Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams announced Friday that early voting turnout for the March 7th primary election is on par with the levels seen during the 2002 primaries. Based largely on this trend, Secretary Williams projects an overall turnout of 13% of the registered voters in Texas.
Secretary of State Williams examined a variety of factors when projecting this year’s turnout, including prior levels of voter turnout, voter registration numbers and early voting trends to date. Throughout early voting, the Secretary of State’s office tracks turnout from the state’s 15 most populous counties. These 15 counties account for approximately 60 percent of all registered voters in Texas and, therefore, can serve as an indicator of overall turnout patterns across the state.
Early voting concludes today, March 3 and Election Day is Tuesday, March 7th.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed a complaint in the U.S. Supreme Court, charging the federal government has violated the Constitution by requiring direct payments to the federal government to fund the new Medicare prescription drug program. The suite was on behalf of Texas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri and New Jersey. Arizona, joined by nine other states, filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Abbott's claim. These include Alaska, Connecticut, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Vermont.
Part D of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 applies to coverage of outpatient prescription drugs for Medicare recipients through private health plans. The drug benefit program also covers Medicaid-eligible pateints in Texas and will affect 323,000 Texans.
The Part D drug benefit program as it is currently being implemented can seriously harm Texas taxpayers over time. Promoted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as saving the states money over the long-term, the practical application of the program is projected to result in net losses to Texas of approximately $100 million from 2006-2009.
Congressman Sam Johnson is being challenged by another Johnson in the Republican primary for Congressional District 3.
Robert “Bob” Johnson, who is of no relation to the congressman, is criticizing the congressman’s record on a number of fronts, emphasizing foreign policy. In an interview with the Dallasblog, Bob Johnson claimed that he is running mainly because Congressman Sam Johnson’s reputation as an opponent of foreign intervention and big government spending has declined in recent years.
“He looked good on foreign policy until Bush, at which point he got enthusiastic about going into Iraq,” said Bob Johnson. “I don’t think we have any business going around micromanaging other nations.”
According to a press release from Congressman Sam Johnson, the war in Iraq is just and progress is being made. “While you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media reports, we’re making huge progress in Iraq,” said Johnson. “I was just there and saw for myself that we’re building democracy is tyranny’s backyard. Saddam Hussein is gone and at least 46 of Hussein’s 55 most wanted regime members are either dead or incarcerated. We need to stay the course – not cut and run.”
While Bob Johnson’s views are not echoed by a majority of Republican voters, he hopes that his non-interventionist views on foreign policy might draw some libertarian leaning voters to pick him over the current congressman in March. He is considered to be a major underdog in the primary.
“There is this whole series of national security issues. When push comes to shove, he ends up becoming a lap dog for the globalists and the George W. Bush Administration,” said Bob Johnson. Bob Johnson said that he was pleased with Congressman Sam Johnson’s foreign policy record in the 1990s, citing the congressman’s opposition to the U.S. operation in Kosovo. However, he said that he was disappointed in the congressman’s legislative record since Bush has been the president.
Bob Johnson was also critical of what he thought was the effect of the congressman’s foreign policy votes on the district. “Sam Johnson has voted for Most-Favored-Nation Status for China since 1991,” said Bob Johnson. “Giving China Most Favored Nation status has hurt District 3, since District 3 is a high tech district.” Bob Johnson said that “pseudo-private” corporations in China don’t pay “paten money”, which hurts demand for American goods such as those produced within District 3.
Bob Johnson also blasted the congressman for his “Nuke Syria scandal” back in March of 2005, when Congressman Sam Johnson was speaking to a group of veterans. At the gathering, Congressman Johnson reportedly said that he believed Saddam’s WMD arsenal was located in Syria and that he could fly a nuclear-armed F-15 into Syria to solve the problem.
While the Congressman did make the comments, he long ago said that they were not to be taken seriously. There was also little press coverage of the comments, and most mainstream media outlets ultimately understood them to be mere “veteran talk”.
A new twist in the bitter race for the legislature in Arlington's district 94. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram the incumbent, Rep. Kent Grusendorf announced today that he would resign if the Legislature failed to fix the state's education system in a special session expected later this Spring.
Dallas City Attorney Tom PerkinsThe General Investigating and Ethics and Criminal Jurisprudence Committees of the Texas House have just issued their reports on the City of Dallas’s public-nuisance abatement ordinance, and they draw blood.
The scathing report charges that Dallas officials abused the public-nuisance abatement ordinance to shake down businesses and intimidate those who appealed or opposed city policy. The report labeled it “ward-based politics run amok.” It says the city used the ordinance to blame businesses for being crime victims, intimidated witnesses, and "encouraged" business owners to hire off-duty police to work security under threat of prosecution and fine. (Pronounce it "protection money.")
The Dallas City Attorney's office was singled out for the witness intimidation. Specifically, the charge is that the City Attorney’s office initiated an internal affairs investigation against a police officer who wrote a letter in favor of a business accused of being a public nuisance. The state wants city attorneys turned over to the State Bar of Texas for disciplinary action.
DallasBlog spoke with City Attorney Tom Perkins about the report Friday afternoon.
"We disagree with the characterizations. Our position is our lawyers acted entirely appropriately and we're prepared to address that if referrals (to the State Bar of Texas) are made," Mr. Perkins said.
"I would point out in the five years prior, (the city) handled 2,000 cases and only 60 resulted in lawsuits. Of those the majority of the business owners reached an agreement to resolve the case and adjust the problem, or had a formal consent decree (in the city's favor,)" he said.
Regarding the charge that the city attorney's office initiated an internal affairs investigation against a police officer, Mr. Perkins had this to say.
"In that instance in the discovery process it was found that a police officer was living on the site (a hotel involved in a code compliance complaint) and we simply informed his superior officers," Mr. Perkins said.
And in what may be the biggest case of closing the barn door after the horses were out since, heck, examples are hard to come by, Mr. Perkins said that following the initiation of the state's investigation, the city commissioned a group of business leaders, city staff, Dallas Police, and city attorneys to audit and reform the process for code compliance and code enforcement.
Mayor Laura Miller's office said she will issue a statement on the committee's findings on Monday, after she has had time to review the 38-page report.
Deputy Chief David Brown, designated spokesman on the issue, could not be reached for comment.
In a few days, we will know if the efforts of key Republican donors will have impacted several Republican primaries in Texas and possibly the future of school finance in Texas.
In some cases, the failure of certain legislators to change the school finance system in previous legislative sessions has resulted in property taxes remaining one of the chief funding sources for public schools in Texas. According to the Dallas Morning News, Rep. Kent Grusendorf is one legislator facing a well-financed challenger in the primaries.
The General Investigating and Ethics and Criminal Jurisprudence Committees of the Texas House have just issued their reports on the City of Dallas’s public nuisance ordinance. It is scathing. In the report, the Committee clerks are directed to refer employees of the Dallas City Attorney’s office to the State Bar of Texas for disciplinary action. The charge is that the City Attorney’s office initiated an internal affairs investigation against a police officer who wrote a letter in favor of a business accused of being a public nuisance.
The charges made against the City in this report are serious and should give every resident of Dallas pause. It’s disturbing reading.
Rep. Charlie GerenRepublican State Representatives Bill Keffer, Jodie Laubenberg, Bill Zedler, Mary Denny, and Linda Harper-Brown endorsed West Point graduate and retired Lt. Col. Christ Hatley in his campaign to oust incumbent Representative Charlie Geren from office in a heated Republican primary in Tarrant County.
The area legislators are key members of the conservative coalition in the Texas House of Representatives. Their endorsement of Hatley, Geren’s conservative challenger, comes only days after the Speaker of the House Tom Craddick endorsed the re-election bid of Representative Geren. Geren is viewed by conservative legislators – and conservative activists in his district as more of a "Republican of convenience" – who (they maintain) switched parties in order to get elected.
While Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Craddick have endorsed Geren’s candidacy, the decision by conservative legislators to break ranks with Craddick and endorse Geren’s opponent suggests that Craddick may be losing some of his influence over the rank and file members of the Republican majority in the House.
Tarrant County is the scene of two of the most significant Republican primary races in the state this year. Conservative incumbent and Chairman of the House Education Committee, Kent Grusendorf, is trying to withstand a major challenge from Diane Patrick. Patrick has the strong backing of the education lobby.
Meanwhile, conservative challenger Chris Hatley (who has received major financial backing from conservative businessman James Leninger) is hoping to unseat Charles Geren. The incumbent is backed by the education lobby, and many of the Austin business lobbyists also are helping Geren’s re-election bid.
We will know the outcome of both these races next Tuesday evening.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has gotten North Texas lawmakers to stand down and see if Dallas Mayor Laura Miller and Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief can work out a solution to the Wright Amendment.
In a written statement to DallasBlog, Mayor Miller said:
"The Dallas City Council will vote on our resolution, which asks Congress to take no action on the Wright Amendment between now and Oct 1 while the two cities negotiate, next Wednesday, March 8. The City of Dallas is eager to work with Fort Worth to find a solution to this problem, and because the working relationship between the two cities is a good one, chances are high that this will be a successful endeavor."
"Mayor Moncrief and I will continue meeting and talking on a regular basis, which we have been doing for weeks, and the substance of our talks will be reflective of what our two City Councils believe should happen with our respective aviation assets."