OPINION

Capital highlights: Several statewide races headed to runoff

GARY BORDERS

A number of statewide races are headed for a May 24 runoff after the votes were tallied in the March 1 primary.

Topping the ballot in the Republican races is the contest for attorney general, where incumbent Ken Paxton led the field with 42.7% of votes cast, followed by George P. Bush, current land commissioner, who garnered 22.8%. The remainder of GOP ballots went to former Supreme Court justice Eva Guzman at 17.5% and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert with 17%.

Gary Borders

In the Democratic race for lieutenant governor, Houston businessman Mike Collier took 41.5%, with Carrollton state Rep. Michelle Beckley getting 30.2%. They will face each other in the runoff to determine who will face incumbent Dan Patrick in November. Patrick handily won the GOP primary with 76.6% of the vote.

In the race to succeed Bush as land commissioner, there will be runoffs in both parties, with State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, taking 41.8% and Tim Westley, the historian for the Texas Republican party, trailing with 14.8%. On the Democratic ballot, Sandragrace Martinez, a San Antonio licensed professional counselor, took 32% while Jay Kleberg, a conservationist whose family owns the storied King Ranch, trailed with 25.8%.

Two Democrats are vying to face incumbent Glenn Hegar in the race for state comptroller. Janet T. Dudding, who retired from Texas A&M to run, led the field with 46.2%. She will face Angel Luis Vega, a business strategist, who received 34.7% of the vote.       

GOP incumbent Wayne Christian, chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, fell short of gathering a majority in the primary with 47.2% of the vote. Sarah Stogner, a Midland attorney who gained attention by posting a semi-nude video of herself on top of an oil pumpjack, finished second with 15.1%. 

Voters may cast ballots in a party’s runoff races if they originally voted in that party’s primary or didn’t vote at all. Voters who cast ballots in the Republican primary can’t cross over and vote in the Democratic runoff, and vice versa. Early voting runs from May 16-20.

Operation Lone Star marks one year

Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard last week marked the one-year anniversary of Operation Lone Star, the state’s effort to “secure the border.” Since its launch, more than 208,000 migrants have been apprehended, with 11,800 criminal charges filed.

In the last legislative session, lawmakers approved an additional $1.8 billion in state funding, bringing the total of funding for border security to $3 billion.

Emergency SNAP benefits again extended

The U.S. Department of Agriculture again has extended emergency food benefits for eligible Texas families, with more than $310 million going to more than 1.5 million Texas households for the month of March. The allotments are distributed through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and administered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

“Putting food on the table is critical for the health and well-being of families, and we’re proud to continue helping with these most basic needs,” said Texas HHS Access and Eligibility Services Deputy Executive Commissioner Wayne Salter.  

Since April 2020, more than $6.13 billion in emergency food benefits have been provided through SNAP. All SNAP households will receive at least $95 in emergency allotments by March 31.

New website highlights early childhood services

A streamlined resource for Texas parents to get information about early childhood services is now up and running. The new website, earlychildhood.texas.gov, serves as a one-stop-shop to connect Texas parents with access to a variety of free or low-cost services and resources.

The website offers information and resources for health and development, parenting, child care and education.

Federal COVID-19 funding tops $75.6 billion

The Legislative Budget Board reports that the state received an estimated $75.6 billion in COVID-19 federal funding, not counting funds awarded directly to individuals and local entities. The funding came from a half dozen pandemic response packages passed by Congress since March 2020. 

The funding provided assistance to Texas public schools, higher education, local governments and health care providers. More detailed information can be found at the budget board’s website: lbb.texas.gov/Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the state’s Division of Workers Compensation reported more than 78,000 workers’ compensation claims with 422 fatalities. More than half of the fatalities involved first responders and correctional officers.

COVID-19 cases continue to drop

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop across the state, with 26,520 reported in the past week by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University, along with 936 deaths. The omicron variant continues to wane, with lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations dropping to 2,838 statewide, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The number of Texans who are fully vaccinated now stands at 17.282 million, according to DSHS, with 6.322 million getting a booster dose as well. As of Sunday, 59.2% of Texans are fully vaccinated.

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: gborders@texaspress.com.