The end game is finally upon us. We're not only choosing a governor and other statewides tonight but also who'll represent us in Congress, in the Legislature, the courts and the State Board of Education. (A guide to tonight's coverage is available on this page.)
We've got all those races covered. We'll have dispatches from the Trib team throughout the evening: Reeve Hamilton is with Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican statewides at an exotic game ranch in Buda; Julian Aguilar is reporting from Harris County and, later, at Bill White's confab in Houston; Morgan Smith is covering the CD-17 race between U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards and Republican Bill Flores; and the rest of the team will be reporting on the hottest races from TT headquarters in Austin. Check back and refresh often for updates and photos from the field. As usual, if you have interesting photos from wherever you are tonight, please send them to email@example.com.
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Drinking in Dallas: Dallas right now is probably the biggest city in the country to be a strange patchwork of wet and dry — and two landmark ballot propositions would change that. Right now, some parts of Dallas effectively ban liquor stores, by prohibiting off-premises consumption of alcohol. And restaurants in dry neighborhoods cannot offer customers mixed drinks without being classified as a "club." A "yes" vote on the two city of Dallas propositions would lift both requirements — though as The Dallas Morning News has pointed out, the wording on the ballot is confusing.
Houston red-light cameras: Proposition 3 in Houston would outlaw red-light cameras. Some 70 cameras have been put in place since the red-light program started in 2006; it has stirred controversy among the good (or not so good?) citizens of Houston.
Domestic partners in El Paso: The proposition on the city of El Paso's ballot would restrict partner health care benefits only to married couples and their dependents. The background: Awhile back, El Paso extended health-care benefits to domestic partners, in addition to spouses. This angered the family values crowd in this Catholic community — so a "yes" vote on the ballot would peel back the benefit extension. Here again, the wording on the ballot seems confusing: "Shall the ordinance, endorsing traditional family values by making health benefits available only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children, be approved?"
Roads in Austin: Proposition 1 in Travis County (city of Austin) would provide a $90 million bond to fix roads, sidewalks and traffic signals.
And, just for fun, we'll also keep tabs on the most controversial Texas ballot proposition that's not actually in Texas: California's Prop 23, which would suspend the state's pioneering global-warming law. California environmentalists are infuriated that Texas oil companies — Valero and Tesoro — have helped fund the proposition. A "yes" vote would repeal the law unless California's unemployment rate plummets. The "no" side would keep the law in place. One of the "no" camp's biggest cheerleaders is outgoing Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Texas House has 150 members, and all of them are on the ballot. But not all of them have races, and not all of those with races are in trouble. More than 60 percent of the people on the House ballot have either no opponent at all (63 of them), or no major-party opposition (30). The "practially elected" class includes 39 Democrats and 54 Republicans; 11 of them will be entering as freshmen.
Some Texas House members are unopposed:
Democrats (32): Allan Ritter, Joe Deshotel, Ryan Guillen, Sergio Muñoz Jr.*, Rene Oliveira, Eddie Lucio III, Armando Martinez, Aaron Peña, Richard Raymond, Edmund Kuempel, Chente Quintanilla, Naomi Gonzalez*, Marisa Marquez, Tracy King, Mark Veasey, Eric Johnson, Rafael Anchia, Roberto Alonzo, Helen Giddings, Barbara Mallory Caraway, Yvonne Davis, Trey Martinez Fischer, Joe Farias, Ruth McClendon, Mike Villarreal, Alma Allen, Sylvester Turner, Armando Walle, Harold Dutton, Carol Alvarado, Borris Miles*, and Garnet Coleman.
Republicans (31): Dan Flynn, Lance Gooden*, Bryan Hughes, Jim Pitts, Fred Brown, Lois Kolkhorst, Brandon Creighton, Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, Dennis Bonnen, Geanie Morrison, Todd Hunter, Jimmy Don Aycock, Jim Keffer, Tan Parker, Van Taylor*, Jerry Madden, Rick Hardcastle, Ken Paxton, Drew Darby, Tryon Lewis, Tom Craddick, Charles Perry*, John Smithee, Warren Chisum, Jodie Laubenberg, Kelly Hancock, Vicki Truitt, Charlie Geren, Joe Straus, Wayne Smith, and Gary Elkins.
Others have only minor-party opponents:
Democrats (7): Ron Reynolds*, Jose Manuel Lozano*, Dawnna Dukes, Elliott Naishtat, Joe Pickett, Jose Menendez, and Joaquin Castro.
Republicans (23): Leo Berman, David Simpson*, Rob Eissler, John Otto, Charles Schwertner*, Larry Taylor, Randy Weber, Harvey Hilderbran, Ralph Sheffield, Sid Miller, Phil King, Larry Phillips, Myra Crownover, Burt Solomons, Lanham Lyne*, Susan King, Doug Miller, Diane Patrick, Mark Shelton, Angie Chen Button, Jim Jackson, Allen Fletcher and Beverly Woolley.
Those with asterisks are freshmen, and that group includes Van Taylor, who's already been sworn in to replace Brian McCall, and Borris Miles, who served one term, lost, and is now on his way back in.
— In Bexar County, incumbent district attorney Susan Reed faces off against challenger Nico LaHood, an attorney who was arrested for selling ecstasy in 1994.
— Dallas County's incumbent DA Craig Watkins is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican defense lawyer Danny Clancy. Watkins, acclaimed for exonerating the wrongfully convicted, has stumbled in the last year over questions about his handling of an investigation into county constables.
— On the Dallas County Commissioners Court, the balance of power is in play. If Democrat Clay Jenkins beats Republican Wade Emmert for County Judge and District 4 Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, a Republican, loses to former Dallas City Council member Elba Garcia, Democrats will have a majority for the first time in roughly 30 years.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, asked the Department of Justice last week to send in federal inspectors after reports emerged that some conservative groups were practicing voter intimidation. Not to be outdone, some conservative groups called upon Tea Party loyalists and other like-minded folks to show up en masse to watch polls and derail what they said was an attempt by Democrats to have undocumented immigrants vote and tilt the scales their way.
At the Acres Holmes Multi-Service Center in Houston, where some had alleged Jackson Lee was illegally electioneering, there was less harassment and more confusion about where to vote. The polling site on W. Montgomery Ave. was available for early voting but not a precinct on Election Day, though some there said it had been in the past.
He runs down a list of Republicans challenging Democratic incumbents who, he says, have early leads after early voting.
In the House, they are Jim Landtroop, Jim Murphy, Sarah Davis, Erwin Cain, Marva Beck, George Lavender and Jack O’Connor.
And, to the crowd's delight, in the CD-23 race, Francisco "Quico" Canseco.
The GOP's high-water mark (post-Reconstruction) was 88 members in the Texas House. The GOP would have to pick up 12 seats tonight to match that. They've already got one — David Farabee, D-Wichita Falls, didn't seek reelection and former Mayor Lanham Lyne is running away with that race.