will improve concert safety. The task force will be led by the director of the Texas Music Office, and will also be made up of officials from the areas of law enforcement, the music industry, and public safety.
Political Quick Hits
Saturday marked the opening of the filing period for anyone that will seek election or reelection to public office at the state level in Texas in 2022. The filing period lasts until December 13th. Due to redistricting, all 150 state House members, all 31 state Senators, and all members of Congress are up for reelection in 2022. Also, all major statewide offices – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Land Commissioner, and Agriculture Commissioner – are also up for election in 2022.
After the news of Lufkin Congressman Louie Gohmert is considering a race for Texas Attorney General, rumors circulated that state Senator Bryan Hughes of Mineola was considering a run for Congress. However, Hughes announced on Friday that he would seek reelection to his state Senate seat. Hughes currently serves as chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Veteran Republican House member Jon Cyrier from Lockhart becomes the 20th incumbent this year to announce he will not be seeking reelection. Cyrier was first elected to the House in 2015, after winning a special election. He has not had any opposition since 2016. However, there are already two announced Republican candidates for the seat.
Former President Trump will be hosting a private fundraiser for Attorney General Ken Paxton on December 9th at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Price of admission ranges from $50,000 to $2,500. Paxton led the charge last year in challenges to President Biden’s victory over Trump, and has consistently supported all of Trump’s initiatives since he left office. Paxton has at least three primary challengers, and faces ongoing legal battles over a felony indictment on securities fraud and accusations of bribery by former agency employees.
We will be watching the filing period closely, which lasts until December 13th. Many more announcements regarding retirements and challenges are expected.