State Capital Highlights

Cruz beats Dewhurst in primary runoff



Voting in party primaries May 29 and runoff elections July 31 set the Nov. 6 general election ballot for Texas voters.

Texas had 13,065,425 residents who qualified to vote in the primaries and runoffs. Republican turnout statewide was 8.5 percent of the total while the Democratic turnout was 1.8 percent, according to tabulations posted by the Secretary of State’s Elections Division last week.

Republican Ted Cruz of Houston and Democrat Paul Sadler of Henderson will face off for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated at the end of the year by Kay Bailey Hutchison of Dallas. Hutchison, who has held the Senate seat for more than 19 years, was state treasurer when she won the election to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, who resigned the Senate seat after he was appointed U.S. treasurer by then-President Bill Clinton. Hutchison went on to win three consecutive six-year Senate terms. Three broadcast debates and waves of televised campaign advertising raised the profile of Cruz’s primary bout with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. On May 29 Dewhurst got nearly 45 percent of the vote and Cruz, 34 percent, in a field of nine candidates. Had either candidate garnered 50 percent or more, a runoff would have been unnecessary. Both the primary and the runoff were watched nationally and made headlines. Much was made over Cruz’s never having been elected to a public office and running successfully against the widely known Dewhurst, who was cast as the “establishment candidate.”

In the Democratic runoff, Sadler, with 63 percent of the vote, topped his opponent Grady Yarbrough’s 37 percent.

Picking here from the list of runoff winners was state Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, who will face former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, in the race for retiring Congressman Ron Paul’s Congressional Dist. 14 that includes Brazoria, Galveston and Jefferson counties.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, won the runoff against former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, and will face Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Francisco Canseco whose enormous Cong. Dist. 23 runs from San Antonio to El Paso.

Also notably, incumbent state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, lost his runoff with Donna Campbell for Sen. Dist. 25, which includes part of Bexar and Travis counties and Comal, Guadalupe, Hays and Kendall counties. And, incumbent state Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, lost his runoff with Travis Clardy for Rep. Dist. 11, which includes Rusk, Cherokee and Nacogdoches counties.

For more statewide and county election results, go to <sos.>.

Janek to head HHS

Gov. Rick Perry on July 30 appointed Dr. Kyle Janek as executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, effective Sept. 1, and announced Chris Traylor will serve as the agency’s chief deputy commissioner.

Texas Health and Human Services Commission oversees the state Medicaid program and the operations of five state agencies that employ more than 55,000 employees and have a combined annual budgets of more than $30 billion.

Janek a medical doctor and an anesthesiologist replaces retiring Tom Suehs at the post. Janek was a member of the Texas Legislature, serving in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2002 and 2003 to 2008. Traylor has served as commissioner of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services since 2010.

Monitoring goes digital

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Aug. 2 announced its launch of a secure online version of the secure online prescriptionmonitoring program, called Prescription Access in Texas.

Controlled substance prescription dispensing history is made available under the program to authorized health care and law enforcement professionals, the DPS said.

When the program was officially launched in June, the database was available only to a select group of practitioners, pharmacists and law enforcement professionals, but last week, access was extended “to additional physicians and law enforcement, mid-level practitioners, medical board and nursing board investigators,” the DPS said.

In 1982, the Texas Legislature created the original prescription drug-monitoring program, the Texas Prescription Program, but access was through a manual paper process.

Vets’ loan rate lowered

Texas Veterans Land Board, a division of the General Land Office created in 1946 to help returning World War II veterans, voted Jul 26 to drop interest rates on land loans to 6.75 percent.

The previous rate was 7.25 percent. Under the loan program, veterans may borrow as much as $100,000 to buy land and up to $417,000 to buy a home.

ED STERLING the Director of Member Services at Texas Press Association.

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