COVID Cases and Hospitalizations

New infections continue a slow and steady decline with 725 cases reported by the state yesterday.   This is down from the 1,100 reported one week ago.  Hospitalizations are remaining steady.  The state is reporting 984 people hospitalized with COVID illness.  That is down slightly from the 1,083 reported one week ago.

Early Voting Has Begun

As of Sunday, when the first week of early voting concluded, just shy of 3 million people in our state had cast their votes for the November 8th election.  This translates to roughly 16% of registered voters, which lags 11 percentage points behind the pace set in 2018, the last time all statewide offices were up for reelection.  Statewide turnout is down 37% from 2020, which was a Presidential election year when turnout is always higher.

Now, who is turning out so far?  Data cruncher and Republican consultant Derek Ryan provided an analysis to several news outlets yesterday that analyzed the first week of early voting.  According to Ryan, 46% of those who have voted so far have a history of voting in the Republican primary, compared to 31% with a history of voting in the Democratic primary.  That leaves roughly 22% of the early voters so far that have no history in either primary.  Suburban counties such as Montgomery, Denton, and Collin are turning out slightly higher than urban counties such as Travis, Harris, and Dallas.  The suburban counties throughout the state are showing a turnout of about 20% while the urban counties are turning out about 17% of their voters so far.

Because of the low turnout so far, overall voter turnout is expected to be lower as well.  In 2018, 53% of registered voters cast a ballot.  Pundits now estimate that the overall turnout for this year will be about 48%, which translates to about 8.5 million total voters.  Initially, the Secretary of State’s office estimated that roughly 10 million would turn out this year, but due to lackluster turnout so far, they have reduced their overall estimate.

Governor’s Race

The University of Houston/Hobby School of Public Affairs released a poll this morning that showed the lead for all statewide Republican candidates growing significantly.  This poll shows Gov. Abbott with a 53% to 40% lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke.  Down ballot, all other incumbent statewide Republicans have significant leads over their Democratic rivals.  Lt. Governor Patrick leads Mike Collier by 15 points at 51% to 36%, and AG Ken Paxton leads Rochelle Garza 49% to 37%.  The other statewide Republican candidates – Land Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner, and Comptroller – all also have double digit leads over their Democratic opponents.  The poll was conducted via an online survey of 1,200 likely voters from October 19th to October 26th.

The University Texas-Tyler released a poll Sunday that is consistent with recent polls that show Gov. Abbott continuing to enjoy a lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke, but not to the degree of the UH poll mentioned above.  The UT-Tyler poll shows Abbott with a 50% to 44% lead over O’Rourke.  The poll also shows Lt. Governor Dan Patrick with a 44% to 35% lead over Democrat Mike Collier.  The smallest margin for all Republican statewide incumbents was AG Ken Paxton, whom the poll shows with a 4-point lead at 42% to 38%.  The poll was conducted from October 17th-24th among 974 likely voters.

One other note on the Governor’s race.  The candidates had to file one final pre-election report regarding money raised and spent yesterday.  In the 30-day period covered in this report, O’Rourke once again outraised Gov. Abbott. O’Rourke raised $10.5 million compared to $8.8 million for Abbott.  O’Rourke has $4.4 million cash on hand compared to $3.7 million for Abbott.

Border News

Last week, Gov. Abbott announced that he and state leaders will be moving $360 million out of the budget for the state prison system and reallocating it to Operation Lone Star which is the state’s border security program.  The money is intended to last for the next 10 months, and brings the total spent on the operation to $4 billion.  Additionally, the Legislative Budget Board authorized transfers totaling $785 million for public school safety measures, including $15 million to build a replacement for Robb Elementary in Uvalde.

Uvalde School News

Last week, appearing at a meeting of the Department of Public Safety Commission, agency director Steve McCraw detailed that the DPS did in fact not fail the victim’s families and the community, and that he will not be stepping down from his position.  His response has sparked an overall negative reaction among the victim’s families, as they believe that the agency has not adequately responded to the tragedy.  Congressman Tony Gonzalez of San Antonio, who also represents Uvalde as part of his Congressional district, became the first Republican elected official to demand McCraw’s resignation in light of controversy  and criticism that has beset the agency after the May shooting incident.

Political Notes

Even though all the Republicans on the statewide ballot seem to be increasing their leads, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is taking nothing for granted.  In a radio interview with Chad Hasty from KFYO radio in Lubbock yesterday, Patrick said he believes that he and Abbott both have leads over their opponents, but they are in the single digits, not the larger leads that are being shown in some polls.

The latest ad by Republican incumbent Lt Governor Dan Patrick has drawn reaction from his Democratic opponent Mike Collier.  Patrick’s latest ad running now throughout the state claims Collier wants open borders, is in favor of “boys playing girls sports”, wants to crush the oil and gas industry and will raise taxes.  Collier has written a cease and desist letter to all TV stations running the ad claiming that the ad is “wholly and completely untrue”.  Over the weekend, the ads were still running and the Patrick campaign says it has no intention of asking stations to stop running the ad.

Former state Rep. Ron Wilson of Houston has pled guilty to tax evasion charges. Wilson, who represented the Sunnyside neighborhood of south Houston from 1997 to 2004 once chaired the tax-writing Ways and Means committee in the House.  In the plea, Wilson acknowledged that he failed to pay over $800,000 in taxes from 2000 to 2019 by attempting to hide his income in false trust accounts or simply not filing income tax returns.  Wilson, who will be sentenced in January, faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 in addition to the back taxes he owes.  Wilson was defeated by state Rep. Alma Allen in the 2004 Democratic primary after Wilson threw his support to Speaker Tom Craddick, the first Republican Speaker of the Texas House since the Reconstruction era.

We are saddened to report the passing of former state Rep. Dan Flynn of Van.  Dan from Van, as he was known on his social media accounts, served his east Texas district from 2003 to 2020, when he was defeated in the Republican primary by state Rep. Bryan Slaton.  Flynn, had a career in the US Army and Army Reserves before entering politics.  He served as Van Zandt County Judge before being elected to the House, where he served as Chair of the Defense Affairs and Pensions committees during his tenure.  Internment in the Texas State Cemetery is planned for November 9th.

What’s Next??

Early voting continues through Friday, November 4th.  Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8th.

There are no committee hearings scheduled as members will spend the next two weeks concentrating on their reelection.