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Open Carry Is No Big Deal In Texas So Far

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

FORT WORTH, Texas ––Open carry seems to be going off without a bang in Texas.

Law enforcers statewide had anticipated being overwhelmed by 911 calls from Texans reporting others openly carrying holstered handguns, but the phone lines haven’t been even close to slightly busy.

“We do not have anything interesting to report,” Cpl. Tracey Knight, spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Police Department, said last week. “Two calls so far, no issues. We have no concerns and we have had no problems.”

That’s two more calls than have been logged by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department.

“I said before this became law that I thought it was going to be much ado about nothing but I didn’t know it was going to be this much nothing,” Sheriff Dee Anderson said.

That sentiment has been echoed by other law enforcers across the state — and by many open-carry supporters — about the new Texas law that went into effect Jan. 1.

“As we predicted, the passage of the open-carry law has been a real nonevent,” said C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas.

Not everyone agrees.

“It’s too soon to tell,” say opponents such as Carolyn Daniel, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

She and others with Moms Demand Action opposed the law before it took effect and remain opposed.

“Changes in legislation can take years to determine an impact,” she said.

Some say the biggest effect of open carry is the growing number of businesses that have outlawed guns on their properties.

The Legislature first restricted the carrying of pistols in public in 1871.

That law first changed in 1995, when lawmakers allowed handguns to be carried if concealed.

Lawmakers again approved changes last year, and Jan. 1 was the first day Texans who are licensed — which means they are at least 21, have clear criminal records and no record of mental illness — could legally carry their guns openly.

“So far, all seems quiet — which is consistent with what we expected,” said Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney for the Austin-based Texas District and County Attorneys Association, which has had staffers traveling across the state teaching prosecutors, police and judges about details of the law.

In Texas, more than 925,000 people, about 3.4 percent of the state’s 27 million residents, have licenses to carry handguns, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Some gun owners say open carry is just the beginning.

Many say they hope Texas lawmakers will consider “constitutional carry” next year to let Texans openly carry handguns without licenses.

Since Jan. 1, a number of gun owners have posted pictures of themselves openly carrying holstered handguns in public — including in front of the Texas Capitol — on Facebook and Twitter.

And many have been asking which businesses allow people to openly carry on their property and which ones prevent it.

“Yes, it seems some businesses have decided to put up signs, but it’s not as widespread as the media has made it sound,” Grisham said. “This is the same sort of business reaction that occurred in 1995 when the concealed handgun law was passed, so we expect that within a year or so the hype will die down and the signs will begin disappearing.”

Some open-carry opponents say they won’t go into businesses such as Kroger, Home Depot or Bass Pro Shops that have said licensed Texans may openly carry on their property.

And open-carry supporters say they won’t go into businesses such as Half-Price Books, Torchy’s Tacos or AMC movie theaters, which won’t let them openly carry their weapons.

©2016 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: What open carry looks like. Paul Weaver via Flickr

Open Carry In Texas Presents A Chance For Fashion Statements

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

FORT WORTH, Texas — This isn’t your grandfather’s old gun holster — or gun, for that matter.

Many of today’s guns and holsters, which a number of Texans will openly carry starting Friday, display carvings and decorations, designs such as flags, even sayings such as “Don’t tread on me.” And some are intended specifically to appeal to women.

It’s about time, some say, noting that women now hold have about a quarter of the state’s licenses to carry handguns.

“Fashion is important to women,” said Carrie Lightfoot, owner of The Well Armed Woman, an Arizona-based online company. “It’s part of who we are. Look at our homes and cars. We basically decorate everything.”

At a time when women are the fastest-growing group of gun buyers, there are even ways to add a corrosion-resistant Cerakote coating to handguns, to change the color of the weapons.

“I think there’s an appeal, when you go to the range, to pull out a firearm that looks different from everyone else’s,” said Cheryl Coburn, digital marketing manager for the Oregon-based NIC Industries, which has a Cerakote division. “Not everyone wants the standard black. Women, we like pretty things.”

But don’t think that a holster or gun decorated with, say, leopard-print or camouflage, means that the woman carrying it isn’t serious about using it.

“Women are really serious about this topic,” said Lightfoot, whose online company sells handgun accessories and directs women to gun training classes. “It’s not like buying a piece of jewelry. It’s buying a tool that could take the life of someone if they have to use it.”

More women are buying and carrying guns than in the past.

Two years ago, firearm sellers estimated that 20 percent of their shooting and hunting-related sales were to women, up from 15 percent in 2010, according to National Sporting Goods Association reports.

And nearly three-fourths of retailers noted that they saw more women in their stores in 2013 than they did the year before, the report said.

“The women’s market is a force in our industry, and manufacturers, retailers and shooting ranges are making changes to their products and services to satisfy women’s tastes and needs,” said Jim Curcuruto, director of industry research and analysis for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

More than half the women who own firearms have semiautomatic pistols. Shotguns are the second most likely firearm a woman will own, according to a foundation report.

In the past year, women who bought guns spent nearly $900 on a firearm and more than $400 on accessories. They say they buy items based on practicality, fit and quality.

And most of the women say they aren’t impulse purchases, but something they’ve studied for a while.

The number of Texans with licenses to carry handguns continues to grow, this year reaching nearly 914,000, or nearly 4 percent of Texas’ 27 million residents, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records.

And about one-fourth of those permit holders are women — 27 percent in 2014, 28 percent in 2013, 22 percent in 2012, records show.

Meanwhile, firearm fashion shows are growing in popularity as a way to show women the variety of holsters and gun accessories that are available.

“Many of the women who attend the shows are thinking fashion first and guns second,” said Lucretia Free, who puts on the shows and publishes The American Woman Shooter.

It’s an easy way, she said, “to educate women in a nonthreatening environment about all of the possibilities that exist.”

For many years, the holster needs of many women weren’t being met, Lightfoot said.

“It’s such a manly industry and there weren’t products that understood that fashion is important to women,” she said. “We provide women the opportunity to customize or personalize their holster to whatever color or pattern they prefer. Women need to personalize.”

There are “on the waistband” convertible holsters, which let women carry their handgun on the inside or outside of their pants or skirts, that are made out of Kydex, a type of plastic.

And there are more traditional leather holsters, including those bearing the popular Old Glory.

Purple and black are popular colors, as are the black carbon fiber and pink carbon fiber versions. When violence or tensions in the world rise, the Old Glory version also becomes one of the top sellers.

But there are many other options, including zebra- and leopard-print, lemon yellow, pink, orange, key lime, mocha, turquoise and more.

And for women who choose to carry their weapons concealed, despite the open carry law, there are belly band, bra, tank, pocket, undershorts and thigh holsters available.

“It’s important for people to understand this isn’t frivolous,” Lightfoot said. “It’s not making light of a situation. It’s just part of a new world of being your own protector.

“Men don’t get it,” she said. “It’s about form, style and function. Just because women like color, it doesn’t mean they take it lightly.”

©2015 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Ratha Grimes via Flickr

Texas House Passes Measure To Allow Concealed Handguns On College Campuses

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas moved closer to allowing concealed handguns in classrooms and other areas on public and private college campuses late Tuesday night, as House members gave tentative approval just minutes before the midnight deadline.

An hourslong debate over Senate Bill 11, known as “campus carry,” abruptly wrapped up as the deadline to pass Senate bills out of the lower chamber loomed and a vote was suddenly called on what some called a “watered down” measure.

House members approved the measure on a 101-47 vote after more than 100 amendments were suddenly dropped.

“Finally our students will be protected, our professors will be protected and law-abiding citizens will be protected,” state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, said after the vote.

The life or death of this measure, and dozens of other bills, had been up in the air late in the evening, slowed down earlier in the day by procedural moves such as “chubbing” — lengthy discussions about minute points on minor bills that otherwise would pass easily and without discussion.

Members of the House of Representatives faced a midnight deadline Tuesday to give tentative approval to Senate bills that touched on topics such as whether certain health insurance plans should be banned from covering abortions and whether faith-based welfare organizations should be able to stop same-sex couples from adopting children.

With a number of GOP priorities on the calendar, state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, earlier in the day unsuccessfully tried to speed up the process by proposing moving about 40 bills to another day.

Democrats, including state Reps. Nicole Collier and Ramon Romero Jr. of Fort Worth and Chris Turner of Arlington, blocked that move.

“It’s frustrating for people who have bills up or have something they want to pass,” said state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth.

Eventually the chubbing slowed down, after a Democratic-proposed bill was killed, and lawmakers began wading through dozens of proposals including giving Texas students the ability to bring sunscreen to school and moving forward with a study regarding homeless veterans.

One bill lawmakers spent hours debating as the sun faded was a comprehensive ethics reform bill, designated early in the session a priority by Gov. Greg Abbott. The goal, lawmakers said, was to shine sunlight on the government. The House gave tentative approval to the measure 96-48.

Some had hoped to delay Senate Bill 11, which passed the Senate in March, that would allow concealed handguns onto most areas of public universities in the state.

The bill, which Collier, Romero and Turner voted against, must still gain final approval from the House. And the Senate must sign off on changes, or take the bill to a conference committee, before it can go to Abbott.

This campus carry measure comes 20 years after lawmakers first made it legal for Texans to carry concealed handguns in most places statewide.

Members began debating the issue around 9:30 p.m., but more than 100 amendments were filed by lawmakers hoping to make adjustments to the measure.

State Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball, carried the bill in the House and said campus carry was something college students need.

“We should not be disarming them … because they walk into a classroom,” he said, adding that they must be law abiding citizens and 21-years-old or older to get a concealed handgun license in the first place.

Amendments were approved requiring private universities to implement campus carry and to allow each university to determine where concealed handguns may be carried.

“A watered down useless campus carry bill … what is this the 83rd session again?” state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, tweeted out after the vote.

Supporters say the campus carry bill — which has been unsuccessfully proposed in past legislative sessions — is needed to let teachers and students defend themselves, particularly in the wake of tragedies such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting by a gunman that killed 32 people.

“It allows innocent people to defend themselves on campus,” Capriglione said. “There are definitely people who don’t want it.

“But it’s not unreasonable to expect 21-year-olds to handle it reasonably and responsibly.”

Officials at public colleges say the plan could cost nearly $50 million in coming years — an expense that could be passed to students. The cost is high, they say, because additional officers, training, storage facilities and security technology would be needed if the proposal becomes law.

“I think it’s a horrible idea,” Romero of Fort Worth said. “I think the lack of support from student groups and professors and universities has been overwhelming.”

Many “don’t see the need for this type of legislation,” he said. “It’s just the completion of a campaign promise … something on some folks’ wish lists.”

Projections from the University of Texas System, which includes the University of Texas at Arlington, show that implementing the bill could cost $39 million over six years, with most of that cost at the health institutions, according to paperwork submitted to the Legislature.

Estimates from the University of North Texas System, which includes the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth, include $1 million in upfront costs and ongoing expenses of $250,000, state records show.

UT System Chancellor William McRaven has said he worries that concealed handguns will make campuses less safe because stress and guns are a bad mix. In a letter to lawmakers, he expressed concern about accidental shootings and suicides, as well as the fear that concealed handguns “will make campus a less safe place.”

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp also sent a letter to lawmakers, saying he has “complete trust and faith” in his students and professors, which is why Texas A&M “will not have a position on this issue and will not oppose campus carry.”

UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson noted that the bill might negatively affect a “younger than average population, some living away from home for the first time.”

Law officers also are divided.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has said “it’s a bad idea.” McLennan County Sheriff Parnell has said this bill gives students and professors a chance to protect themselves because “police can’t be everywhere at once.”

Expanding gun rights in Texas has been controversial and headline gathering long before the first day of this year’s Legislative Session.

Emotions run high on this issue, growing in recent years. Supporters of the movement have taken to the streets _ particularly in Tarrant County — with semiautomatic rifles and black powder pistols, which are legal to openly carry in Texas, hoping to draw attention to their cause.

Earlier this session, Kory Watkins, a leader of Tarrant County Open Carry, posted online a video some say threatened the safety of lawmakers who don’t support making it legal for Texans to openly carry their handguns.

That followed a dust-up earlier this session between local open-carry supporters and at least one lawmaker. State Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, indicated he doesn’t support open carry, and his staff asked Open Carry Tarrant County members to leave his office. There was an aggressive conversation; soon after that the House approved a measure making it easier for members to have panic buttons put in their offices.

Abbott has long said he would sign campus carry and open carry — a proposal to let licensed Texans openly carry handguns statewide — into law. Open carry passed the Senate last week and returns to the House this week for approval of changes made to the bill.

Photo: The University of Texas at Austin might be a tobacco-free campus, but if a new law is passed by the state legislature, it won’t be a gun-free one. ctj71081 via Flickr

North Texas Students Petition For A Speaker Other Than Texas Governor Abbott

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott will speak at the University of North Texas graduation next month even though some students promise to boycott their own commencement ceremony if he gives the keynote address.

More than 2,000 students have signed an online petition asking UNT officials to choose a different speaker for their May ceremony.

“While Governor Abbott’s story is inspirational, his views on inequality cannot be overshadowed by this,” the petition states. “Our Mean Green Pride comes from being heard and respected. Which is why we ask University President Neal Smatresk to find a new keynote speaker for graduation.”

Smatresk said he’s not changing speakers and he’s excited that the state’s 48th governor will speak at the ceremony.

“He’s a new governor, he’s supportive of higher education,” said Smatresk, who became UNT’s president last year. “Why wouldn’t we want to celebrate the success of our institution in its 125th year with him?

“I feel it’s a great way to celebrate.”

Despite the controversy swirling around his appearance — most via social media — Abbott, a Republican, plans to honor his commitment.

“Governor Abbott is honored to accept the invitation to address the University of North Texas’ commencement, and he looks forward to recognizing the great work UNT is doing to elevate Texas’ higher education system, as well as the contributions that the UNT Class of 2015 will make to build a better future for Texas,” said Amelia Chasse, press secretary for the governor.

Students have said they oppose Abbott for reasons ranging from his opposition to gay marriage to his opposition to Denton’s ban on hydraulic fracturing in city limits.

“College students are young adults with passion, and they often express it as a challenge to authority,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University. “It isn’t terribly surprising to see this come in Denton, where the anti-fracking ordinance has already galvanized feelings.

“And, of course, it shows in some ways the increasing partisan polarization in our society where elections seem never truly to be over.”

The UNT graduation is scheduled for May 16 at Apogee Stadium.

Texas universities have been announcing their commencement speakers, with retired General Colin Powell speaking at Rice University; Ford Foundation President Darren Walker talking at the University of Texas, Austin; former President George W. Bush speaking at Southern Methodist University in Dallas; and actor Matthew McConaughey talking at the University of Houston.

Smatresk announced earlier this month that Abbott would deliver the address at UNT’s first university-wide graduation ceremony, honoring students who completed their degrees at any point through the 2014-2015 school year.

“I would love to show him all the wonderful things that are going on at our incredibly diverse campus,” Smatresk said. “When you engage the governor in a dialogue about higher education, higher education wins.”

He said he’s not surprised by the student reaction, which has been mostly negative on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but he notes that he has personally heard from “quite a few” students who are excited Abbott is coming to campus.

“One of the things we are proud of is that we have truly engaged students,” Smatresk said. “They are passionate, they care. Certainly we have students who want to make their opinions known.

“They are the future leaders of the world.”

After the announcement, a new page on Facebook — Abbott Free UNT — was created, urging students upset about the governor’s presence to protest by walking out of the ceremony once he takes the stage.

And a firestorm of comments have been posted on the UNT Facebook page, many opposed to Abbott being the speaker.

“You have failed your students, UNT,” wrote Emily Eells, a member of the UNT College Democrats. “We hosted one of the largest college campus rally’s for Wendy Davis in the fall. How on EARTH did you think Greg Abbott was an appropriate speaker for commencement?”

Abbott and Davis, a former Fort Worth state senator, went head-to-head in the November general election, each hoping to become the next governor of Texas. Abbott handily won, claiming 59 percent of the vote to Davis’s nearly 39 percent.

“I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I will not be attending my commencement ceremony this semester due to this poor choice in speaker,” Eells said.

“As an alumni, this is a disappointing choice,” wrote Scott Davis. “Instead of somebody that represents such a partisan and narrow world view, it would be better to have somebody that can speak to all of the students.”

James Thomason said he won’t attend the graduation.

“He’s a more cunning evil than Perry ever was,” he wrote. “God help Texas (if it isn’t too late already).”

And John Barnes, a 1968 UNT graduate, said he is “disgusted” by the university’s choice.

“You have insulted every minority, LGBT, poor, and physically challenged person within the UNT system. NTSU/UNT has a long, proud history of challenging the status quo. This choice reduces UNT to a tea party mouthpiece. How in the hell can you be proud of this choice? Shame on you.”

Hailey Carlson is graduating in May but she wasn’t planning on going to the ceremony until she learned about the petition.

Now she’s going to show support for the governor.

“I think it’s very disrespectful to petition or walk out,” said Carlson, 22, who heads the Young Conservatives of Texas at UNT group and will graduate with a psychology degree. “I wasn’t surprised though because our campus is primarily made up of liberal students.

“I know they do not like his views. They were all big supporters of Wendy Davis.”

So she plans to show her support with her presence.

UNT alumni Ron Ellis believes college leaders made a good choice.

“Glad to see my old school occasionally has some good news,” he wrote. “He has my full support. Thanks for having him!!!”

Smatresk said he appreciates the petition and the sentiment behind the protests, but they won’t change his mind.

“We are not changing speakers,” he said. “We have the governor and we are happy.”
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The online petition

“The University of North Texas’ student body is made up of students from all walks of life. Therefore, it is pivotal that our keynote speaker be someone who reflects not only our student population but our views on equality and representation. Governor Abbott is an advocate for immigration reform, border patrol, and anti-equal marriage laws. This does not align the spirit of the University of North Texas which prides itself in providing equal opportunities for their students. While Governor Abbott’s story is inspirational, his views on inequality cannot be overshadowed by this. Our Mean Green Pride comes from being heard and respected. Which is why we ask University President Neal Smatresk to find a new keynote speaker for graduation.”
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High-profile commencement speakers for 2015

In Texas

University of Houston: Matthew McConaughey
University of Texas, Austin: Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation
Rice: Colin Powell
SMU: George W. Bush

Nationwide

Wake Forest: Stephen Colbert
Dillard University (New Orleans): Denzel Washington
Princeton: Christopher Nolan, director
Pepperdine: Anthony Hopkins
University of Virginia: Ed Helms
Tulane: Maya Rudolph
University of Wisconsin, Madison: Katie Couric
University of Georgia: Amy Robach, news anchor for Good Morning America
Stanford: Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent at NBC News
MIT: Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the U.S.
George Washington University: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Emory: Kenneth Cole and Sir Salman Rushdie
Harvard: Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts
Tufts: Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
College of William and Mary: Condoleezza Rice
Xavier University: Magic Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Texas Representative Hoping To Legalize Online Poker With Bill

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton is ready to ante up again.

Barton, who has supported legalizing online poker for years, plans to file a bill to do so in the next month or so.

“It’s very ironic that Texas hold ’em poker is played everywhere legally except in Texas,” said Barton (R-Ennis), whose district includes parts of Arlington. “But one of these days that will change.”

The issue of legalizing online poker or online gambling is getting an early start in the 114th congressional session, after a hearing last week on a bill that would do the opposite of what Barton wants.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), has proposed a bill that would eliminate all types of online gambling.

“Putting an app on every phone that allows people to gamble wherever they are is not a good idea,” Chaffetz has told reporters, adding that this is an “important moral argument.”

Big money is backing Chaffetz’s bill, which he also filed last session. Billionaire casino owner and major political donor Sheldon Adelson, along with other online gambling opponents, wants to see gambling only in brick-and-mortar casinos.

The dueling bills promise a high-stakes fight, with a more than two billion dollar online poker industry hanging in the balance that could last for months or years.

Barton predicts that the cards will fall his way, someday: “Folks who think they can stand in a pulpit and tell people how to run their lives and tell states how to run their businesses don’t see the same Constitution I do.”
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WHY IT’S ON THE TABLE

People already play poker online. But most online gamblers are using offshore websites that aren’t subject to U.S. law.

That means winnings can’t be taxed and games can’t be regulated to make sure they are fair and accurate.

The issue of online gambling is up in the air — and before Congress — because of a 2011 Justice Department ruling regarding the Wire Act of 1961, which restricts betting over telecommunication systems that cross state or national borders.

In a departure from previous rulings, the department said the act applies only to sports betting.

Since that ruling, Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada have moved forward with laws to legalize websites offering casino-type games including poker, blackjack, and slot machines.

Some states also used the Justice Department ruling as legal grounds to start selling lottery tickets online.
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DIFFERENT PROPOSALS

Barton said his bill would do much the same as others he has filed. It would legalize online poker and give each state an opportunity to decide whether to allow online gaming.

“It’s poker only,” he said. “It doesn’t apply to the lottery or any other games of chance.”

He said his bill would set up protections to make sure children can’t gamble. Any player would have to use a debit card, not a credit card. And a regulatory agency would monitor and set limits on anyone who might seem to be spiraling out of control.

“The fear that someone will lose their house or run up credit card debt, that’s not going to happen,” Barton said.

On the other hand, Chaffetz has filed the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, aimed at restoring the original interpretation of the act and preventing online gambling.

“Congress has the responsibility to debate these regulations openly and should not allow bureaucrats to unilaterally change the law behind closed doors,” he has said. “Until that debate takes place, Congress must restore the long-standing interpretation of the Wire Act.”

Last year, attorneys general in 16 states including Texas asked Congress to restore the previous interpretation of the act. And governors in Texas and South Carolina have written to Congress expressing concern about the Justice Department decision.

Not everyone is buying into the argument.

Representative Ted Poe (R-Houston), said he is concerned that a ban on online poker could create a black market for gaming.

And Representative John Conyers (D-MI), worries that it could infringe on states rights. “States should be allowed to decide this question for themselves, and we should not take any action that would overturn such state laws,” he said.
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MIXED OPINIONS

Many in the poker industry are backing Barton and say they hope Chaffetz’s bill will go away.

“This bill should die today so members of the committee can focus on more pressing matters, and not on legislation that will deny states the ability to protect its citizens,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance.

Alliance officials said Chaffetz’s bill would strip states of their rights under the 10th Amendment, which says that powers belong to the states unless the Constitution specifically grants them to the federal government.

“If an unelected billionaire is granted the power to rewrite history by imposing a federal prohibition, the future is bleak for every American who values their Internet freedom,” Pappas said.

Opponents of the bill disagree.

Some worry that online gambling could be a way to launder money. Others worry that children could get hooked on gambling if they could access it through an adult’s computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Adelson has vowed to “spend whatever it takes” to end online gambling.

An Arlington-based organization also opposes it. “It’s hard to imagine anything more destructive than the prospect of turning every living room or dorm room in America into a poker table,” said Rodger Weems, chairman of the Arlington-based Stop Predatory Gambling Texas group. “This proposal would feed the obsession of the five to seven percent of gamblers who become addicted.

“It’s also impossible to keep underage gamblers from playing. Any kid with a credit card (his own or his parents’) will be able to gamble,” he said. “Representative Barton’s proposal is a recipe for certain disaster, and we will continue to fight to see that his bill never becomes law.”
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WHAT’S LEGAL?

Many gamblers are already online, playing for free or for money using offshore websites that aren’t subject to U.S. law. Since those sites aren’t governed by the U.S., winnings can’t be taxed and games can’t be regulated to make sure they are fair and accurate.

Texans can legally play poker in person at a friend’s home, for instance. They can play for money, in any amount. But the “house” can’t claim any of the pot or any money.

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis), said it is past time for more forms of poker to become legal in Texas.

“I go to Oklahoma about every three or four months to play poker,” he said. “I have yet to sit at a poker table at Winstar with someone who is not from Texas. And most times they are from the DFW area.”

Photo: TZA via Flickr

Tarrant County Democrats Turn Out To See The ‘Ready For Hillary’ Bus In Fort Worth

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

FORT WORTH, Texas — Rosalinda Martinez is ready for Hillary Clinton.

That’s why she headed downtown Wednesday night, in the rain, to try to catch a glimpse of the “Ready for Hillary” bus.

“I was hoping she would be on there,” Martinez said of the bus that is crossing the country, trying to build enthusiasm for a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. “I knew it was a long shot.”

But Martinez said she hopes it’s just a matter of time before Clinton declares that she is running for president.

“I am ready,” she said.

The bus was in Fort Worth this week as part of a more than year-long effort encouraging Clinton — the former first lady, senator and secretary of state — to run for president in 2016.

The visit comes just a day after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush revealed on Facebook that he is forming an exploratory committee for a possible 2016 presidential bid of his own, potentially setting up another Bush-Clinton match-up.

Bill Clinton won the last match-up in 1992, denying Jeb Bush’s father — former President George H.W. Bush — a second term in the White House.

Jeb’s son is George P. Bush, who next year will be sworn in as Texas’ newest land commissioner. His brother is former Texas Gov. and former President George W Bush.

Seth Bringman has been driving the bus across the country, through 44 states so far.

He said he brought it to Fort Worth at the request of Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Sergio De Leon.

“We definitely wanted to come to the area — North Texas — and let supporters here see the bus and be part of the effort,” said Bringman, communications director for the Ready for Hillary effort. “This is a good opportunity to harness the enthusiasm that’s out there for Hillary.

“This bus will be rolling every day until Hillary makes her decision.”

De Leon said he asked for the bus to come to North Texas to ramp up enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton.

“I can’t think of a person better qualified to lead this nation. Who else has a resume like she does?”

De Leon, U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), Fort Worth Mayor Pro Tem Sal Espino and Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairwoman Deborah Peoples were among those gathered to welcome the bus and talk to the crowd.

Many spoke of this year’s election and said it was a tough time for Democrats.

“On Nov. 4, something happened we didn’t want to see — we got our butts kicked across the state and in Tarrant County,” Peoples said. “But on Nov. 5, we got up and said, ‘We are Democrats. We don’t accept defeat.’

“We said, ‘Where do we go?’ Come on 2016,” she said. “We are going to put another Democrat back in the White House.”

Supporters say the goal is to line up an army of supporters for Clinton, hoping to make it easier for her to decide to jump in the race.

Longtime Clinton friends and former co-workers also have spread out throughout the country in the past year, as part of this grass-roots effort, talking to supporters and trying to build up support for this potential candidate.

A website touting the effort said the number of supporters has grown to nearly 3 million.

Tarrant County supporters of Hillary Clinton were the first last year to gather batches of donations in the amount of $20.16 — a trend that later spread nationwide — to help raise money for the effort.

A Virginia-based Ready for Hillary political action committee so far has raised nearly $9 million this year and spent slightly more than $8 million, leaving nearly $900,000 in cash on hand, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

In 2008, Clinton fought hard for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, battling with Barack Obama in state after state. For some time, many thought the presidential nomination might be decided by the party’s super delegates.

Texas had an influence on the race and will be long remembered for giving Clinton the popular vote in that year’s Democratic primary — but ultimately giving Obama the victory by awarding him more delegates through the caucus process.

As a result, the state’s two-tiered system, which that awards delegates through a popular vote and post election caucuses known as the “Texas Two-Step,” drew national scrutiny.

Turnout was so massive in precinct conventions after the polls closed that they essentially overwhelmed the system.

Espino said Tarrant County will be ready for the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Let’s make history again in 2016 by nominating Hillary Clinton for president,” he said.

Photo: Marc Nozell via Flickr

Texas Prepares To Execute Schizophrenic Inmate Despite Call For Clemency

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

As Texas prepares to execute its 11th inmate in a year with the fewest executions in nearly two decades, legal and mental health groups across the state and the nation are scrambling to spare Scott Panetti from the death chamber.

Panetti, a schizophrenic who is scheduled for lethal injection Dec. 3, was convicted of fatally shooting his in-laws in front of his estranged wife and children more than two decades ago in their home in Fredericksburg, Texas.

A new clemency petition has been filed to try to block the execution of Panetti, who acted as his own attorney and appeared in court wearing a purple cowboy suit and a 10-gallon hat. Some worry he is so mentally ill that he won’t understand why he is being put to death.

“The case of Scott Louis Panetti is a judicial disaster that has attracted national and international outrage — and for good reason,” according to the latest clemency petition. “Evidence of his incompetency runs like a fissure through every proceeding in his case — from arraignment to execution.

“The execution of Scott Panetti would cross a moral line.”

Texas, which has long led the nation in executions, is on track to put the fewest inmates to death since 1996 and some believe the death penalty may be fading away.

The state has 273 inmates on death row, state records show.

Nine executions are scheduled for the first four months of 2015.

“Texas has a deep commitment to the death penalty,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “In this state’s political culture, crime is to be treated very seriously, and the threat of the death penalty is one device that can be held over the head of criminals.

“The decrease in executions shows there is a very serious alternative to the death penalty.”

In 2005, legislators changed the law to give juries an alternative to the death penalty: life in prison without parole.

Since then, jurors have overwhelmingly chosen that option, giving 687 people life without parole, compared with 84 death sentences, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

A Gillespie County judge recently scheduled Panetti’s execution for Dec. 3.

But Panetti’s case has been in and out of the courts for years because of the 56-year-old’s history of mental illness.

Through the years, justices have tried to determine whether Panetti, who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, can understand that he has been sentenced to die and why.

“Mr. Panetti has not had a competency hearing in nearly seven years,” according to one letter calling for clemency. “He has a fixed delusion that his execution is being orchestrated by Satan, working through the State of Texas, to put an end to his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

During his trial in 1995, when he was convicted of killing his in-laws, Joe and Amanda Alvarado, Panetti tried to call President John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ as witnesses.
When Panetti refused to take his antipsychotic drugs, the judge allowed him to represent himself. Notes taken by Panetti’s standby counsel described his behavior as “trancelike,” “bizarre” and “scary.”

A group of officials including former Gov. Mark White has also written a clemency letter.
“We are deeply troubled that a capital sentence was the result of a trial where a man with schizophrenia represented himself, dressed in a costume,” the letter stated. “We come together from across the partisan and ideological divide and are united in our belief that, irrespective of whether we support or oppose the death penalty, this is not an appropriate case for execution.”

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has also sent a letter.

Panetti’s execution would be the 11th in Texas this year.

That’s the fewest since 1996, when there were three, state data show. But it’s still more than any other state this year: Florida and Missouri have had eight each, Oklahoma three, and Georgia, Ohio, and Arizona one each, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

“Texas is the capital of capital punishment,” said Richard Dieter, the center’s executive director. “Clearly, people see it as the most likely place to have an execution.”

But 2014 is a far cry from some of Texas’ busiest years for executions, when some said the state was home to the “conveyor belt of death.” There were 40 in 2000, 35 in 1999 and 37 in 1997.

“Things are changing in Texas,” Dieter said, adding that it’s not just demographics but also new laws and new elected officials. “Texas is not the dominant state in the death penalty that it has been.”

On average, an inmate spends 11 years on Death Row before being executed, state data show. A decline in executions was expected as the number of people sentenced to life without parole rose, Dieter said.

Before that option was added in 2005, Texas juries had two choices — the death penalty and life in prison with the possibility of parole, meaning that some inmates convicted at a young age could be released back into the community after serving 40 years.

When Gov. Rick Perry signed the life-without-parole measure into law, he said, “I believe this bill will improve our criminal justice system because it gives jurors a new option to protect the public with the certainty a convicted killer will never roam our streets again.”

The first year the option was available, only 17 people were sentenced to life without parole. That rose through the years, peaking at 109 in 2012. Through August this year, 69 people had been sentenced to life without parole, state records show.

Since the law changed, the number of people sentenced to death has hit double digits only three times — 10 in 2006, 15 in 2007 and 11 in 2009. This year, four people have been sent to death row, according to state records.

“With less death sentences coming in, it was bound to be true that the number of executions would go down as well,” Dieter said. “The whole system is receding.”

AFP Photo/Caroline Groussain

Wendy Davis Facing Long Odds In Texas Governor’s Race Without An ‘October Surprise’

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (MCT)

FORT WORTH, Texas — She has defied long odds before.

But most analysts say her winning streak is about to end.

With early voting underway for the Nov. 4 election, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth is in the home stretch of her all-but-impossible task: Persuading Texans to put a Democrat in the Governor’s Mansion after nearly two decades of Republican leadership.

To become the state’s 48th governor, she must best the well-known, heavily financed GOP nominee, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

And while she has seen unlikely wins before in Tarrant County — knocking off established state Sen. Kim Brimer (R-Arlington) in her first bid for Texas Senate and winning an unlikely re-election bid over then-state Rep. Mark Shelton (R-Fort Worth) — experts and operatives in both parties agree pulling off a statewide surprise isn’t in the cards this time.

“Texas continues to be a very red state,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. “Today, every Democratic statewide candidate starts off at around a 15-point disadvantage, a gap which is virtually impossible to overcome barring significant and visible unforced errors by their GOP rival.

“Wendy Davis’ odds of victory right now are at best 1-in-100, with only an almost unprecedented October surprise standing between Greg Abbott and victory,” he said. “The Davis campaign was a long shot the day she launched her candidacy and continues to be one today.”

That’s what pundits have predicted in past races Davis has run — and won, said state Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), who is Davis’ campaign manager.

“That’s exactly what people said in 2008 and 2012, in Wendy’s two state Senate races,” he said. “She proved them wrong both times.

“People thought she couldn’t win, and she did it on the strength of having broad support.”

And he said she will do it again this time.

Republicans have long claimed Abbott is the heir apparent to Gov. Rick Perry. He has led in the polls and in fundraising, with the most recent reports showing he has $30 million to her $5.7 million in cash on hand.

When Davis entered the race, even Democrats said she faced an uphill battle in Texas, where their party last won statewide office in 1994 and hasn’t given their gubernatorial candidate more than 45 percent of the vote since Ann Richards won with 49 percent in 1990.

No matter what happens on Election Day, some local Democrats say they still believe in Davis.

“We knew that any Democrat — whether it was Wendy Davis or somebody else — who ran for governor would have an uphill battle,” said Steve Maxwell, a former Tarrant County Democratic Party chairman. “Heck, George Washington himself could come back to life, move to Texas, run as a Democrat and lose.

“I still think that it’s an uphill battle, but I’m not going to be one bit surprised that she pulls it off.”

Others have the utmost confidence in Abbott.

“He will be much better for Texas than Wendy Davis can be,” Shelton said. “I think he’s going to be a great governor.”

Other candidates on the ballot for governor are Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Brandon Parmer.
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Davis has prevailed in races she wasn’t expected to win.

She beat a sitting Republican senator, Brimer, in 2008, in a district that had morphed into a “swing district,” meaning it could sway to either party depending on turnout.

That year, Brimer and others filed lawsuits claiming Davis wasn’t eligible to run for the Senate seat because she was still a City Council member when she filed to run. A state district court ruled she was an eligible candidate.

She won with 49.91 percent of the vote to Brimer’s 47.52 percent and Libertarian Richard A. Cross’ 2.56 percent of the vote.

“Kim Brimer did not run a strong campaign against Wendy Davis,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “(And) a third-party candidate may have taken away some conservative votes that may have gone to Brimer.”

In 2012, she bested Shelton, a local pediatrician who was backed by Republicans across the state who wanted to reclaim Senate District 10 for their party.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was among those who campaigned for Shelton. “I would love to see a conservative that understands what we need to do” elected to that seat, Dewhurst said at the time. “I’ve got my fingers crossed that the next senator (for District 10 is) Mark Shelton.”

Davis claimed 51.12 percent of the vote to Shelton’s 48.87 percent.

Meanwhile, Abbott has won all of his statewide elections handily — first as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court and then as Texas’ attorney general.

His lowest margin of victory came in 2002, when he first ran for attorney general, and he bested Democrat Kirk Watson by claiming 56.72 percent of the vote.

His highest margin of victory came in 1996, when he was first on the ballot for the Texas Supreme Court, and he drew 84.10 percent of the vote. He was first appointed to the court by then-Gov. George W. Bush in 1995.
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Some say Davis was helped in 2008 and 2012 because Barack Obama was at the top of the ticket and voters in Texas and nationwide flocked to the polls to weigh in on the historic elections.

Both years, more than 8 million Texans voted in the presidential elections, compared with the less than 5 million who generally cast ballots in the gubernatorial elections, state election records show.

“Wendy has never been on a ballot for state office when Obama was not at the top of the ballot,” Shelton said. “In 2012, I was running against Wendy. But I was also running against Obama. He was bringing out the votes.”

Turner noted that Obama did not win Senate District 10 either of those years.

“And she won anyway,” he said. “This is an election about who is going to lead Texas into the future. As much as Greg Abbott and others would like to make it about national politics, it’s about who is going to fight for our schoolchildren (and) equal pay for women, and who is going to clean up the culture of corruption in Austin.”

Obama isn’t on the ballot this year, but his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, has already recorded a radio ad encouraging voters to support Davis.

And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — a Democrat and potential 2016 presidential contender — has sent out an email asking Democrats to support Davis and donate to her campaign.

___

Davis gained national attention last year from her more than 11-hour filibuster against a comprehensive abortion bill, helping propel her into the gubernatorial race.

But political observers say the massive number of people who focused on the Texas Capitol for the debate over that bill the night it died, and the night a few weeks later when it passed, may not be tuned in to politics right now.

Some say abortion — a controversial, divisive, highly emotional issue — could be the very issue that prevents some Texans from supporting her.

“Her filibuster hurt her more than she understands,” Shelton said.

For so long, Davis focused on other campaign issues — education, veterans, budget, transportation. Then, in September, she released a campaign memoir, Forgetting to Be Afraid, that noted she ended two pregnancies for medical reasons in the 1990s, bringing the issue full circle.

One was an ectopic pregnancy, where an embryo is outside the uterus, and in the other, the fetus had a severe brain abnormality.
___

Historically, more voters turn out for presidential than midterm elections.

Recent presidential elections drew 59 percent (2012), 63 percent (2008), 61 percent (2004) and 55 percent (2000) turnout nationwide, according to the Center for Voting and Democracy.

That’s compared with midterm elections that drew 42 percent (2010), 41 percent (2006), 41 percent (2002) and 39 percent (1998) nationwide.

Part of Davis’ strategy has long been to try to draw some of those presidential-election-only-voters out to the polls this year, Turner said.

“Turnout drops off across the board in every state in a non-presidential year,” he said. “A key part of our strategy in this campaign has been to reach out and engage Democratic voters who don’t typically vote in a non-presidential year.

“We know there are enough voters out there.”

The “margin of defeat” is always a big factor to both political parties, no matter who the victor is.

In 2010, Perry bested Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White, 55 percent to 42 percent. In 2006, he claimed 39 percent to win over Democrat Chris Bell (30 percent), independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn (18 percent) and independent Kinky Friedman (12 percent), state election records show.

And in 2002, Perry earned 58 percent over Democrat Tony Sanchez, who had 40 percent.

“The interesting aspect of this race is not whether or not Wendy Davis is going to lose,” Jones said. “There is no real doubt that she is going to lose, and really there never has been.

“If she loses by more than Bill White (12.7 percentage points) in 2010, then that will represent a serious political setback for both Davis and Texas Democrats.”

But if she reduces that margin, “then that would generate a virtuous circle of optimism, enthusiasm, expanding resources and higher candidate quality within the Texas Democratic Party, as well as place Davis (in) position for any future statewide political candidacy.”

Photo: The Texas Tribune via Flickr

Texas Leaders Order Trooper Surge To Deal With Border Problems

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, Texas — Top Texas officials directed Department of Public Safety troopers late Wednesday to begin a surge to secure the Texas-Mexico border in the wake of an growing number of illegal immigrants flooding into the southern part of the state.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus signed off on a plan to spend $1.3 million a week to try to combat the problem, even as a group of conservative state lawmakers asked them to call the Legislature back to work in a special session to address the situation.

“Texas can’t afford to wait for Washington to act on this crisis and we will not sit idly by while the safety and security of our citizens are threatened,” Perry said in a statement. “Until the federal government recognizes the danger it’s putting our citizens in by its inaction to secure the border, Texas law enforcement must do everything they can to keep our citizens and communities safe.”

Perry, Dewhurst and Straus released a joint letter directing DPS officials to move forward with surge operations through at least the end of the calendar year, using any money allocated for the agency. They noted that previous law enforcement surge operations in the border proved effective.

This came as a number of state legislators asked for a special session to try to find their own solution.

“This is a big deal,” said state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who plans to head to the border next week. “We can’t wait for this.

“It has to be done right and it has to be done now.”

Some Democrats have said adding resources to the border is not the solution.

“What is needed are not more ‘boots on the ground’ or any other euphemisms for the militarization that both impacts border residents’ daily lives and is inadequate to deal with the specific issue at hand,” said state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso.

The U.S. Border Patrol reported making nearly 160,000 arrests since Oct. 1 on Texas’ southwest border.

Stickland said he would like the Legislature to first help children who are here illegally. Then he wants the state to “turn off all the benefits we can from the state level” — such as health care — to reduce the draw for immigrants.

And he would like lawmakers to authorize a surge to identify and stop people benefiting from the immigration boom, such as sex or human traffickers.

“That’s what the state of Texas can and should be doing,” Stickland said.

An online petition launched last week has drawn more than 4,500 signatures form those who want the Legislature called back to work.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and the GOP’s pick for lieutenant governor next year, this week called on top state leaders to free up the $1.3 million a week to sustain operations along the southern Texas border.

“In January 2015, the Legislature must take up border security as the first priority of the new session,” Patrick said in a statement. “As lieutenant governor, I will insist our budget funds border security at levels recommended by Texas law enforcement on a 24/7/365 day basis.

“We must do all we can to protect Texans until Washington meets its responsibility to secure our border and pass(es) responsible legal immigration reform, which brings an end to illegal immigration.”

Stickland said he hopes to head to South Texas next week to see the immigration problem first-hand.

He is among many heading to the border.

Last weekend, Republican Tony Tinderholt — who bested Diane Patrick in the GOP primary this year and faces Democrat Cole Ballweg in the race for District 94 in November — spent time in Falfurrias observing and reporting those illegally coming into Texas.

He posted photos on Facebook saying that he was “on patrol, catching illegal immigrants tonight.” He said he later changed the post once he realized that he and those with whom he was monitoring private ranch land would only watch and observe — and report anyone they believed was illegally there to the Border Patrol.

“It was an eye opener,” Tinderholt said of his hours monitoring private ranch land with the Texas Border Volunteers. “We went out at night, sat with night vision and infrared vision. We saw four people, hands on top of each others’ shoulders and we called Border Patrol, who came out.”

Tinderholt said the stories he heard were stunning of the women and children who crossed the border with broken limbs or died on the ranches.

“It was saddening and disappointing, but a necessity,” he said, adding that he hopes to soon return to South Texas to spend time with DPS troopers and Customs and Border Patrol workers there.

Ballweg wrote a blog post criticizing Tinderholt for the trip.

“The U.S. Congress has a responsibility to secure our borders,” he wrote, “and we need people like Tony Tinderholt to stop exploiting the issue of immigration for political purposes and start getting behind the kind of real reform that will solve the problem.”

Photo via Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/MCT

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Patrick Topples Dewhurst In Texas Lieutenant Governor’s Race

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, Texas—Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick has taken an insurmountable lead Tuesday night in the brutal, multimillion-dollar Republican battle for one of the most powerful posts in Texas government.

Following weeks of personal attacks, accusations — even the unveiling of one candidate’s private medical history to reveal a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital three decades ago — Patrick drew nearly 65 percent of the vote to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s 35 percent, according to incomplete results provided by the Texas Secretary of State.

“Ronald Reagan said, ‘I don’t have enemies, I have opponents,’” Patrick said before the polls closed Tuesday. “And you’ve heard me say so many times, I’m a Christian first. I’m trying to walk that talk.

“So it’s all forgiven in my view. It’s in the rear view mirror. Let’s move on,” he said. “And let’s all work together to defeat the Democrats. They’re our real opponents.”

Democrats said Patrick is not the right choice for Texans.

“Someone with a record of vile, toxic rhetoric is simply unfit to lead our great state,” said Emmanuel Garcia, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party.

Several other statewide races were on their way to being decided late Tuesday as well.

For Republicans, Ken Paxton took a lead in the attorney general race, as did Sid Miller in the agriculture commissioner race and Ryan Sitton in the railroad commission race.

For Democrats, David M. Alameel appeared easily headed to victory in the U.S. Senate race as did Jim Hogan in the agriculture commissioner race.

“Texas voters have continued to demonstrate their steadfast commitment to the conservative values and initiatives that have and will continue to keep our state on the pathway toward greater opportunity,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican Party’s gubernatorial nominee, said. “Now more than ever, we must work together to make tomorrow’s Texas even better than today’s.”

The race to become Texas’ lieutenant governor, the No. 2 in state government, has been one of the nastiest political battles in the country.

The matchup pitted Dewhurst, an 11-year establishment Republican incumbent, against Patrick, a radio talk show host with tea party support who describes himself as an “authentic” conservative candidate.

For many, this high-profile race boiled down to establishment Republicans versus grassroots tea party members — as did the 2012 race for the U.S. Senate between political newcomer Ted Cruz and Dewhurst. Cruz won that primary runoff and went on to win the general election.

As it came to an end Tuesday night, Dewhurst praised supporters gathered in Houston for sticking with him. And he said it’s time to look to the future.

“It’s an honor to serve with you and ladies and gentlemen, if you ever need me, I’ve got your back,” he said. “Tomorrow we rise to a new challenge together.”

This costly, heated battle became more inflamed in the weeks before the election when documents that showed Patrick had been hospitalized for depression in the 1980s were given to the media.

Patrick said he admitted himself, but added that his emotional state is much better and that he hasn’t needed treatment or medication in about 30 years. And he said that while the information was released by his former opponent, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, he believed Dewhurst — a millionaire businessman who found himself running an underdog campaign — stooped “to a new low.”

Patterson said he released the information because he believed all Texans needed to know about it.

Just days before the election, Patrick offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could produce an audio copy of a telephone push poll being conducted against him. “David Dewhurst won’t be able to hide from this dirty trick,” Patrick said. “He has run a disgustingly negative, mean spirited, campaign.”

In March, Patrick claimed 41 percent of the vote to the 28 percent claimed by Dewhurst. Trailing them were Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Patterson, who shared 30 percent of the vote.

The winner of the primary faces Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio in November’s general election.

Photo: The Texas Tribune via Flickr

The Ted Cruz Effect: Political Gold

By Anna M. Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, Texas — Ted Cruz is not on the March 4 primary ballot.

But his likeness is all over TV and in campaign materials, as a slew of Republican candidates on the primary ballot are using his words and — in rare occasions — his endorsement to reach out to voters.

This year, having Cruz weigh in any way possible “is political gold,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

His thumbs-up for a candidate serves “as a signal to Cruz’s plethora of supporters within the GOP primary electorate who the ‘true’ movement conservative in the race is,” he said.

And that has made a number of candidates try to link themselves to the state’s junior senator any way possible.

Cruz skyrocketed to national attention in 2012 after defeating Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a battle for U.S. Senate that turned into a classic tea party-versus-establishment-Republican, David-versus-Goliath fight.

He has remained in headlines for constantly criticizing the Obama administration and the health care law.

“Because of his activity in the Senate, and how he has been so vocal, a lot of people are happy with him about that,” said Jen Hall, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party. “There are a chunk of the voters who probably will pay attention” to his support of a candidate. “Whether or not is swings a race to put someone over the top remains to be seen.”

Democrats caution Republicans about jumping onto the Ted Cruz bandwagon.

“When you start appealing to a very small part of Texas’ population — the Republican primary voter — it’s going to affect the general election,” said Manny Garcia, a spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party. “Some of these positions he’s expressed would be a concern to everyday Texans. While it may be beneficial to align themselves with Ted Cruz right now, down the road [in the November 4 general election] it may come back to bite them.”

Here’s a look at some of the Texas Republicans who have linked themselves to Cruz this political season:

  • In the Senate District 10 race, Republican Konni Burton of Colleyville snagged one of the few endorsements Cruz has given. “She’s a tireless, unwavering warrior for the conservative cause. Konni is a fighter and will serve the people of Texas well. I urge voters in her district to support her,” Cruz has said.
  • In the race for the 32nd Congressional District, which pits longtime U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas against tea party activist Katrina Pierson, the challenger’s website features a photo of Cruz and a quote from him: “Katrina Pierson is an utterly fearless, principled conservative.”
  • Four Republicans on the Texas Supreme Court who are seeking re-election — Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and Justices Jeff Brown, Jeff Boyd and Phil Johnson — picked up a joint endorsement from Cruz. “I wholeheartedly endorse all of them,” he posted on his Facebook page. “These justices are judicial conservatives, and we can depend on them to uphold the law.” Hecht is among those touting the endorsement on his website.
  • State Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, is running for Texas Attorney General and his website features a photo of him standing next to Cruz with one comment from the senator: “Ken Paxton is a tireless conservative warrior.”
  • Wayne Christian, a Republican seeking a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, has sent out campaign fliers featuring photos of Cruz with the question “Who stood with Ted Cruz?” and the answer “Wayne Christian stood with Ted Cruz when he was only polling 2 percent.”

“Ted Cruz is very popular in Texas,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “He is very popular among the tea party people and is really a charismatic public figure to those that like him. His endorsements do carry weight, perhaps more than other endorsements, because voters know who he is.”

Jones did note that there are two sides to every coin.

“Ted Cruz has probably done more than any other single politician to shift the center of gravity within the Texas GOP primary competition even further to the right this season,” Jones said. “Most observers would view this as bad news for the future of the Texas GOP, since the party’s rightward drift takes it further and further away from the Hispanic and Anglo millennial voters who will be playing an increasingly prominent role in determining who governs Texas in the future.”

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr