Texas Press Association
Capital Highlights — Early runoff voting ends Friday
Early voting in the May 24 primary runoff elections ends Friday, May 20. Under state law, voters who cast ballots in either party’s primary election must vote only in the same party’s runoff election. Voters who did not cast ballots in the primary may vote in either party’s runoff election.
Topping the runoff ballots are runoff elections for attorney general. Incumbent Republican Ken Paxton faces George P. Bush, the current land commissioner. On the Democratic side, former Galveston mayor Joe Jaworski faces Rochelle Garza, a Brownsville civil rights attorney.
There are also statewide runoff races for lieutenant governor, land commissioner, comptroller and railroad commissioner, as well as several congressional seats and spots on the state board of education. See the full list of runoff races at: https://tinyurl.com/43bzf9v6.
ERCOT urges Texans to conserve power
After six power generation plants went offline Friday during the start to an unseasonably hot weekend, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas urged Texans to conserve power, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
As temperatures soared into the 90s and even 100s in some parts of the state, residents were urged to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher and avoid using large appliances such as dishwashers, washers and dryers between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The hot weather is sparking record electricity demand across the state.
And it’s only May.
Abbott’s use of COVID funds on border mission probed
The inspector general for the U.S. Treasury Department has opened a review into how the state spent federal COVID-19 aid funds, with approximately $1 billion in relief funds shifted to the crackdown on the Texas-Mexico border, the Washington Post reported. The aid was intended to help local governments pay front-line COVID-19 workers, purchase protective equipment and for other public health costs.
Richard K. Delmar, the deputy inspector general, issued a statement citing his office’s mandate “for monitoring and oversight of the distribution” of the stimulus spending, which Texas received under a federal initiative known as the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the Post reported.
“In exercise of that responsibility,” Delmar said, “we are currently conducting a review of Texas’s uses of CRF monies.” A spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott defended how Texas used federal funds received under the Cares Act.
More than 900 migrants sent to D.C.
Under Abbott’s direction, the state has sent 35 chartered buses with 922 migrants to Washington, D.C. since mid-April, The Dallas Morning News reported. The governor has called it a “fun” way to get President Joe Biden’s attention, harshly criticizing the president for the administration’s border policies. However, The Morning News reported the impact on the nation’s capital has been minimal, with the migrants being processed and sent to live in different cities until their cases can be heard in court.
“He’s [Abbott] no longer even making a big deal about it. You’re not seeing it on the nightly news. It’s a dud,” said Abel Nuñez, executive director of the Central American Resource Center, one of the groups helping migrants who arrive from Texas. “It’s happening in silence now. This is not giving him the political win that he wanted.”
The state of Arizona has also begun busing migrants to Washington, D.C.
Drought conditions persist across state
As a hydrologist for the Texas Water Development Board put it, “April wasn’t great” in terms of rainfall. However, about a sixth of the state did get abundant rainfall, in parts of Central Texas, North Texas and South Texas. Dr. Mark Wentzel wrote that rainfall received in May could be key to getting through the summer without widespread severe drought.
“May, historically, has been the wettest month for Texas,” Wentzel wrote. “We get an average of 3 1/3 inches of rainfall in that month, making it the wettest month of the year for us. We want to be cautiously optimistic.”
The most severe drought conditions are found in the Panhandle and High Plains and in the Big Bend area. April showers in much of East Texas brought both May flowers but an easing of drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
COVID-19 cases again rise slightly
The number of new COVID-19 cases in the state during the past week rose slightly to 24,092, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University, with 73 new deaths reported — also a slight increase. Once again, the number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas stayed steady, with 772 reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The number of Texans who are fully vaccinated now stands at 17.641 million, or 60.5% of the state’s population; 6.821 million Texans have received a booster dose, according to DSHS.
Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.