Case Counts/Testing in Texas Wednesday, November 17th (2:00 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 3,554,335 (3,906 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 2,720 (8,963 available beds, 748 available adult ICU beds)
Fatalities – 71,844 (122 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Wednesday, November 17th (2:00 PM data)
Total doses administered – 34,934,266
People vaccinated – 18,221,231
People fully vaccinated – 15,732,690
Doses Shipped by state – 27,162,560
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, November 17th was 5.48%. One month ago, there were 1,900 new cases reported, one week ago there were 3,00 new cases reported, compared to the 3,906 reported yesterday. The 2,720 COVID patients in hospitals now is 49 less patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 4.3% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 37,381 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Thursday, November 18th 54% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
O’Rourke Raises $2 Million in First 24 Hours
In the first 24 hours following his announcement as a candidate for Governor, Democrat Beto O’Rourke raised more than $2 million. By comparison, the 2018 Democratic nominee, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, raised a total of $1.7 million for her entire campaign. O’Rourke has proven to be a prolific fundraiser, having raised $80 million in his 2018 campaign against incumbent Ted Cruz for US Senate. O’Rourke’s campaign announced that the $2 million haul came from over 31,000 different donors. But, it is to be noted, that only 57% of the donors are from Texas. O’Rourke will have to depend on money from out of state to be competitive with Gov. Abbott, who has also proven to be a prolific fundraiser. Abbott, who reported having $55 million cash on hand after the June 30threporting period, raised another $2.45 million during the first two special sessions. Reports on money raised during the third called session are not yet available. Expect this frenzy to continue throughout the campaign. At a recent Houston fundraiser, Abbott told donors that he expects to raise and spend between $150 and $200 million on the race.
Another Redistricting Lawsuit Filed
Even as the filing period for candidates for the 2022 elections is in full swing, another lawsuit was filed yesterday challenging the validity of the new districts drawn by the legislature for next year. Three civil rights groups – the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Asian American Legal Defense Fund – have banded together to file suit in US District Court, Western District saying the new districts are unconstitutional and are gerrymandered to dilute minority voting strength. This is similar to other lawsuits filed by Latino and African American voting rights advocates that challenge the maps drawn for the state House, state Senate, and Congressional districts. No hearing dates have been set on any of the lawsuits. The filing period is set to end on December 13th, but an adverse ruling against the state on any of these lawsuits could not only prolong the filing period, but also delay the primary elections, scheduled for March 1st.
Vaccine Mandate for Businesses on Hold
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has suspended enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees . Several states, including Texas, had filed suit to stop the mandate from taking effect, and OSHA made the announcement after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a stay on the mandate. The mandate, issued in October, had set a date of January 4th for all businesses to comply with the mandate to have all employees vaccinated against COVID, or test the unvaccinated employees weekly. Undoubtedly, the validity of the mandate will be ultimately decided by the US Supreme Court.
Lots of Political Notes
More retirements – Two longtime House Democrats have announced their retirements, raising the number to 22 incumbents that will not seek reelection to the 150 member House. Joe Deshotel, first elected in 1998 from the Port Arthur area, announced yesterday he would retire at the end of his term. Deshotel, who recently became a grandfather and has a new bride as well, says it is time for the next chapter in his life, and wants to concentrate on his new personal blessings.
Garnet Coleman, who has represented parts of east and southeast Houston since first being elected in 1990, has also announced he will retire at the end of his current term. Coleman currently serves as Chair of the House County Affairs Committee, but has long been an advocate for increased funding for health care and other health services related issues. At one point in his career, he was the de facto leader of all health and human services funding on the budget conference committee for four consecutive sessions. Coleman recently has had many health related issues, and at one point collapsed on the House floor in May. Coleman subsequently battled a severe illness that eventually led to partial amputation of his right leg earlier this year.
Incumbent state Rep. Alex Dominguez, a Democrat from Brownsville, announced yesterday he would be a candidate to replace longtime state Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr in the Rio Grande Valley based Senate District 27. Dominguez was drawn out of his House district during the redistricting process. He is joined by Brownsville attorney Sarah Stapleton Barrera, who is making her second run at the Democratic nomination for this Senate district after unsuccessfully trying to unseat Lucio on 2020. McAllen attorney Morgan LaMantia, whose family runs the local beer distributing company, has not made an official announcement about the race, but has created a website that indicates she is planning to seek the Democratic nomination as well. No Republicans have announced at this time, but due to redistricting and the Republican party push to make inroads in south Texas, this Senate district could be more competitive in the November election than in previous cycles.
Incumbent state Rep. Michelle Beckley, a Democrat from Carrollton, has announced she will seek the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor. She joins Houston accountant Mike Collier and journalist Matthew Dowd in the Democratic primary. The winner will face two term incumbent Dan Patrick. Beckley is considered a longshot in this race. Collier ran unsuccessfully in 2018 against Patrick, but did better than most expected, only losing to a far better funded Dan Patrick by only 3 points. Dowd has wider name recognition due to his presence on ABC News over the last several years.
Shelly Luther, the salon owner who gained attention by defying Gov. Abbott’s shutdown orders last year, is once again a candidate for office. She ran unsuccessfully against then state Rep. Drew Springer for an open state Senate seat last year. This time, she is challenging incumbent state Rep. Reggie Smith, a Republican from the Sherman area in north Texas. Luther lost big to Springer, by 12 points in the 2020 election, but did raise $2 million and has significant name ID. Smith is a two term incumbent of this north Texas district that is considered to be a very safe Republican district.
Incumbent state Rep. Ina Minjarez, a Democrat from San Antonio, will not seek reelection, but instead run for Bexar County Judge in 2022. Minjarez has been in the House since 2015, and is seeking to replace current Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is retiring at the end of this term.
And finally!!, Jay Kelberg, who is part of the family that owns the King Ranch is south Texas, has announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Land Commissioner. Kleberg is based in Austin, and is a conservationist that has experience working with the Parks and Wildlife Department Foundation, and also works for a company that leases large ranches in the state for recreational purposes. The other major candidate in the Democratic primary is Austin attorney Miguel Suazo, who was the 2018 nominee. Suazo eventually lost to incumbent George P. Bush by 10 points. State Senator Dawn Buckingham and San Antonio political activist Weston Martinez are the two major candidates announced thus far in the Republican primary. Incumbent George P. Bush is not seeking reelection to the Land office, and is running for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.
We will be watching the filing period closely, which lasts until December 13th. Many more announcements regarding retirements and challenges are expected.