COVID Cases Fall, Hospitalizations Steady
New infections continue a slow and steady decline with 1,179 cases reported by the state yesterday. This is down from the 2,000 reported one week ago. Hospitalizations are remaining steady but falling slightly as well. The state is reporting 1,766 people hospitalized with COVID illness. That down slightly from the 2,045 reported one week ago.
Two new recent polls show basically the same thing – Abbott is maintaining if not growing his lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke. A Spectrum News/Siena College poll released last week showed Abbott with a 50% to 43% lead. In a poll released yesterday by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation, Abbott’s lead was 51% to 44%. Also, in both polls, all Republican statewide officials showed a 5-7 point lead over their Democratic opponents. Two things also stand out as very bad news for O’Rourke and the Democrats. Abbott has a nearly 30-point lead among independents, a lead that has grown substantially from other polls done in August. And, even though the polls questioned registered voters, the Abbott lead among “certain voters” increased by 3 points.
The Texas Hispanic Policy poll can be found here: https://interactive.wfaa.com/pdfs/TexasPoll1Update.pdf
The Spectrum News/Siena College poll can be found here: https://spectrumlocalnews.com/tx/austin/politics/2022/09/21/beto-has–hill-to-climb–to-take-governor-s-race
None of these numbers are good news for O’Rourke or any member of the Democratic statewide ticket. However, O’Rourke said on Monday that he is not worried about the poor polling numbers. O’Rourke is on the first leg of his college tour to try and motivate the younger generation to rally behind his campaign. At an event at the University of Texas on Monday, O’Rourke predicted that as “more Texans begin to pay attention to the race…they are going to want change, and his campaign represents the change Texas deserves.”
O’Rourke is currently touring college campuses throughout the state, with plans to visit 12 campuses. Targeting the young voting bloc is key to any success for the O’Rourke campaign. In the 2018 race for US Senate against Senator Ted Cruz, younger voters under 25 turned out by an increase of 230% compared to previous US Senate races.
Voter Registration Top 17 million
Nearly one million Texans have registered to vote this year with three weeks to go before the registration deadline for the November 8thelections. The total number of people registered to vote in Texas now exceeds 17.5 million. The new registration numbers are higher as compared to statewide elections in 2014 and 2018, but the demographic makeup of the new registrants remains basically the same. Republicans have swept all statewide races since 1998. Derek Ryan, a Republican researcher focusing on voting and registration data, claims that the number and types of new registrants are basically the same as they have been for the 2014 and 2018 election cycles. In those cycles, 56% of the newly registered voters were women and 29% were younger than 30 years of age. Due to the success of the Republicans in the past several cycles, any success by the Democrats would have to come from either the newly registered voters turning out in significantly larger numbers, or the infrequent voter deciding to finally go to the polls. Or, perhaps both scenarios have to occur for the Democrats to finally break their 28-year drought in winning a statewide election.
Speaker Phelan Makes News at Trib Fest
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan gave a wide-ranging interview over the weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival, an annual gathering of newsmakers to discuss topics in the news and issues before the Texas Legislature. In the interview, Phelan discussed many topics that will be front and center when the legislature convenes in January. Among the highlights, Phelan does not think there will be any meaningful legislation passed regarding new gun safety restrictions. Phelan believes the votes are not there in his caucus to make any changes. However, he did think that there was a reasonable chance that exceptions to the state’s restrictive abortion law could get serious consideration. Phelan also said he supports tax cuts next session – although he did not specify any – due to the fact that Texans have been hit so hard by inflation. Phelan is from the Beaumont area in southeast Texas, and will be seeking his second term as Speaker of the Texas House.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is already preparing for an anticipated 2024 Presidential bid by launching a multistate bus tour ahead of this November’s midterm elections. Cruz plans to visit 17 states to campaign for Republican candidates with hotly contested November races. The early Presidential states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada are of course included in his tour.
Former Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff joins the list of Republicans that has endorsed Democrat Mike Collier in the race for Lt. Governor. Ratliff, who served in the Senate from 1989 to 2004, served as Lt. Governor during the 2001 session. Ratliff was always considered a moderate and defends his endorsement of Collier by saying Collier is the best man for the job, and that members of the Senate should “be able to represent their constituents without fear of retribution or retaliation.”
Vice-President Kamala Harris will be in Texas on October 8th to headline a fundraiser for the state Democratic Party. She will be the keynote speaker for the annual Johnson-Jordan Reception in Austin. The Chair of the state Democratic party said that her appearance proves Texas is still in play for the midterm elections.
The State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) met in Austin over the weekend. The big news to come out of the event was their unanimous endorsement of a proposition asking the Texas House Speaker and Lt. Governor to appoint only Republican chairs of committees next session. Committee chairs hold a great deal of power under House and Senate rules by controlling the flow of legislation at the committee level. The SREC said that a “majority means control”, and there should be no Democratic chairs. Traditionally, the minority party in the state has received a nominal number of committee chairmanships in an effort to maximize bipartisanship and desire for compromise.
The Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) is a well-respected and prominent caucus in the legislature that seeks to promote and educate members about the issues facing Hispanics in our state. The caucus held its annual fundraiser in Dallas over the weekend where the longtime chair announced he would not seek reelection this session. Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Democrat from Dallas who has served 6 years as chair, said it is time to pass the gavel on to someone new. The three major caucuses with a majority of Democrats as members will all have new leadership next session. Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington has already announced he will not seek reelection as chair of the Democratic Caucus. And Rep. Ron Reynolds of Missouri City recently took over as chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Gov. Abbott and Beto O’Rourke will have their only debate this Friday at the Edinburg campus of the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley. The debate begins at 7:00PM Friday and will be carried by 14 Nexstar stations throughout the state.
There are a few hearings scheduled on the House side in the coming weeks, but the hearing schedule has slowed down as most members are concentrating on their reelection.
The schedule and details of all interim hearings can be found here: https://capitol.texas.gov
The last day to register to vote is October 11th. Early voting starts October 24th, election day is November 8th.