COVID Cases and Hospitalizations

New infections continue a slow and steady decline with 1,025 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 1,109 people hospitalized with COVID illness.  That is up slightly from the 965 reported one week ago.

Early Voting Has Begun

Early voting started on Monday, and will run through Friday, November 4th.  Overall voter turnout is expected to be somewhere between 9.25 and 10.2 million voters.  Texas currently has 17.7 million registered voters.  10 million voters represent a turnout of 57% of registered voters.  The roughly 10 million figure would represent a decrease from the 11.3 million that voted in 2020.  Voter turnout in non-Presidential elections is traditionally lower.

So far, turnout is lagging.  Day 1 early voting figures represent a fairly significant decrease in turnout compared to both 2018 and 2020.  789,000 people cast a ballot in person on the first day of early voting, compared to 1.13 million in 2020.  In the 30 most populous counties, turnout is down 13% from 2018 and 32% from 2020.  After 2 days of early voting, in the 10 most populous counties, turnout stands at 5.86% compared to 9.24% in 2018.

Monitors in Harris County

Last week, the Texas Secretary of State informed Harris County officials that they would be sending a contingency of inspectors to the county’s central counting location to “perform randomized checks on election records, including chain of custody issues… as well as to observe handling and counting of ballots”.  Texas AG Ken Paxton says he will also dispatch a task force to Harris County to assist the state inspectors when and where needed.  In recent elections, Harris County has been one of the last counties to report election totals and results, and have already declared that this year will be no different.

In response, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has asked the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division to send monitors as well.  In the request, Hidalgo said she is asking the DOJ to come in and ensure that there are no disruptions or interference in the vote counting process that will be done by Harris County officials.

Governor’s Race

There are several new polls out on the Governor’s race as election day nears.  In the latest poll released yesterday by Univision, Abbott enjoys a 46% to 42% lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke.  The poll, which surveyed 1,400 registered voters between October 11th-18th, also found that Hispanic voters favor O’Rourke by a 58% to 28% margin.  One thing to keep in mind is that this poll did not survey “likely” voters, only registered voters.

Two recent polls conducted among likely Texas voters show different results in favor of Gov. Abbott.  A new Emerson College poll conducted for The Hill gives Abbott a 52% to 42% lead among respondents.  Additionally, a Siena College poll conducted for Spectrum News shows Abbott with a 52% to 43% lead.

In other statewide races, the Emerson poll shows Lt. Governor Dan Patrick with a 47% to 42% lead over Democrat Mike Collier while the Siena College poll shows Patrick with an 8 point lead, 49% to 41%.  Both polls show very similar numbers for incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton.  Paxton leads 47% to 42% in the Emerson poll and 48% to 42% in the Siena poll.

The Emerson poll can be found here:

The Siena poll can be found here:

Border News

In the fiscal year that ended September 30th, there were 2.4 million migrant encounters at the Texas/Mexico border, which is the largest number of arrests ever recorded in a fiscal year, according to the recently released data by US Customs and Border Patrol.  This is a 37% increase from fiscal 2021.  The encounters track the number encountered by border patrol agents or people arrested at points of entry and denied entry into the country. During recent months, there has been a significant surge in migrants from Venezuela trying to enter the country to escape turmoil and political instability there.

The city of El Paso is ending its program of busing migrants entering the city to New York and Chicago, as well as ending all assistance efforts for migrants.  City officials say that since the Biden administration has given an order to immediately expel all migrants from Venezuela, the city is experiencing a significant decrease in encounters.  The city has sent 292 buses to both New York and Chicago since August carrying nearly 14,000 people.  City officials claim that between late August and mid-October, federal authorities had released nearly 40,000 migrants into the city of El Paso.

Political Notes

Former President Donald Trump made an appearance in Robstown over the weekend.  Trump spoke at the regional fairgrounds in the small city just outside of Corpus Christi.   Republicans are making a strong push to win over voters in the traditionally solid Democratic south Texas region.  One of the targeted races in the region is for Senate District 27, which is open due to the retirement of longtime Democrat Eddie Lucio of Brownsville.  The Republican nominee, Adam Hinojosa of Corpus Christi spoke at the event and was publicly endorsed by Trump.  Lt. Governor Dan Patrick also spoke at the event.  Gov. Abbott did not attend.  His office said he was attending a previously scheduled fundraiser in Florida.

A recent poll conducted by the University of Houston shows a very tight race for Harris County Judge.  The poll shows Democrat incumbent Lina Hidalgo trailing Republican Alex del Moral Mealer by a 47% to 45% margin.  Digging deeper into the poll, crime and public safety issues are boosting Mealer’s candidacy, as well as public corruption issues that have plagued Hidalgo’s tenure. The numbers appear to show that many Harris County voters appear to be particularly unhappy with Hidalgo, since the same poll revealed that voters of the county favor Beto O’Rourke by a 50% to 42% margin over Gov. Abbott.

The UH poll can be found here:

State Rep. John Lujan (R, San Antonio) is facing substantial criticism for continuing ownership in a company that has a very lucrative contract with a state agency.  Furthermore, one of Lujan’s committee assignments allows him oversight of the specific agency with which the contract is effective.  Lujan sits on the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, which has oversight of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Lujan’s company has a contract with the TABC to assist with their online licensing services.  In 2019, the agency paid Lujan’s company $5.4 million.  If reelected, Lujan now says he will ask for a new committee assignment and step down from any role with the company.

Frederick Frazier, a Republican state representative candidate in Colin County, has  faced charges of aggression and abuse on nine different occasions during his 26-year career with the Dallas Police Department.  The allegations were made public during a Dallas Morning News investigation of improper use of force by the Dallas PD.  In all fairness, Frazier was not penalized or punished in any way for any of the allegations.  During the Republican primary, Frazier faced charges of impersonating a public servant when he claimed to be a city of McKinney code enforcement officer so he could force local businesses to remove his opponent’s campaign signs.  Frazier went on to win the primary and is the Republican nominee in Texas House District 61, based in McKinney in Colin County.  He faces Democrat Sheena King in a district that favors the election of a Republican.

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.