What to Expect When You’re Electing

Sign at the Acres Homes Center in Houston alerts voters to try a different location on Election Day
Sign at the Acres Homes Center in Houston alerts voters to try a different location on Election Day

It’s not the most exciting election season Texas has ever seen. Most legislative races are over after the primaries and what’s left, with an exception in the Texas Senate, don’t appear to involve the balance of power in the House.

Still, Tuesday will answer some questions.

What’s the partisan mix in the House?

It’s already certain there will be 40 new faces in the House this year, what with retirements, defeats, and members moving on (or trying to move on) to higher office. Tuesday could add to the number, mostly by subtracting Republicans. They’ve got the most seats in the House and the most seats in play in the election — and the most at risk.

And the Senate?

All eyes on Tarrant County, where Democrat Wendy Davis is fighting off a challenge from Republican Mark Shelton. A win for the Republicans would put them a vote away from a controlling majority in the Senate, where most business can’t proceed without the approval of two-thirds of the senators. That might be academic; Republicans are talking about changing the rules to give themselves control.

Will the GOP hang on to Ron Paul’s congressional seat?

It’s a Republican district, but state Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, had a tough primary and entered the general election battle with former congressman Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, with a smaller political armory than he would have liked. Lampson is running ads that don’t prove he’s a Democrat, and instead harken back to those halcyon days of yesteryear when Congress was more likeable, or as he would say, when he was in it. Tuesday will reveal voters’ reaction to that pitch.

What’s the base number for statewide Democrats?

The nurse is making the rounds, taking pulses and will report on Tuesday whether a top-of-the-ballot Democrat in Texas can get more than 44 percent of the vote. That’s the first of two numbers that will tell Democratic donors and candidates what might be possible, if anything, in 2014.

What’s the top number for statewide Democrats?

Watch the race for Railroad Commission, or one of the judicial races — Republican Sharon Keller and Democrat Keith Hampton is a decent canary — to find out whether Republican voters fade away or start splitting tickets as they move down the ballot. This is the part of the ballot, remember, where Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry busted through the Democratic barricades in 1990.

How many downballot races does Mitt Romney win?

It’s not a typo. Will the GOP's presidential candidate turn out enough people — especially people who vote straight tickets — to help candidates on the bubble in tight races for Congress or the Legislature? Maybe these won’t turn out to be close to need the wind from the top, but watch the races at the top of the season’s final Hot List. How’s that for a lead-in?

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Texas Lawmakers Keep Pressing for Urgent Water Action

Water pipeline crew members prepare for the laying of the next section of the 60-mile-long chain running near Eden, Texas.
Water pipeline crew members prepare for the laying of the next section of the 60-mile-long chain running near Eden, Texas.

House Speaker Joe Straus, Republican of San Antonio, has developed a stump speech about water that he’s giving frequently these days. “Water policy and planning in this next session is absolutely critical,” he told the Texas Tribune’s water-focused festival on October 29th. Given the rapid growth of the state — Texas’ population is projected to increase by about 80 percent by 2060 — the Legislature has an “obligation” to think beyond the next few years, and to make sure that cities — he named as examples Austin, Midland and Wichita Falls — have enough water.

Whether the Legislature will actually do that is the question that everyone in the water world is asking. It probably helps, from the standpoint of spurring action, that 58 percent of Texas remains in drought (hard as that may be for swamped East Coasters to believe). State Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, said during a panel discussion that while he wouldn't quite characterize the water situation as “dire” (though it was very serious), “we have to deal with our infrastructure issues.” The Texas Water Development Board has identified $53 billion in infrastructure needs; much will be funded locally, but clearly there is a role for the state in assisting with securing funding, if the state wants to take it.

A law panel at the conference also noted that a key water case to watch, in the wake of the landmark Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day case decided by the Texas Supreme Court earlier this year, is the long-running Bragg vs. Edwards Aquifer Authority. A lower court awarded the plaintiff substantial compensation for a “takings” claim, because the Braggs got insufficient water for their pecan farms (which were there even before the Edwards Aquifer Authority was created in 1993). The case now on appeal in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Antonio.

But most of the focus will remain on the Legislature, and it was Straus who made the big-picture case for action. He recalled that decades ago USAA, a major San Antonio employer, grew concerned about the city’s long-term water supplies and threatened to move to Phoenix. “When one of [your] largest employers is threatening to move to the desert because of water, you know you have a problem,” Straus joked. San Antonio Water System, the local utility, soon began a push to find new supplies and encourage conservation and is now widely regarded as an example of water management in the state.

“I never want to hear that a Texas company is relocating to Florida or Ohio or, God forbid, Phoenix because the state lacked the water necessary to support their industry,” Straus said. 

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In other water news, coming up on November 14 is a contentious Lower Colorado River Authority’s board meeting. The issue, as usual, is water for rice farmers (Tom Mason, the former general manager of the LCRA who is now with an Austin law firm, has sometimes joked that dealing with water issues took well over 90 percent of his time and accounted for just a tiny fraction of the LCRA’s revenue). As reported in the Austin American-Statesman, the LCRA's staff has recommended against seeking emergency action from the state to cut off water to the farmers, their biggest customers, again in January (they were cut off this year for the first time in history). However, with the Highland Lakes still just 43 percent full, an El Niño event no longer predicted for this winter and possibilities of a drought-correlated La Niña looming for 2013-14, this is hugely contentious. Residents near the Highland Lakes, concerned for their recreation-related livelihoods, are gearing up for a fight. In late October, as reported by the Austin Business Journal, the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a resolution urging the state to extend the emergency drought order it issued last year, which cut off the farmers.

• On November 18-19, Ken Burns’ new film, “The Dust Bowl,” premieres on PBS. Expect plenty of old images and stories from Panhandle towns like Dalhart.

• The Texas Water Development board has launched a new data website. It provides a clearer look at reservoir levels. Look for the Water Board to get on Facebook and Twitter in November.

• In an unusual recent deal reported by the Dallas Business Journal, a private company has agreed to split the cost of building a reservoir with a river authority, in exchange for the rights to a proportional share of the water. Tomlin Infrastructure Group will pay 47 percent of the cost of building Lake Columbia in East Texas, and the Angelina and Neches River Authority will pay the rest. Tomlin (and partners) will then get control of 47 percent of the water — assuming, of course, the reservoir gets built, which is no easy thing in Texas.

Ron Kaiser, a professor of water law and policy at Texas A&M University, who pointed out this deal, notes that it was “unusual for private dollars” to invest so heavily in a reservoir, which is costly. Far more often, private dollars go into groundwater. So that’s a deal to watch.

Texas School Finance Trial Presses On

The massive trial involving more than two-thirds of the state's school districts and most of its charter schools has been under way for two weeks now — and while the evidence will continue to pour in until January, the arguments of all seven parties, including the state, have taken shape.

Witnesses so far have all been those called by the four different coalitions of school districts, including former state demographer Steve Murdock, education consultant and school finance expert Lynn Moak and several school administrators. A group representing charter schools and Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, an organization representing school choice advocates and business interests, are next in line, followed by the state.

Testimony has focused on the school districts’ underlying argument: that by reducing funding to public schools during the 2011 Legislature while ratcheting up standards for academic performance through the new accountability system, the state has failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide an adequate and efficient public education. That has happened as the concentration of low-income and English language-learning students in Texas schools, groups that require more resources to educate and consistently score lower on state exams, has continued to increase.

"If we had sat down with the intent to say, 'What can we cut out that is going to impair the ability of kids to meet these higher standards', we would have cut out what we cut out," said David Thompson, an attorney for the largest group of school districts based on student enrollment, listing funding for full-day pre-kindergarten, remedial classes and after-school tutoring as examples.

During his time on the stand, Moak estimated that in addition to restoring $5.4 billion in budget cuts from 2011, schools would need an addition $6 billion to help low-income and English-language learning students meet the state’s standards. In the first year of testing, only 53 percent of students have passed all ninth grade tests they need to be on track to graduate. Among economically disadvantaged students, just 40 percent passed all ninth grade tests.

The state has argued that any failures in the system result from decisions made at the local, not the state level. During her opening statement, Assistant Attorney General Shelley Dahlberg questioned any spending on classes, extracurriculars or equipment not specifically tied to meeting state requirements.

“Ask yourself or the witnesses whether a district can provide for the general diffusion of knowledge without iPads or teacher aides or brand new facilities,” she told the judge, adding that inconclusive studies and the “wish lists of superintendents are not sufficient evidence that the Legislature has acted arbitrarily.”

That line of argument came out as well in state attorney Nicole Bunker-Henderson’s cross-examination of Moak, when she attempted to cast doubt on the link between more money and better performance.

She asked Moak whether there was any specific evidence that showed updating the finance formulas to more accurately compensate districts for bilingual education would improve performance — and whether district spending on transportation, utilities or teacher planning periods was required to meet state requirements.

At one point she pressed Moak for proof that the state was not covering the basic needs of school districts to educate students.

"The number of districts with high concentrations of students who were failing the ninth-grade examination ... that, in and of itself, is a significant indicator," he said.

You've Got Mail, Mr. Speaker

Joe Straus
Joe Straus

Steve Toth is the latest politico sending mail to House Speaker Joe Straus in what has become a two-front scuffle over the power in the Texas House. Start with Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, who took after Straus in a letter last summer, badgering the speaker over redistricting evidence that showed some of his staffers corresponding in ways that didn’t help the state’s defense of political maps in court. Martinez Fischer has been openly critical of Straus as speaker, nurturing the idea that Democrats got him elected in the first place and that after the 2010 Republican landslide, he shut Democrats out of the game in the House.

Next came Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, first in interviews and later in a letter, expressing concern over the same redistricting issues raised by Martinez Fischer. His letter was sent last week; it was flushed out when Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, wrote a letter along the same lines this week. And then Toth weighed in; he’s the Republican who defeated Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, in the GOP primary earlier this year.

Dispense with the facial story first: A three-judge federal panel said the Texas maps intentionally discriminate against minority voters and can’t be used. The state is appealing that ruling, running the elections in the meantime with maps drawn by a different three-judge panel. It’s surprising nobody has made a novella of this.

Straus is deferring to Attorney General Greg Abbott on the legal end, telling his growing group of pen pals that the House behaved like it was supposed to and that the maps were legal. Some of his allies are whispering that the letters, particularly from Republicans, are unhelpful to the state’s lawyers, but there’s no evidence of that at this point.

The underlying story is about who’s running the House. Republicans who like Straus outnumber those who don’t and he appears pretty secure in his path to a third term as speaker. That said, the House has started every one of its sessions since 2003 with some kind of race for speaker. They always fall short, except when they don’t. Republicans elected a majority for the first time since Reconstruction in 2002; they followed by electing Tom Craddick, R-Midland.

That change left some sore feelings, and Craddick was under siege — sometimes feeble, sometimes strong — every time lawmakers came back to town. A small band of Republicans teamed with most of the Democrats in 2009 and replaced him with Straus.

Straus started last session with a noisy challenge from the populist wing of the GOP that was riding high after the 2010 election. Their standard-bearers have moved on — Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, is on his way to the Senate — but there’s another challenger in Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola.

And that stack of envelopes in the Speaker’s mailbox.

Newsreel: Hot List Races, Polls, Elections

This week in the Newsreel we fly through the results of the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Elections are right around the corner, we'll hammer down the most competitive races on this week's final pre-election Hot List.

Inside Intelligence: Comparing Those Governments...

This week’s questions for the insiders again mirror questions asked in our University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll (and we’ll do a comparison soon after the elections) and focused on how people view the state and federal governments.

Short form: The state’s grades only look good in comparison with the national government’s grades.

Most of the insiders think the state government is a pretty good model for other states to follow. Check one box for Texas.

Asked about their trust for the various branches of the federal government, the Supreme Court and the judicial branch came out ahead with 48 percent, followed by the executive branch and the president, with 29 percent, followed — way back — by Congress and the legislative branch, at 9 percent.

On a list of comparatives, Texas mostly outpaced Washington, but there’s a notable exception. The insiders said the government in Austin is mostly attentive to the needs of Texas residents, while the one in Washington is not; that Austin is careful with tax dollars and Washington is not; and that while Austin is divided along partisan lines according to 55 percent, that Washington is divided that was according to 96 percent.

The fly in the ointment is sizable. Asked whether government is mostly corrupt or mostly honest, both capitals are in trouble: 24 percent of the insiders said Washington is mostly corrupt, and more — 35 percent — said Austin is mostly corrupt.

The full set of verbatim responses is attached as a separate document, but here’s a sampling:

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How do you feel about the following statement: Generally speaking, the way state government runs in Texas serves as a good model for other states to follow.

• "Odd year legislative sessions are a model for all states, but playing a shell game with the budget is a model for failure."

• "The Texas model of decentralized and highly dispersed power with most influence in the legislative branch is better than strong executive power systems."

• "Fiscally, sure. It's good to spend only what you bring in. Now, about those spending priorities..."

• "I don't see other states copying our school finance system, or our health care system, or our transportation funding system."

• "Having lived in the Northeast, one of the things that is most striking about Texas is that there is relatively little corruption here at the state and local level compared to say Illinois, New York, New Jersey or California. Our small, relatively non-intrusive legislature works very well for this very large state."

• "Texas state government is a prairie dog town. God help the little prairie dog with the courage and inspiration to peek his head out of his burrow."

• "Selecting agency heads and commissioners based on loyalty to the chief and ability to support his future political aspirations has not lead to great outcomes so far."

• "The way it should run could serve as a good model..."

• "Anachronistic is the kindest term I can think of."

• "There is more to quality of life than cutting programs and avoiding taxes to support pay-as-you-go government,"

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Of the three branches of federal government, which one do you trust the most?

• "At least with the Judicial branch, the majority has to explain its reasoning in writing and the dissent gets to criticize and explain in writing what the majority has just done."

• "Where is 'none of the above?'"

• "Seriously? The President doesn't lead. The Supreme Court is too political. And Congress--c'mon."

• "The President, the Congress and the Courts have made monumentally bad decisions, regardless of party, over a 30 year stretch. As a consequence, faith in the federal government has eroded, with good cause."

• "If Romney wins, my trust for the Supreme Court will likely plummet with his first appointment."

• "Congress the 'most' but not much and only because we can at least try to take 'em out every two years (House)."

• "Despite the body and most of its members being wildly dysfunctional, I put more trust in the branch that is closest to the electorate."

• "Which do you trust the most? The hungry bear, the hungry lion or the hungry tiger. Tough choice."

• "Silly question, dudes: trust in individuals or not, sure. But not in branches of government, which are neither inherently good nor bad. They're tools to be wielded by the jackholes we elect."

• "The bar, no pun intended, is pretty low."

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Which phrase better describes the federal and state governments: Mostly addresses the needs of Texas residents, or mostly ignores the needs of Texas residents?

• "Governments need to focus on LIBERTY. They should NOT make the dreadful mistake of thinking that our inalienable rights come from government. The fact is that inalienable rights come from our Creator. That's the basis of Western Civilization and our nation's founding."

• "Unfortunately, the current federal administration is openly hostile to the needs of Texas."

• "By residents, I assume you mean 'non-contributors.'"

• "The state ignores many key needs of Texans. Many poor people get medical care, for example, but too few."

• "Sad that the Federal government has made strides to HELP more Texans than the State government which continues to pass legislation and instituted mandates to HURT more Texans - especially Women, Children and the uninsured!"

• "Government tends primarily to its own needs. 'Residents' are sort of like the students on a college campus - a pain in the @ss necessity."

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Which phrase better describes the federal and state governments: Mostly careful with people’s tax dollars, or mostly careless with people’s tax dollars?

• "Neither is expressing concern about tax & spend as they grow government and pander to special interests--at taxpayer expense."

• "At least the state tends to balance the budget."

• "Balanced budget requirement is the difference"

• "Feds by overspending; state by spending on the wrong things/failing to spend on key priorities like education and healthcare."

• "Equally careless, but for different reasons. The feds spend money on wasteful defense projects and district pork, for sure. In Texas, give rich guys tax cuts while our schools, roads and medical infrastructure crumble, literally."

• "Having worked in both, I know the federal government couldn't care less about what each expenditure means to each taxpayer."

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Which phrase better describes the federal and state governments: Mostly corrupt, or mostly honest?

• "There is corruption and self dealing at both levels. However, most officials and staffs are honest hardworking people. Campaign finance at both levels is corrupt and bankrupt from an ethical standpoint."

• "Honest but self serving"

• "The corruption in our state government is more of the cronyism variety."

• "Not sure what you mean by 'honest' here -- both state and federal governments say things that aren't exactly true about what they are up to, but most of us know the code and they know we know the code. Overall, neither the state nor the federal government is mired in corruption --"

• "Loaded question. We all see their corruption because they live in fish bowl. These folks are no more corrupt than one's accountant, priest, preacher, teacher, lawyer, mechanic, any CEO or corporate leader etc. and so on. This question is old and tired. If we are going to complain about corruption in government we need to get aggressive about it in all walks of life and business. Government, like art, imitates real life or shall we say reflects."

• "Our federal and state governments--as institutions and as large sets of working people--are quite honest, indeed far beyond mostly so. A relatively small but significant number of visible and significant elected and appointed actors seem irredeemably corrupt--the poster boy being our own governor. However, we know that appearances can be deceiving so prudence dictates that we keep in mind Napoleon Bonaparte's wise words: 'Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.'"

• "At this point, Texas state government is Rick Perry. Rick Perry is the Lance Armstrong of Texas politics. He might better get before his decades of deals catch up with him."

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Which phrase better describes the federal and state governments: Is too divided along partisan lines, or can usually work together to address issues?

• "The question presupposes that government needs to do more, which will always cost more too. I'd rather that the parties stand for the people, NOT for more government NON-answers."

• "In DC, you have a president whose budget was unanimously rejected by both parties in both chambers. Working together is good. But you also have a divided atmosphere, like Obama, then Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid cramming Obamacare through Congress. Divisiveness is bad."

• "We're sadly headed toward DC-style partisanship in Texas. Not about what's good for the country, but what makes my party look good, and the others look awful."

• "To say it is 'too partisan' in DC implies there are no legitimate reasons for the divisions. The friction mostly comes from real policy disagreements on important issues, e.g., the debt, entitlements, the size of government, tax policy, domestic oil drilling, pipelines, etc."

• "I'm not sure I agree with the question. It could imply that working together is a good thing. If you view government as too big or wrong-headed, maybe you don't want the parties to get along. Inaction is better than more bad action."

• "Partisan gridlock on the federal level has prevented needed reform. On the state level, the governor's 'my way or the highway' approach has stifled efficient and effective progress."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Cathie Adams, Jenny Aghamalian, Victor Alcorta, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, David Anthony, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Dave Beckwith, Rebecca Bernhardt, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Steve Bresnen, Chris Britton, Andy Brown, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, William Chapman, Elna Christopher, Rick Cofer, Lawrence Collins, John Colyandro, Harold Cook, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, Eva De Luna-Castro, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Jeff Eller, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Tom Forbes, Wil Galloway, Norman Garza, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Eric Glenn, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, Jim Grace, John Greytok, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Adam Haynes, John Heasley, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Billy Howe, Deborah Ingersoll, Richie Jackson, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Walt Jordan, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Sandy Kress, Dale Laine, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Donald Lee, Luke Legate, Myra Leo, Richard Levy, Elizabeth Lippincott, Ruben Longoria, Homero Lucero, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Dan McClung, Parker McCollough, Scott McCown, Mike McKinney, Debra Medina, Robert Miller, Mike Moses, Craig Murphy, Keir Murray, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Sylvia Nugent, Gardner Pate, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Royce Poinsett, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Bill Ratliff, Jeff Rotkoff, Jason Sabo, Mark Sanders, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Steve Scurlock, Ben Sebree, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Tom Spilman, Jason Stanford, Keith Strama, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Russ Tidwell, Trey Trainor, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Friday, Nov. 2:

  • Early voting ends

Tuesday, Nov. 6:

  • Election Day

Wednesday, Nov. 7:

  • House Ways and Means Committee hearing (10 a.m.)
  • House General Revenue Dedicated Accounts Interim Committee hearing (1 p.m.)

Thursday, Nov. 8:

  • House General Revenue Dedicated Accounts Interim Committee hearing (1 p.m.)
 

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The University of Texas at Austin has shrunk its automatic admissions policy even further. Texas law provides for automatic admission for students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class, but this week the Texas Education Agency notified school administrators that UT would restrict 2014 applicants to the top 7 percent of their graduating classes. 

A tall ship destined to be a winter tourist attraction in Galveston fell victim to Hurricane Sandy. The HMS Bounty was traveling down the East Coast from Connecticut to Florida when it was overcome by 18-foot seas off the coast of North Carolina. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members, but one body was recovered, and the captain of the ship, Robin Walbridge, remains missing. The ship’s ultimate destination was Pier 21 in Galveston, where it was to be docked next to another tall ship, the Elissa, and intended to attract more tourists to the city’s historic Strand district.

County commissioners in Dallas County have voted to give a stipend next year to unmarried and gay employees whose partners are forced to purchase individual health insurance because they aren’t eligible to be covered under the county’s benefit program. The program, which is expected to cost the county $100,000 per year, drew criticism from Republicans, while Democrats called the deal a good way to attract and retain the best employees.

Four years after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association is still inundated with claims and has only paid out about 10 percent of the claims filed. Meanwhile, the fund for anticipated payments is almost 50 percent tapped, and the agency’s reserve fund is only at about 25 percent strength. 

The number of murders in El Paso increased this year to the highest level since 1997, but officials claim that none of the deaths were related to drug-cartel violence. The city has already seen 22 murders in 2012, putting it on track to be the deadliest year since 1997, when there were 25. Violent crime had been falling in El Paso, from an average of 36 murders per year in the 1980s and ’90s to 16 in the 2000s. Police officials said that of the 22 murders, all but one has already been solved.

As state agencies faced cuts to their budgets and layoffs last year, three offices led by elected officials added workers to their staffs. The state auditor’s office reports that Texas agencies cut staff by about 2.1 percent. At the same time, the office of the governor, attorney general and land office added employees. 

Political People and their Moves

There are at least two — count ‘em, two! — protectors of the Galactic Republic in Texas. In Democrat Ann Johnson’s latest campaign finance report in HD-134, Andy Vickery of Houston is listed as a $500 contributor and, more to the point, lists his occupation as “Jedi Knight” (it’s a Star Wars reference, in case you’re a grownup). That prompted us to look for others. Sure enough, there’s Charlie Price of Spring, who gave $305 to HD-15 candidate Russell Sterling earlier this year. He listed his occupation as “Jedi.”

David White will serve as a campaign consultant for Comptroller Susan Combs. White has been on the state payroll as a senior policy adviser to Combs and worked as political director of Gov. Rick Perry's 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Jon Weizenbaum will serve as the next commissioner of the Department of Aging and Disability Services. Weizenbaum has been deputy commissioner at DADS since 2006 and has twice served as the agency’s interim commissioner.

Addie Crimmins has joined the lobby team at Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend. Crimmins previously worked for Reps. Burt Solomons and Tan Parker.

Quotes of the Week

The city is under siege. Sandy is pretty furious at Atlantic City. She must have lost a bet or something.

Thomas Foley, Atlantic City's emergency management chief, in The New York Times

The 2000 election scared the hell out of people. Campaigns are now armed to the hilt with lawyers beforehand so they aren't caught off guard.

Columbia University political scientist Nate Persily, quoted in the Bradenton (FL) Herald

The sleeping giant of the Texas Latino vote is poised to awaken and alter the fate of every future election.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and actress Eva Longoria in a column for Politico

I didn't run for Senate as 'elect me because I'm the Hispanic guy.' I ran for Senate because I had the strongest conservative record of any candidate.

Ted Cruz to the San Antonio Express-News

The House members who in good faith voted for these redistricting maps certainly have the right to know that the process was conducted properly and fairly. I respectfully ask that you respond to the claims made so that the House and the people of Texas will have all of the facts.

Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, in a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus

I think anything that advances, encourages monogamy is a good thing. And frankly how could you be against people who want to get their affairs in order and have a loving household? So, yeah, I’m evolving, but admittedly I’m not there yet, nor do I believe the district is there yet, but times change and things may change.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, quoted by the Dallas Voice on same-sex unions

We have a lot of regard and respect for Gov. Perry. And I think Gov. Perry has learned a few things about running for president. One is, if he’s going to get in, get in a little earlier than he did. Two is he shouldn’t have back surgery. And definitely be off Oxycodone.

Social conservative Bob Vander Plaats of Iowa, in The Dallas Morning News