Campaign Chatter

State Representative J.M. Lozano announces that he's switching to the Republican Party during a press conference Thursday at the Republican Party of Texas.
State Representative J.M. Lozano announces that he's switching to the Republican Party during a press conference Thursday at the Republican Party of Texas.

With the pixels still warm from news that Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville is switching to the Republican Party, former Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, D-Alice, announced she will be in the HD-43 race. That's a swing district that voted, on average, for Democrats in 2008 and for Republicans in 2010. Lozano is a freshman recruited by Democrats in 2010 to knock off one of their own — Tara Rios Ybarra of South Padre Island — in the primary. Now the people who recruited him will be attacking him and the people he opposed will be backing him. Toureilles fell to Rep. Jose Aliseda, R-Beeville, in the 2010 general election; he's giving up his seat to run for local office, and would otherwise have been paired with Lozano. In an earlier map drawn by the courts and opposed by the Republicans, Lozano was running as an unopposed Democrat.

• Candidates have until April 9 to start sleeping in the districts they want to represent and at least two — there will be more — have announced plans to pack up and go. Roger Williams will move from his home in Parker County to Travis County, where he says he and his wife are now looking at houses. He's running for an open congressional seat. And former Rep. Joe Moody and his wife will be moving a relatively short distance into El Paso's HD-78, where the Democrat is challenging Republican incumbent Dee Margo. Moody has to move to be eligible. Williams doesn't, as a legal matter, but apparently feels the political need. 

• Rep. Ken Legler, R-Pasadena, won't seek another term. Legler complained more or less openly that the judges didn't draw him a safe district, leaving him instead in a seat where he would have to compete every two years. "That is a political distraction from legislative responsibilities that I choose not to accept," he said. He added that Pasadena was cut up in the maps, with pieces going to four different districts.

• What was only an "if" last week is now a candidacy: Former state Rep. Domingo Garcia will run in CD-33, the district drawn with help by the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force in which he took part. He'll face state Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who started off with a slew of endorsements from current former officeholders and community leaders. Garcia says Veasey and Fort Worth City Council member Kathleen Hicks will be his toughest opponents. That's a swat at Dallas City Councilman Steve Salazar, who once lost an election to Garcia's wife, Elba Garcia, who is now a county commissioner. Another layer of drama: State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, a former Garcia pal who later beat him in a House race, has endorsed Salazar.

• Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams will join the CD-25 race, having bailed on the race for U.S Senate and then filing for Congress only to watch that district get drawn out from under him. Former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams has been elected statewide, so he starts as the name in the race. He went the same route, getting out of the U.S. Senate race, and filing in a congressional district that got erased in court. Former Halliburton exec Dave Garrison is in with significant money of his own, as is Wes Riddle, a retired Army officer, who has been working the Tea Party activists in the district. Chad Wilbanks used to be executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, and Justin Hewlett was mayor of Cleburne. The biggest population centers are in Travis and Johnson counties; that's Austin and Cleburne.

• Former state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., D-Corpus Christi, won't run this time after all. Instead, he's endorsing former Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, in the HD-33 race. On the Republican side, two Corpus incumbents — Raul Torres and Connie Scott — are paired. It's a swing district that leaned to the Democrats in recent elections. Torres won't stay in that one, instead opting to run for the Texas Senate against incumbent Democrat Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

• That SD-9 race in Tarrant County will be a three-way Republican primary, with Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, saying he'll get into it. Reps. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, were already in. Smith comes in with endorsements from Victor Vandergriff, who looked at the race but will serve as Smith's treasurer, and from a number of elected officials that includes Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and the mayors of Arlington, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Euless, Hurst, North Richland Hills, Watauga, Richland Hills, Keller, Colleyville, Trophy Club and Westlake. Former state Rep. Toby Goodman, who also looked at the race, is endorsing Smith, too.

• With Smith out of the House race, Bedford City Council member Roger Fisher will get in, with the outgoing incumbent's blessing. He'll face Jon Stickland, who was challenging Smith. Both men are Republicans.

• Former Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, is in HD-101 in the interim House maps instead of a district of another number, but he'll still have to run against former Rep. Paula Hightower in the primary. [Editor's note: We had her in another race in an earlier version, now corrected. Sorry, sorry, sorry...]

• State Rep. Pete Gallego, who is hoping to stay out of a primary with former colleague Ciro Rodriguez, is pulling together lists of San Antonio bigwigs who support him. Gallego has filed to run in CD-23, where San Antonio Republican Francisco "Quico" Canseco, is the incumbent. Rodriguez hasn't filed. Gallego's latest list includes almost two dozen activists; an earlier list had several state House members and other luminaries among 123 endorsers from around the district. Rodriguez was in the Texas House, then served in Congress, most recently losing his seat in 2010 to Canseco.

Miriam Martinez, D-Edinburg, is moving her candidacy to HD-41 from HD-40 — the sort of move you'll see all over the state as candidates adjust to the new political maps issued by the federal courts. Both are Democratic districts, but HD-41 is closer to being a swing district than the other.

• After the maps came out, this announcement came in: Michael Pruneda of Pharr won't run for the Texas House after all, but isn't ruling out a future run.

• Bastrop County Judge (and former A&M yell leader) Ronnie McDonald stepped down this week, saying he's deciding whether to challenge U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, or state Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington. McDonald, a Democrat, has been county judge for 14 years. Both of those are, on paper, Republican roosts. The Farenthold seat has a Texas Weekly Index of 19.8, meaning the average Republican beat the average Democrat in statewide races by that amount in the last two cycles. HD-17 has a Republican TWI of 14.8.

• Democrat Dan Grant decided not to challenge U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul in CD-10, saying the lines that came out of the federal court in San Antonio "solidly protect" the incumbent.

• Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, defending the seat he won by gubernatorial appointment, started a round of radio ads to introduce himself to Texas voters. He'll face Comal County Commissioner Gregory Parker in the primary. Smitherman, by the way, picked up an endorsement from the Texas Association of Realtors.

• Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, got a reelection endorsement from the NRA and the Texas State Rifle Association.

• Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, who's chasing a Senate seat, picked up an endorsement from the Texas Alliance for Life. He's running for the SD-11 seat currently held by Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, who is in turn running for Congress. Taylor got an endorsement from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians PAC, too.

• The Texas Right to Life PAC endorsed Susan Narvaiz, a San Marcos Republican running in the new CD-25 that starts in San Antonio and ends in Austin.

• Eye-PAC, the political arm of the Texas Ophthalmological Association, endorsed Bennett Ratliff in the crowded Republican race for an open House seat in HD-115 in northwest Dallas County. So did TEXPAC, affiliated with the Texas Medical Association.

• The PAC of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association endorsed Cecil Bell Jr. in HD-3. Bell is a member of that group.

• Former Dallas Cowboy Daryl Johnston dropped his endorsement of Tom Leppert in the U.S. Senate race and says he'll vote for Craig James in the GOP primary instead. 

Election Brackets and Political Climates

Consider this your quick reference kit. As we update the candidate listings, they'll be included in our brackets on The Texas Tribune website, here. They are a mess — a mix of the filings under court maps in December and the filings under the new interim maps approved in February. But the deadlines are upon the parties to produce clean lists. Candidates have until the close of business Friday to file. The parties have until the close of business on Monday to hand statewide lists to the Texas Secretary of State. Those lists will include candidates who filed with the state party as well as those in bigger counties who got to file at home.

We're also including the newly calculated Texas Weekly Index for each House, Senate and congressional district. They're displayed below; you can download a printable version here

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Inside Out: The Insiders vs. the Voters

Comparing the responses of the Texas Tribune/Texas Weekly Inside Intelligence surveys of the last two weeks to responses to similar items in the February 2012 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, it’s hard not to see confirmation of some of the angry claims coming from both the right and left in the last couple of years: Political insiders do see the world differently from the general population in some ways, though not all.

We can only speculate on the origins of these differences, but on the items pulled from the February poll and put before the informal Inside Intelligence group surveyed every week for both Texas Weekly and The Texas Tribune, there seems to be a mixture of social and political differences in the results that are not cleanly seen as evidence of either liberal or conservative bias among the insiders. They hint at some other dimension of difference between voters and political professionals that isn’t solely about ideology.

The insiders lean in a comparatively liberal direction on the items on the legal recognition of gay relationships and the influence of the Tea Party on the Republican Party. It’s being noticed with increasing frequency that nationally and even in Texas, public opinion has warmed to granting more legal status to gay relationships. The insider group, however, is noticeably ahead of the public in Texas: 48 percent of the insiders supported legalizing gay marriage, and 35 percent opted for the tolerant middle ground of legalizing civil unions, but only civil unions; only 13 percent opposed both. The corresponding numbers in the UT/Tribune survey were 31 percent support for gay marriage, 29 percent for civil unions, and 33 percent (a big difference) opposed to both.

Attitudes on the Tea Party showed a similar ideological difference — not exactly a huge surprise given that the Tea Party self-image is anti-insider by definition (to the extent the popular component of the Tea Party movement can be given a consensual definition). A whopping 68 percent of the insiders thought the Tea Party had too much influence, and only 5 percent thought they had too little influence; 22 percent opted for a Goldilocks-like “right amount.” Results from the UT/Trib survey were strikingly different: only 30 percent thought the Tea Party had too much influence, and 29 percent thought the were not influential enough. It would seem the Tea Party hasn’t really caught on among the insider group. Go figure.

The insiders also favored the creation of an independent redistricting commission to replace the current... process, I guess you could call it. The insiders are of course much closer to redistricting and know more about it, and so, as a group, have much more formed opinions about the matter. Among the public, 30 percent reply to proposed changes with a “don’t know,” suggesting folks have low levels of knowledge about the subject. Opinion was pretty strongly in favor of going to a new system among the insiders, 58 percent to 35 percent, compared to 42 percent to 27 percent in the general public. (There is a pattern of responses in this range to this question in the past, including the large number of don’t knows. See, for example, these results from 2008 and 2009.)

But the insiders also reflected the small-c conservative bias of conventional wisdom and a bias toward what I would call the institutional candidates when it came to predictions about the electoral races. The election items put before the insiders differed from the corresponding items on the poll. Insiders were asked to predict the outcome of the GOP presidential and US Senate primaries in Texas “if they were held today” rather than being asked their preferences. (The assumption was that even with guarantees of confidentiality, many insiders would either not respond to the item or evade the question with a "don’t know".) The poll, of course, asked respondents whom they would vote for if the primary election “were held today.”

In the presidential match ups, 43 percent called the favorite in the poll, Rick Santorum, as the winner. Santorum ran away from the pack in the poll results, likely propelled in part by the timing of the survey, which went in the field the day after Santorum’s surprise February sweep of caucuses in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. But the insiders were much more bullish on the GOP establishment candidate’s chances than were the poll respondents: 38 percent of the insiders predicted a Mitt Romney victory, with 11 percent predicting a Gingrich victory and — you’ll not be shocked by this by now — only 1 percent predicting a Ron Paul victory. In the statewide poll, Romney finished with 16 percent, in a pack with Gingrich at 18 percent and Ron Paul at 14 percent.

The bias toward conventional wisdom and the establishment candidate with the institutional advantages is even more apparent comparing views on the race for the GOP US Senate nomination. Among insiders, 84 percent predicted a Dewhurst victory, reflecting what most would agree is the conventional wisdom that the race is Dewhurst’s to lose, given his statewide name recognition, long incumbency, electoral experience, and financial resources, both personal and contributed. Cruz finished second among the insiders, with 14 percent thinking he would win the race, and Tom Leppert was third with 2 percent. Cruz’s second place finish was parallel to his second place finish in the UT/Trib poll, and Tom Leppert trailed by some distance in both. To reiterate: the insiders were polled before the results of the UT/Trib poll were released.

If the insiders almost by definition showed institutional biases that distinguish some of their views and expectations from the electorate, I end on a somewhat odd note of agreement. The UT/Tribune poll asked items about “the rich” designed to plumb opinions about the “class warfare” construct that has been popping up in national political discourse. Interestingly, the responses from the insiders and the general population were very similar on these items.

The insiders were somewhat more likely to think that people were envious of the rich — 60 percent among insiders and 51 percent in the statewide sample of registered votes — perhaps a sign of the feelings among a group that is almost certainly more affluent on the whole than the broader population. But when asked if “the rich pay their fair share of Taxes,” the insiders responded at about the same rate as the general survey — 52 percent of the insiders opined that the rich don't pay their fair of taxes, compared to 53 percent in the UT/Tribune survey. A larger number of insiders than those in the general survey thought the rich did pay their fair share — 43 percent compared to 39 percent — but they were still in the minority. These views on taxes and the wealthy could mean many things, but it’s nice to be able to close on the possibility that the insiders theoretically feel pangs of conscience.

Sure, I hear the skeptics saying: tell it to the Tea Party.

Disclaimer. As we’ve said in both of the previous articles comparing Inside Intelligence numbers with the UT/Texas Tribune Poll, the limitations of the insiders’ pool are worth mentioning. There is no effort to make the insiders a politically representative group. Their self-declared partisan affiliations are usually not particularly skewed — in the past, they have been in the range of — 34 percent Democrat, 36 percent Republican, and 30 percent independent. But the large number of independents likely conceals the same dynamic we see among independents in political polling. When pushed to indicate how they lean, independents that admit to leaning toward one party or the other tend to be fairly ideologically committed. That is, the preferences of independents that lean toward a party look a lot more like strong partisans than weak ones. Since the Inside Intelligence survey doesn’t follow up independent responses with an attempt to smoke out the leaners, we don’t know anything about the ideological make up of the leaners (or even if any leaners are choosing to identify as independent).

 

 

Inside Intelligence: About Those Political Odds...

With one exception, we asked open questions this week instead of multiple choice, asking who in the congressional delegation, in the state Senate and in the state House is most likely to lose their seat in this year's elections. We also asked about the leadership of the two houses of the Legislature, trying to get a look at who'll be in charge if and when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst steps aside, and having an early peek at House Speaker Joe Straus' vulnerability.

Two names float to the top of the list of at-risk members of Congress — Francisco "Quico" Canseco, R-San Antonio, and Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. Two names rise in the races for Texas Senate — Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio. As you'd expect, a pile of names come up in House races.

Two senators — Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock — lead the early running for lieutenant governor, should Dewhurst win his race for U.S. Senate. Finally, we had exactly one respondent who said Straus won't get another term. Three said "Don't know". Everybody else thinks he's a shoe-in.

As always, we've attached a copy of the full verbatim answers to this week's survey. A sampling of what they had to say follows.

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Which members of the Texas congressional delegation are most likely to lose their seats?

• "Canseco, Farenthold, maybe Doggett depending on the primary challenger (if any)"

• "Not Lloyd Doggett. The cat with 9 lives will emerge with 6 or 7 lives and half his war chest intact."

• "Doggett and Canseco, but I think they both will be ok. Reyes will have a tough primary."

• "Farenthold is the only one even vulnerable. Quico got a pretty good shake from the court map, and Flores will be around until he's ready to go play golf in Bryan full time. And I'll believe Doggett's dead when I see him in the casket. And even then I'll put a mirror under his nose..."

• "Lloyd Doggett (twice--his old one in re-districting, and his new one in the primary)"

• "Canseco seems the most vulnerable with Farenthold more secure in his new district but still vulnerable because not a skilled campaigner."

CAPTION.

Which Texas senators are most likely to lose their seats?

• "Davis and Wentworth are the only two with serious challenges but both of them are likely to retain their seats. All the money in the world is probably not enough to make Shelton or Elizabeth Ames Jones good enough candidates to win their races against popular incumbents."

• "Wendy Davis. Biggest target out there in dangerous territory. This ain't 2008."

• "Davis. Her complaining all the time is similar to what caused Brimer problems when she beat him. Wentworth will be fine - his criticisms of Jones sunk her."

• "Wendy Davis is it."

• "Wendy Davis still has an uphill climb. Money spent trying to defeat Wentworth is money wasted."

• "Senator Davis is toast. Sen. Wentworth might have issues, but he seems to be winning that race right now. And I guess Sen. Estes is on the watch list now, too."

• "Huh? Incumbents will not be defeated."

• "Wendy Davis' district is winnable by her but still likely to be hard fought."

CAPTION.

Which Texas representatives are most likely to lose their seats?

• "Brave move by Lozano. Might be his end, however."

• "I think those already bailing out saw the writing on the wall, but I'll add Hamilton and Smith."

• "Let's hope that the lightweights of '11 are shown the door. Paging Representatives White and Beck, please exit stage (far) right."

• "Beck... Garza... Hamilton... Landtroop... Lozano... Margo... Torres... Workman"

• "That is very difficult to gauge from Austin."

• "No names, but I do expect the Democrats to pick up a dozen seats based on bounce back from a terrible year in 2010 and higher turnout in 2012."

CAPTION.

Who'll be the next lieutenant governor if Dewhurst moves on?

• "Carona is in much better position that people generally perceive. The conventional wisdom is Eltife or maybe Duncan. History would suggest that a more conservative Republican or someone with the unified support of the Democrats will win."

• "Duncan's the most adult and common sense of them with some seniority who can work with both sides, so it won't be him. Maybe Eltife. Anyone but Patrick."

• "Senator Duncan has the gravitas and budget experience to do the best job but you have to wonder if Governor Perry's sanctuary city knife in the back will have a lingering impact. Eltife is well liked and a keen mover of process. With Paxton and Schwertner in the wings you know that Dan Patrick has his Machiavellian dreams in high gear. Let's hope the Senate R's do not soon forget the rejection of tradition and process that he represents."

• "Dewhurst will still be around."

• "Eltife. If a Republican wins the White House, look for Perry to seek a Cabinet or Ambassador position. He won't want to wait eight years to run for President, in which case Duncan and Eltife would be elevated."

• "Whichever Republican who can consolidate the Democrats"

• "Sen. Eltife. And a big shout out for Senate District 1 being the breeding ground for interim Lite Guvs."

Will Joe Straus win another term as speaker of the House?

• "It's awfully hard to unseat a sitting speaker as evidence by the multiple, unsuccessful attempts to remove Tom Craddick. Vote counters may think they have enough, but opening day jitters find the weak ones too afraid to follow through!"

• "Let the members decide without frantic feeding frenzies from outside groups. What a concept."

• "Someone has to beat him and that person does not seem to exist."

• "If the hardcores couldn't get him after the 2010 tsunami, they're not going to get him. There will be 8 to 10 more D members than last time, and where else are they going to go?"

• "You can't beat somebody with nobody. In 2011, there were two opposition candidates (Chisum and Paxton), and neither will be back in 2013. Members will not rally around Craddick again, and Phil King can't get the votes. Take out the strong members leaving for the Senate (Hancock and Taylor), and take out the key Straus lieutenants (Bonnen, Branch, Hunter, Keffer), and you're left with no viable opposition."

• "There is no coalition to oppose him in the election, but the session will be very rough. No one will want to have a special session in 2014 -- even if the Supreme Court suggests that school finance needs to be addressed prior to 2015."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Cathie Adams, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Hugh Brady, Steve Bresnen, Chris Britton, Andy Brown, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, Corbin Casteel, William Chapman, Elna Christopher, John Colyandro, Randy Cubriel, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Jon Fisher, Norman Garza, Bruce Gibson, Daniel Gonzalez, Jim Grace, John Greytok, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Albert Hawkins, Adam Haynes, Ken Hodges, Billy Howe, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Mark Jones, Robert Kepple, Tom Kleinworth, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Leslie Lemon, Ruben Longoria, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Bryan Mayes, Dan McClung, Parker McCollough, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Steve Murdock, Craig Murphy, Keir Murray, Pat Nugent, Gardner Pate, Tom Phillips, Royce Poinsett, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Karen Reagan, Jason Sabo, Mark Sanders, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Steve Scurlock, Christopher Shields, Ed Small, Todd Smith, Dennis Speight, Tom Spilman, Jason Stanford, Keith Strama, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Trent Townsend, Ware Wendell, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Lee Woods, Angelo Zottarelli.

 

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Supplementing the U.S. State Department’s warning about travel to Mexico, Texas authorities issued their own advisory this week, cautioning students against traveling to Mexico during spring break. Department of Public Safety officials discouraged travel even to resort areas, citing statistics that have worsened noticeably over the past several years. In addition to the report that 120 U.S. citizens died in Mexico last year versus 35 in 2007, the advisory detailed other criminal activities that could target Americans, including kidnapping and carjacking. Mexico’s ambassador objected to the advisory, questioning Texas authorities’ conclusions.

While the fate of the Women’s Health Program is still unclear, groups are protesting the program’s likely demise. Texas has butted heads with the federal government over the program, for which the Obama administration has said it will deny funding after Texas passed a law excluding Planned Parenthood from the program. In response to the clamor over the program, which provides reproductive screenings and services for low-income women, Austin musician Marcia Ball this week organized a rally at the Capitol that drew hundreds of protesters.

An organization of private schools is drawing more unwelcome attention this week after revelations that it denied admission to a Houston-area Islamic school. The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, known as TAPPS, first stirred up controversy when it appeared unwilling to accommodate a Jewish school in scheduling a basketball playoff game; that was rescheduled after parents threatened legal action. Now the association is being accused of unfairly denying admission to the Muslim school after posing inappropriate questions to its principal, Cindy Steffens.

An analysis of census data shows that Houston has surpassed New York and Los Angeles as the most ethnically diverse metropolitan area in the country. The Kinder Institute for Urban Research, along with the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, produced the report, which looked at data from the censuses of 1990, 2000 and 2010. The suburban areas of Pearland and Missouri City were named the most diverse in their metropolitan areas, with the city of Houston itself remaining more segregated.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has long run the state’s employee health plan, but that may be coming to an end. The Employees Retirement System board voted to let United Health Care Services run the administrative portion of the health plan, with an estimated savings to the state of $25 million. Blue Cross has filed a formal protest asking that the process used in awarding the contract be reviewed. Employees insured under ERS number more than 438,000.

Adding to the ongoing drama over the Formula One racetrack project, the original promoter of the track, Tavo Hellmund, is suing the principal investors and companies involved in the track's construction. Hellmund claims that he is owed an $18 million buyout and that the project has been poorly managed and underfunded. Plans for the race, scheduled for Nov. 18, are proceeding, and investors Bobby Epstein and Red McCombs have not yet responded to the allegations in the civil suit.

El Paso has shown a dramatic increase in the number of food stamp recipients within the last year. The number increased from 140,336 to 180,287 from January 2011 to January 2012 — a 28 percent increase in overall benefits. Experts theorized that the jump is related to the recession, but also to the ongoing violence in Juárez. Residents who could shop for inexpensive goods in the border city no longer feel safe doing so, and others have fled to El Paso for safety and are struggling to make ends meet.

If the coming summer lives up to expectations, Texans could again face the threat of rolling blackouts. That’s the assessment of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid. A report from the council revealed a drop in megawatts available and predicted heavy demand during the hot summer months. ERCOT concluded that conservation will be the sole tool it has in the short run to avoid forced blackouts.

Rice farmers downstream from Central Texas’ Highland Lakes face an uncertain future after the Lower Colorado River Authority cut off their water supply. The record drought forced the LCRA’s hand as it assessed that the reservoirs would come up about a billion gallons short. Demand on the Highland Lakes has grown with the population of Central Texas. Farmers are looking for alternative solutions: So-called off channel reservoirs that can be built below the lakes are under consideration. They’re also looking at rice that’s genetically modified to require less water. But these things take time and money, and the rice farmers say they can only get by for one year without a steady water supply.

Political People and their Moves

John Tintera, executive director of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, is leaving the agency. That abrupt change followed, by about a week, the ascension of Commissioner Barry Smitherman to the chairman's seat. Tintera was with the agency for 22 years, serving as ED for the last three. He'll be replaced on an interim basis by Polly McDonald, who runs the agency's pipeline safety division.

Zak Cover, a former aide to Gov. Rick Perry, is the new executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He's been at the agency since 2009, most recently as deputy to Mark Vickery, who is retiring from the ED job.

Covar isn't the only Perry aide moving up. The Texas Department of Public Safety hired Katherine Cesinger as director of communications, where she will head up the Media and Communications Office. For the last several years, including her time as the governor's press secretary, she has served as the chief spokeswoman for border security, homeland security and emergency management issues in Texas.

Robert Durón, who has served as superintendent of the San Antonio and Socorro school districts, will join the Texas Education Agency as deputy commissioner for finance and administration, effective April 1.

The National Association of Regulatory Commissioners appointed Texas Public Utility Commissioner Rolando Pablos to serve on its committee on International Relations. Pablos is a former honorary consul to Spain, playing a key role in promoting trade between the U.S. and Spain. He is also a former chairman of the San Antonio Free Trade Alliance.

Gov. Perry named Ruben Reyes of Lubbock chairman and appointed eight members to the Governor’s Criminal Justice Advisory Council. Reyes is judge of the 72nd Judicial District Court in Lubbock and Crosby counties and presiding judge of the Lubbock County Adult Drug Court. Joel Bennett is an Austin attorney and a judge for the Travis County Drug Court. Robb Catalano of Fort Worth is judge of Criminal District Court No. 3 iand a former assistant Tarrant County district attorney. Alan "Clay" Childress of Leander is a drug court officer for the Burnet County Adult Probation Department. Mary Covington of Houston is special programs manager for the Harris County District Court. Becca Crowell of Dallas is executive director and CEO of Nexus Recovery Center. Debra "Debbie" Fesperman of Sherman is a licensed chemical dependency counselor and program coordinator for the Grayson County Community Supervision and Corrections Department STAR Recovery and Family Court. Tara George of Houston is an assistant Harris County district attorney and a prosecutor for the Success Through Addiction Recovery Court STAR program. Dibrell "Dib" Waldrip of New Braunfels is judge of the 433rd Judicial District Court.

The governor named Ben Raimer of Galveston chairman and appointed 13 members to the Texas Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency Board of Directors. Raimer is a board certified pediatrician and senior vice president and professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Joel Allison of Dallas is president and CEO of Baylor Health Care System. Steven Berkowitz of Austin is founder and president of SMB Health Consulting. Patrick Carter of Houston is medical director of care coordination and quality improvement at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. Alexia Green of Ransom Canyon is a professor and dean emeritus at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center Anita Thigpen Perry School of Nursing. Michael "Ted" Haynes of Sachse is a certified public accountant and vice president of Health Care Delivery for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. Robyn Jacobson is CEO of Entrust Inc. and EnCore System Professionals Inc. John Joe of Houston is a physician and chief medical information officer at St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System. Ronald Luke of Austin is president of Research and Planning Consultants. Elena Marin of Brownsville is CEO of Su Clinica Familiar and an associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center Lower Rio Grande Valley Area Health Education Center. Beverly Nuckols of New Braunfels is a board-certified family physician in private practice. Thomas Quirk of Dallas is CEO of United Healthcare for Texas and Oklahoma. Alan Stevens of Belton is director of Scott and White Healthcare’s Center for Applied Health Research and a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine at Temple. Susan Strate of Wichita Falls is a practicing physician and medical consultant, and medical director of several clinical laboratories in North Texas.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst reappointed Dr. Joseph S. Bailes to the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas Oversight Committee. Bailes is a medical oncologist with experience in legislation, public policy and advocacy.

Press corps moves: Aman Batheja, laid off by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is joining The Texas Tribune in Austin, where he'll report on transportation, budget and politics. 

Quotes of the Week

I think it’s been the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life. I hate that people think compromise is a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word.

Former first lady Barbara Bush at a conference at SMU reported by the Dallas Morning News

Everyone likes to say 'local control,' but left unchecked, sometimes people don't always do the best jobs.

State Board of Education member David Bradley, during a campaign forum reported by KBTV

Parties want to be optimally extreme. They are like the frequent air traveller who believes that if he never misses a flight he is getting to the airport too soon.

UCLA political scientist John Zaller, quoted by The New Yorker

It's going to be May, I think, before you really start picking or choosing success or lack of success.

Ron Paul downplaying the Super Tuesday results to supporters

We’ll find the money. The state is committed to this program. This program is not going away.

Gov. Rick Perry to reporters on the embattled Women's Health Program

Mr. Torres can’t even get re-elected in his own hometown. I don’t see how he expects any support down here in my hometown.

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, upon learning that state Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, is intent on unseating the veteran senator