Author Archives: Mark Wiggins

Texas election roundup: Campaign finances

A new set of campaign finance reports has shed some light on the 2020 races for federal office around Texas.

Current U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is up for reelection and reported raising more than the entire field of Democratic challengers combined. Cornyn listed $3.2 million in donations for the third quarter, while his Democratic rivals posted a combined $2.8 million. Former congressional candidate M.J. Hegar raised $1 million, the most of the Democratic field, followed by $557,000 raised by Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards, and $550,000 raised by state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas). Cornyn listed nearly $11 million cash on hand, compared to $894,000 listed by Hegar. Cornyn has also outspent Hegar 12-to-one. Republican state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) announced this week that he will no longer pursue a primary challenge against Cornyn.

In competitive U.S. House of Representatives races, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX 2) outraised his Democratic rival Elisa Cardnell by $1.4 million to $100,000. Democrat Stephen Daniel edged out Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX 6) $111,000 to $106,000. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX 7) outraised her top Republican challenger $640,000 to $469,000. Democrats Shannon Hutcheson, Pritesh Gandhi, and Mike Siegel outraised Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX 10) $504,000 to $334,000. Former state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) nearly doubled Rep. Chip Roy’s (R-TX 21) fundraising total, $941,000 to $574,000, but Roy maintains nearly double the cash on hand reported by Davis. Democrats Kathaleen Wall and Sri Kulkarni led fundraising in TX-22, and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones posted a $1.1 million fundraising total in retiring Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-TX 23) district, which far exceeded all other contenders. Republican Beth Van Duyne leads the field in fundraising in TX-24, followed by Democrat Kim Olson, who maintains a cash advantage against Van Duyne. Rep. John Carter’s (R-TX-31) $152,000 fundraising total was just enough to beat the combined total of his nine Democratic challengers. Finally, Colin Allred (D-TX 32) outraised Republican challenger Genevieve Collins $583,000 to $458,000.

Voting is the single most powerful way educators can use their voices to make change happen. The elections beginning this November and lasting through November of 2020 have the potential to be the most consequential elections in a generation, so it is critical that you and everyone you know who is eligible is registered to vote. You can find more information and resources about voter registration and voting at TexasEducatorsVote.com.

Texas election roundup: Big shakeup at SBOE

Last week, outgoing State Board of Education (SBOE) chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) announced her plans to retire from the board. Following her announcement, a number of her Republican colleagues have also indicated plans to retire.

Donna Bahorich and Marty Rowley were photographed at a recent SBOE meeting. Both SBOE members have recently announced plans to retire from the board.

Member Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo) announced his plan to retire at the end of his current term, which expires in Jan. 2021. Rowley’s district is reliably Republican and covers much of West Texas. Past board chair Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) and Member Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio) have also announced plans to retire. Mercer’s district has shifted from a majority Republican district to one that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrat Beto O’Rourke carried Mercer’s district in 2018 with more than ten percent of the vote.

Candidates in this fall’s three special elections filed their 30-day-out campaign finance reports this week. As we expected, the House District (HD) 28 special election in Fort Bend County has drawn a significant amount of attention, where seven candidates are vying to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. John Zerwas. The lone Democrat in the race, educator Dr. Eliz Markowitz, reported raising $62,000, spending $16,000, and entering the final stretch with $38,000 cash on hand. Markowitz also received the endorsement of the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC this week. Republican neurosurgeon Dr. Anna Allred reported raising $159,000 during the reporting period, which is more than the other five Republicans in the HD 28 race combined. Allred has also retained Republican consultant Allen Blakemore, whose top client is Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Allred has spent $142,000 and heads into the final stretch with $86,000 on hand.

In addition to the HD 28 special election, the Nov. 5 election will give all Texas voters the chance to vote on 10 proposed constitutional amendments. The Texas League of Women Voters has put out a comprehensive guide to the proposals, which you can view here. You can also find additional election resources at the website for the Texas Educators Vote coalition. We’ll be posting additional resources to help you prepare for the constitutional election here on ATPE’s Teach the Vote blog next week, so be sure to check it out before you head to the polls. Early voting begins Oct. 21.

In Fort Bend County’s HD 28, a potential bellwether special election

On Nov. 5, 2019, voters statewide will weigh in on proposed constitutional amendments, but there are also a few special elections taking place that same day. A special election to fill the unexpired term of former state Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) will have plenty of eyeballs focused on House District (HD) 28 in Fort Bend County.

Six Republicans and one Democrat will face off to replace Rep. Zerwas, who resigned in order to work as a vice-chancellor for the University of Texas System. The Republicans in the race are Dr. Anna Allred, Gary Gates, Gary Hale, Tricia Krenek, Sarah Laningham, and Clinton Purnell. Dr. Eliz Markowitz is the lone Democrat in the race. Broken down by party, their background and positions relative to public education are outlined below.

Democrat:

  • Markowitz is a Katy educator who ran for the State Board of Education (SBOE) in 2018. Her website focuses on public education issues, including a detailed education policy platform. Markowitz supports reducing STAAR testing, improving school funding, and better teacher pay, while explicitly opposing private school vouchers. Markowitz has been endorsed by the pro-public education group Texas Parent PAC.

Republican:

  • Allred is a Houston anesthesiologist who lists technical training among her education priorities on her campaign website.
  • Gates is a Rosenberg real estate investor who lost a runoff for the Texas Railroad Commission in 2016. Gates also ran unsuccessfully for the HD 28 seat back in 2002 and 2004. On his campaign website, he lists his positions as “protect tax payers,” “support our schools,” “defend 2nd amendment,” and “enhance school safety,” but does not offer additional information as to his views on those issues.
  • Hale is a former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence officer from Katy. On his website, Hale expresses support for arming teachers with firearms and returning to corporal punishment as a potential solution to school shootings.
  • Krenek is a Katy attorney who lost a 2018 race for Fort Bend County commissioner. Her website includes some education policy positions, such as increasing the state’s share of education funding, changing school finance “to reduce Robin Hood recapture payments,” and funding “additional across-the-board teacher pay raises.”
  • Laningham lives in Richmond and is a small business owner. Her campaign website makes no mention of education issues. She also ran for state representative last year in House District 14, but had no campaign website that ATPE could locate at that time.
  • A campaign website could not be found for Purnell, but his LinkedIn profile lists his occupation as “global logistics manager and corporate trade compliance” in Houston.

The HD 28 race is one of three special elections scheduled this fall, along with HD 148 in Houston and HD 100 in Dallas. The latter are not competitive districts from the standpoint of potential partisan shifts, but the math in HD 28 makes it a swing district, where a candidate from either party has a legitimate chance at winning the seat. Zerwas, a popular long time incumbent, won his reelection in 2018 by only eight percentage points. In doing so, he outperformed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who won the district by just three points. Cruz’s margin represents a steady decline in Republican support in HD 28, which handed a ten percent margin to Donald Trump in 2016 and a 35-point margin to Greg Abbott in 2014.

Republicans hold a nine-seat majority in the Texas House. The winner of the HD 28 special election will serve out the rest of the term and will have to run for reelection again in 2020.

Voting is the single most important thing an educator can do to ensure the Texas Legislature prioritizes public schools and students. The deadline to register to vote in this special election and other November elections is Oct. 7, 2019. To see if you are registered and to check out a variety of election-related information, visit TexasEducatorsVote.com. As a reminder, early voting begins Oct. 21, and election day is Nov. 5.

Texas election roundup: Change of address and no take-backs

This week’s election news included a couple of eyebrow-raising developments. After announcing plans to leave the legislature to run for a local county commissioner position, state Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury) changed his mind and said he now plans to run for reelection after all.

In late-breaking news Friday, former State Board of Education (SBOE) Chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) announced she will not seek reelection. Bahorich chaired the board for the past two terms and was succeeded by Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin), who was sworn in as new board chair last week. While Bahorich won reelection by nearly 12 percentage points in 2016, her SBOE District 6 voted for Beto O’Rourke in 2018 by a four point margin.

Former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX 32) announced he will move from Dallas, where he lost his reelection bid to Democrat Colin Allred, to Waco, where he will run to fill the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX 17). U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX 13) became the sixth Texas Republican to announce his retirement ahead of the 2020 elections, leaving an opening in this solidly Republican, Amarillo-based district. In other federal races, Julian Castro told the audience at last weekend’s Texas Tribune Festival that he will not challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) should the former San Antonio mayor’s Democratic presidential campaign conclude unsuccessfully.

A poll commissioned by Democrats surveying six Texas congressional races indicated close races for several Republican incumbents, including U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX 10), Chip Roy (R-TX 21), and John Carter (R-TX 31). The poll pitted a generic Republican against a generic Democrat in six Republican-held districts targeted by Democrats. A generic Democrat lead in two of those races: Texas’s 23rd Congressional District, where Rep. Will Hurd is retiring, and the 24th, where Rep. Kenny Marchant is retiring. From Public Policy Polling:

“Republicans have small advantages in the 10th District (49-46), 22nd District (49-45), 21st District (49-44), and 31st District (51-44) but across the board it looks like new opportunities are opening up for Democrats in places in Texas that never would have been imaginable even just 4 years ago.”

State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton), who sits on the committee that oversees educators’ pensions, was among several Texas House members who announced this week they plan to run for reelection. Amid the steady flow of similar announcements, at least one member – state Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) – alternatively suggested it’s safe to assume he’s running for reelection until he states otherwise.

Former state Rep. Mike Schofield, who worked as a staffer for state Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) during the 86th Texas Legislature, announced plans to run against state Rep. Gina Calanni (D-Katy). Calanni defeated Schofield in 2018 by just over a hundred votes.

Finally, the deadline is Monday to register to vote in time for this November’s elections. This is critically important if you live in one of the districts where special elections are taking place on Nov. 5 to replace state representatives who have stepped down prior to the expiration of their terms. One race in particular, the special election in northwest Fort Bend County’s House District (HD) 28 to replace former state Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), is expected to be close. Learn more about how to register to vote from our coalition partners at TexasEducatorsVote.com.

Remember, exercising your voice at the ballot box is the most powerful thing you can do to support public education!

Texas election roundup: More legislative race dropouts

This week continues to see Texas legislators dropping out of the 2020 contest.

State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) announced he will not seek reelection in House District (HD) 138. Rep. Bohac won reelection by less than one percentage point in 2018, and his district has voted for the Democrat at the top of the ballot in the last two elections.

State Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury) also announced he would not run for reelection in HD 60 in order to run for Hood County commissioner. Rep. Lang’s district is safely Republican, but Lang faced a serious primary challenge from public education advocate Jim Largent in the 2018 election cycle. During the 2019 legislative session, Lang chaired the House Freedom Caucus, which has consistently advocated for school privatization.

State Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) received another boost in his campaign to succeed retiring state Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) in Senate District (SD) 29, announcing the endorsement of State Board of Education (SBOE) Member Georgina Perez (D-El Paso) this week. Rep. Blanco has already locked down the support of El Paso’s Texas House delegation.

A new poll out by the University of Texas-Tyler shows Joe Biden leading the field of Democratic presidential candidates among Texas Democrats or Independents who lean toward the Democratic Party, registering the support of 27.7 percent of respondents. Biden was followed by Beto O’Rourke at 18.9 percent, Bernie Sanders at 17.0 percent, and Elizabeth Warren at 10.9 percent. All other candidates were under ten percent. The poll, composed of 1,199 registered voters and conducted online between September 13 and September 15, showed 43.1 percent of respondents identified themselves along the “conservative” spectrum, while 29.7 identified as “moderate” and 27.1 identified along the “liberal” spectrum.

Tuesday of this week marked National Voter Registration Day, an annual event aimed at encouraging eligible citizens of voting age to make sure they are registered to vote. The deadline for registration in time to vote in the November 5, 2019, constitutional and special elections is October 7. Find out if your registration is current and check out a variety of voter resources by visiting our Texas Educators Vote coalition website at TexasEducatorsVote.com.

Texas election roundup: More Senate shakeups

Big election news continues to come out of the Texas Senate, where state Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) announced last week that he will not seek reelection, and state Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) followed with an announcement that he will seek Rodriguez’s open seat next year.

Sen. Rodriguez has been one of the most consistent champions of public education in the Texas Senate, and his Senate District (SD) 29 is securely in Democratic hands. Beto O’Rourke carried SD 29 by nearly 49 percentage points in 2018, and Rodriguez has not faced serious opposition in recent years. Rep. Blanco chairs the House Democratic Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the Texas House, and announced he has already secured the endorsements of fellow state Reps. Art Fierro (D-El Paso), Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), Joe Moody (D-El Paso), and Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass), as well as U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX 16).

Other state representatives continue to announce plans to return to office. State Reps. Will Metcalf (R-Conroe), Brad Buckley (R-Salado), and Hugh Shine (R-Temple) all announced plans to run for reelection.

In the race for U.S. Senate, former U.S. Congressman and 2006 Democratic nominee for governor Chris Bell formally entered the race against incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn. Bell is one of nine candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the U.S. Senate race, including state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) and former congressional candidate and U.S. Air Force veteran MJ Hegar.

Tuesday, September 24, is National Voter Registration Day. The goal of this national, non-partisan event is to increase civic participation by registering hundreds of thousands of voters on Tuesday. It was launched in 2012 and has grown in popularity ever since, thanks to the help of non-partisan organizations such as the League of Women voters and the Texas Educators Vote coalition, of which ATPE is a member. Read this post by our friends at Texas Educators Vote to find out how you can participate.

SBOE committee discusses charter schools, ed prep

SBOE Committee on School Initiatives meeting Sept. 12, 2019.

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) members met Thursday in their respective committees to discuss a number of items of interest to educators. The Committee on School Initiatives began with a discussion of a new educator preparation pilot program called “EdTPA.” This two-year pilot program was discussed at length by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and aims to increase rigor, although the final examination comes with a higher price tag. Members of the committee had several questions regarding the structure of the program and challenges unique to the EdTPA system.

Members then heard updates on the Generation 25 charter application, which is the process by which applicants may apply to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for a new charter. It’s important to note that this application is not needed for existing charters to expand the number of schools under operation. The application is to establish new charter operators, which may plan to operate multiple schools and may expand in the future.

Member Matt Robinson (R-Friendswood) expressed concern over the number and quality of new charters expanding across the state, and in particular a lack of transparency in the process. Member Ruben Cortez (D-Brownsville) expressed disappointment that suggestions from board members to improve the application have yet to be incorporated into the new application. Members secured a commitment from TEA staff to consider a list of recommendations provided by a group of public education organizations, including ATPE, and report back to the board.

Member Georgina Perez (D-El Paso) questioned TEA staff at length over requirements that charter applicants notify the communities within which they intend to open a new charter school, as well as the requirements for a charter to expand its geographical boundary to beyond what was set forth in its initial application. Much of the criticism around charter schools has concentrated on the lack of public input on proposed new charters as a result of minimal notification requirements, as well as few checks on the ability of charter school organizations to expand far beyond their initial size.

The board will conclude its September meeting Friday with an update from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath.

SBOE in Austin for September meeting

Texas SBOE meeting September 11, 2019.

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) met Wednesday in Austin for its three-day September meeting. Although her term as board chair concluded with the board’s June meeting, Member Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) presided over the board Wednesday as Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to announce her successor.

The board began with a discussion of a new process for Instructional Materials Quality Evaluation (IMQE), including recommendations for a commissioner rule from an ad hoc committee on the subject. The process is now called Texas Resource Review (TRR). Member Georgina Perez (D-El Paso) suggested that the process is still subjective, and Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff indicated that the process was the result of feedback from 30 pilot districts. Member Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo) posed a number of questions to TEA staff clarifying the potential legal ramifications of changes to the current process. Member Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) expressed a desire to prevent the TRR from competing with or interfering with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) review process. After lengthy discussion, the board adopted a new board operating procedure barring an individual board member from nominating instructional materials to the TRR without a majority vote of the board endorsing the nomination.

The board also discussed the procedure for nominating members to serve on the School Land Board (SLB), which oversees a portion of the Permanent School Fund (PSF) overseen by the General Land Office (GLO). Legislation passed by the 86th Texas Legislature expanded the SLB to five members from three and allowed the SBOE to nominate candidates to serve in two of the five places. The governor will select the two members from among six candidates the SBOE nominates. The board’s Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund will recommend the six nominees from a list of 30, comprised of two nominees provided by each of the board’s 15 members. The full board will vote to approve the final six.

The SBOE and SLB must also meet jointly once per year as a result of legislation passed in 2019. Members voted to hold the first joint meeting during the SBOE’s scheduled meeting in April 2020. All following meetings will be held during the SBOE’s scheduled November meeting.

 

 

Texas election roundup: Another big retirement

The big news so far this week has been U.S. Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX 17) announcing his retirement and intention not to run for reelection in 2020. Flores defeated longtime Waco Democrat Rep. Chet Edwards in the Republican wave election of 2010. Flores won reelection in 2018 by nearly 16 percentage points, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz beat Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by just over nine points in the district.

The field of candidates in three special elections scheduled for Nov. 5 has been set. After the close of the filing deadline, a total of 26 candidates had declared campaigns to succeed state Reps. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), Jessica Farrar (D-Houston), and Eric Johnson (D-Dallas). The most competitive race will be for the seat being vacated by Rep. Zerwas in House District (HD) 28, which both Zerwas and Cruz won by single-digit margins in 2018. One Democrat and six Republicans have filed for the seat. The full list of candidates in this fall’s special elections can be found in this post by the Texas Tribune.

The 2020 elections pose a major test of the resolve of educators to hold their elected representatives to account for legislation passed and legislation promised. Things like school funding and educator pay will almost certainly be on the chopping block when the Texas Legislature returns in 2021, which makes your votes all the more important. If you are not yet registered to vote in Texas, the deadline to do so in time for this November’s elections is October 7. If you’re not yet registered or unsure what to do, just follow this link to the Texas Educators Vote coalition website.

Texas election news roundup: Aug. 29, 2019

The past week has brought more announcements from incumbents who are seeking reelection, including state Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso), whose House District (HD) 75 voted for Beto O’Rourke over U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz by a 55 percent margin in 2018 and has sent Rep. Gonzalez to Austin with reliable consistency. State Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall), who chairs the House Energy Resources Committee, announced reelection plans in HD 9. The East Texas district has produced Republican margins of 50 percent or greater for the last several election cycles. Rep. Paddie also announced on Tuesday his endorsement by Gov. Greg Abbott for the 2020 election.

Republican Frank Pomeroy has announced plans to challenge state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) in Senate District (SD) 21. Pomeroy is pastor of the Sutherland Springs church that was the site of a mass shooting in 2017. Zaffirini has not seen a Republican challenger in recent years, however her district handed O’Rourke a 21-point margin in 2018. This is more or less consistent with previous general elections in SD 21.

In SD 19, San Antonio Democrat Xochil Pena Rodriguez has announced a run against state Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton), who won SD 19 in a September 2018 special election to succeed state Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio). Flores pulled off an upset in a district that has shown a willingness to swing to the Republican column. Voters in SD 19 narrowly sided with Greg Abbott in the 2014 governor’s race, but Hillary Clinton and Beto O’Rourke each won the district by double digits.

Participation in elections is the single most powerful thing you can do as an educator in order to ensure state leaders pass laws aimed at helping our schools — not hurting them. While ATPE’s Teach the Vote provides resources in order to help illustrate candidates’ views on public education issues, our partners at the Texas Educators Vote (TEV) coalition have launched a new website with tools for helping to remind yourself when it’s time to head to the polls. Visit the TEV website here, then sign up for text reminders of important election dates. You can also get help finding your polling location and making sure you’re registered to vote in time for the next election.