The governor and lieutenant governor previewed on Thursday some eye-popping fundraising numbers for the final half of the year.
Just after the lunch hour, the Greg Abbott campaign said that it would report raising more than $7 million over the final six months of the year, bolstering his campaign war chest to more than $22 million.
Later that afternoon, the Dan Patrick campaign chimed in, saying that he would report raising more than $3.5 million over the last six months of the year. The Patrick campaign also said that his cash on hand total of $7.5 million is the most ever recorded by a lieutenant governor.
Campaign finance reports are due today for legislative, judicial and statewide candidates and officeholders.
Throw the names of a couple of state legislators into the mix on who will succeed Democratic Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee, who passed away earlier this month.
Because Lee died after the deadline to file for a spot on the primary ballot, his name will remain on the ballot for the March 1 primary election. That'll set up a scenario where party representatives will choose the person to replace Lee on the ballot for the November general election.
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, tells Texas Weekly that state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, is a possible contender for the commissioner's seat. If Ellis were to run for county commissioner, Coleman said he'd be interested in taking over for Ellis in the Senate.
If that happens, party representatives would name new nominees for both Ellis' seat and Coleman's seat.
The first step to be taken, though, is the appointment of a caretaker commissioner by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. That appointee would fill Lee's spot on the commissioners court for the remainder of Lee's unexpired term.
One thing we can say for certain right now is that neither state lawmaker would be interested in taking over as caretaker commissioner as he would have to resign his spot in the Legislature immediately.
The political arm of the Texas Association of Business released a lengthy list of endorsements for the upcoming party primaries. Newsworthy here are the five instances where they endorse against the incumbent.
In the Supreme Court, Place 3 contest, they endorsed Michael Massengale over Debra Lehrmann, following the lead of Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Medical Association in backing the challenger.
They also endorsed against tea party candidates in:
HD-92 — Scott Fisher over Jonathan Stickland
HD-94 — Andrew Piel over Tony Tinderholt
Texas regulators have wrapped up hearings on Dallas billionaire Ray L. Hunt’s mammoth proposal to buy and reshape Oncor, the state’s largest electric utility.
The Texas Public Utility Commission on Thursday closed its overstuffed binders — for now — after hearing four days of testimony and cross examination this week on the roughly $18 billion deal that has drawn intense scrutiny.
“It’s a really intriguing case and argued well by all sides,” said Chairman Donna Nelson. “I know this is a painful process, but it’s also been enlightening.”
For a full refresher on the deal's complicated sticking points, see this Texas Tribune report from Monday.
But in short, the Hunt family wants to save on taxes by reshaping Oncor into a real estate investment trust, an unprecedented move for a large utility. The deal is the lynchpin of efforts to deliver Energy Future Holdings from its $42 billion bankruptcy.
Critics — including consumer groups, commission staff experts and even Oncor — identify a number of concerns that the Hunts have sought to quell. One point of contention: Whether the regulators should require the new Oncor to directly pass its major tax savings to ratepayers. Consumer advocate say doing so is only fair.
Hunt’s camp argues that such a requirement would torpedo the deal and potentially set up “global warfare” among Energy Future’s creditors — sending the case back into bankruptcy court.
The commissioners have not clearly indicated where they stand on that issue, or the several others tangled up in the case. But on Thursday, two of the three — Nelson and Brandy Marty Marquez — agreed that allowing Hunt’s investors to keep the tax savings would not violate commission precedent.
“I think it’s a policy call,” Nelson said.
Expect the commissioners to continue discussing the deal at their next open meetings. A decision is due by the end of March.
Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. Oncor and Energy Future Holdings were corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune in 2012. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.