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Texas Supreme Court justice resigns, creates midterm vacancy

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman retired from her seat on the state’s highest court effective Friday, June 11. Her resignation letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) did not provide a reason for her departure. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Abbott’s fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court.

Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The Texas State Senate must then confirm the nominee. Appointees serve until the next general election, in which he or she must participate in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the remainder of the unexpired term.

Guzman joined the Texas Supreme Court in 2009. She was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Guzman was the first Hispanic woman appointed to the state’s highest court. Upon winning election to the seat in 2010, she became the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Prior to her appointment to the supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and as an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals. She practiced law as a litigator in Houston before becoming a judge. Guzman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston, a J.D. from the South Texas College of Law, and an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law.

Following Guzman’s retirement, the Texas Supreme Court includes the following members:

• Nathan Hecht, appointed by Perry in 2013

• Jimmy Blacklock, appointed by Abbott in 2018

• Debra Lehrmann, appointed by Perry in 2010

• John Devine, elected in 2012

• Rebeca Huddle, appointed by Abbott in 2020

• Jane Bland, appointed by Abbott in 2019

• Jeffrey S. Boyd, appointed by Perry in 2012

• Brett Busby, appointed by Abbott in 2019

All current members of the court identify as Republicans.

In 2021, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in 11 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

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Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigns

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigned on June 11, 2021. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court. At the time of Guzman’s resignation, all nine judges on the court identified with the Republican party. 

Guzman was appointed to the court by Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2009. She was elected to a full term in 2010, becoming the first Latina woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Guzman was re-elected in 2016, defeating Democrat Savannah Robinson, 56% to 39%.

Before she was appointed to the state supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and as an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals.

The Texas Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort for civil matters and has nine judgeships. Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The appointment is subject to confirmation from the Texas State Senate. Once confirmed, the judge will serve until the next general election, at which point they must run in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the rest of the unexpired term.

In 2021, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in 11 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.

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Two incumbents lose re-election bids in Fort Worth City Council runoffs

The general runoff election for the Fort Worth City Council in Texas was held on June 5. The general election was held on May 1, and the filing deadline to run passed on Feb. 21. Races for City Council Districts 6, 7, 8, and 9 were decided in the runoff.

Both incumbents who ran in the runoff election lost their seats. Jungus Jordan lost his District 6 seat to Jared Williams, and Kelly Allen Gray lost her District 8 seat to Chris Nettles. Leonard Firestone won District 7, and Elizabeth Beck won District 9. 

Jared Williams completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey before the runoff. In it, Williams said that he “will be laser-focused on building a just and prosperous Fort Worth by growing strong jobs, affordable housing for our workforce and communities where families have access to safe neighborhoods, excellent public education and 21st century City services.”

All eight city council seats, as well as the mayor’s office, were up for election in 2021. In the general election, incumbent Carlos Flores won re-election in District 2, newcomer Michael Crain won in District 3, incumbent Cary Moon won re-election in District 4, and incumbent Gyna Bivens won re-election in District 5.

In 2019, all Fort Worth City Council incumbents were re-elected to their seats in the May 4 general election. A total of 38,798 votes were cast in the 2019 mayoral race.

In 2017, the District 3 incumbent lost re-election, and the District 2 incumbent chose not to run. The vote totals in 2017 were lower than those seen in 2019 with 33,038 votes cast in the mayoral election.

The 2021 elections saw an increase in voter turnout, with total votes in the general election equalling 66,519 and total votes in the runoff coming to 88,295.

Outside of Fort Worth, there have been six city council elections in the top 100 cities in Texas thus far in 2021.

  • In Arlington, two incumbents ran for re-election, and both won their respective districts.
  • In Dallas, incumbents ran in 11 of the 14 city council races. Eight incumbents won re-election in the May 1 general election. In the June 5 runoff, two incumbents won re-election in the runoff election, and one was defeated.
  • The San Antonio City Council election saw eight of the 10 incumbents run for re-election. One incumbent won and two lost in the June 5 runoff election. The other five won re-election in the general election on May 1.
  • Plano City Council had four council members up for election. Three incumbents ran for election and won. The fourth seat was up for special election and did not have an incumbent.
  • Irving City Council had three seats up for re-election. Incumbents ran in all three races. Two of them won re-election, and one was defeated.
  • Garland City Council saw three incumbents run unopposed. District 1 and District 3 did not have an incumbent in the race.

Nationwide, 282 city council seats were up for re-election in the top 100 cities in 2019. Of the 196 incumbents who ran for re-election, 12.8% were defeated. Between 2014 and 2020, an average of 12.9% of city council incumbents were defeated nationwide.

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Two incumbents lose re-election bids in Fort Worth City Council runoffs

The general runoff election for the Fort Worth City Council in Texas was held on June 5. The general election was held on May 1, and the filing deadline to run passed on Feb. 21. Races for City Council Districts 6, 7, 8, and 9 were decided in the runoff.

Both incumbents who ran in the runoff election lost their seats. Jungus Jordan lost his District 6 seat to Jared Williams, and Kelly Allen Gray lost her District 8 seat to Chris Nettles. Leonard Firestone won District 7, and Elizabeth Beck won District 9. 

Jared Williams completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey before the runoff. In it, Williams said that he “will be laser-focused on building a just and prosperous Fort Worth by growing strong jobs, affordable housing for our workforce and communities where families have access to safe neighborhoods, excellent public education and 21st century City services.”

All eight city council seats, as well as the mayor’s office, were up for election in 2021. In the general election, incumbent Carlos Flores won re-election in District 2, newcomer Michael Crain won in District 3, incumbent Cary Moon won re-election in District 4, and incumbent Gyna Bivens won re-election in District 5.

In 2019, all Fort Worth City Council incumbents were re-elected to their seats in the May 4 general election. A total of 38,798 votes were cast in the 2019 mayoral race.

In 2017, the District 3 incumbent lost re-election, and the District 2 incumbent chose not to run. The vote totals in 2017 were lower than those seen in 2019 with 33,038 votes cast in the mayoral election.

The 2021 elections saw an increase in voter turnout, with total votes in the general election equalling 66,519 and total votes in the runoff coming to 88,295.

Outside of Fort Worth, there have been six city council elections in the top 100 cities in Texas thus far in 2021.

  • In Arlington, two incumbents ran for re-election, and both won their respective districts.
  • In Dallas, incumbents ran in 11 of the 14 city council races. Eight incumbents won re-election in the May 1 general election. In the June 5 runoff, two incumbents won re-election in the runoff election, and one was defeated.
  • The San Antonio City Council election saw eight of the 10 incumbents run for re-election. One incumbent won and two lost in the June 5 runoff election. The other five won re-election in the general election on May 1.
  • Plano City Council had four council members up for election. Three incumbents ran for election and won. The fourth seat was up for special election and did not have an incumbent.
  • Irving City Council had three seats up for re-election. Incumbents ran in all three races. Two of them won re-election, and one was defeated.
  • Garland City Council saw three incumbents run unopposed. District 1 and District 3 did not have an incumbent in the race.

Nationwide, 282 city council seats were up for re-election in the top 100 cities in 2019. Of the 196 incumbents who ran for re-election, 12.8% were defeated. Between 2014 and 2020, an average of 12.9% of city council incumbents were defeated nationwide.

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Mattie Parker defeats Deborah Peoples in Fort Worth mayoral runoff election

Mattie Parker defeated Deborah Peoples in the Fort Worth mayoral runoff election on June 5, 2021. Parker received 54% of the vote to Peoples’ 46%. Parker and Peoples advanced to the runoff from the general election on May 1, 2021. Incumbent Mayor Betsy Price (R) did not run for re-election.

Prior to the election, Parker worked in education and as the chief of staff for the Fort Worth Mayor and City Council. She received endorsements from incumbent Mayor Price, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Price was first elected in 2011, and then re-elected in 2015 and 2019. In 2019, Price won with 56% of the vote, and Peoples was the runner-up with 42%. Prior to Price’s 2011 win, Fort Worth had not elected an openly Republican mayor in twenty years. In the 2020 and 2016 presidential elections, Joe Biden (D) and Hillary Clinton (D) won the city with 52% and 56% of the vote, respectively.

Heading into 2021, the mayors of 25 of the country’s 100 largest cities, including Fort Worth were affiliated with the Republican Party. The mayors of 64 of the 100 largest cities were affiliated with the Democratic Party.

To read more about the mayoral runoff election in Fort Worth, click here:

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Jim Ross defeats Michael Glaspie in mayoral runoff election in Arlington, Texas

Attorney Jim Ross defeated former city councilor Michael Glaspie in the general election runoff for mayor of Arlington, Texas, on June 5, 2021. Ross received 54.4% of the vote to Glaspie’s 45.6%. This was the first mayoral election in Arlington since 2003 without an incumbent on the ballot. Mayor Jeff Williams (R) was term-limited and unable to seek re-election.

Ross received an early endorsement from Williams and described his campaign as a continuation of the incumbent’s tenure. On his campaign website, Ross wrote, “as Mayor Williams approaches the end of his last term in office, the big question is, ‘Where do we go from here?’ The answer is simple, FORWARD!”

Before entering the election, Ross owned a law firm and Mercury Chophouse, a local restaurant. He previously worked as a police officer with the Arlington Police Department and served on the board of directors for the Arlington Police Foundation. In addition to his endorsement from Williams, Ross received endorsements from Arlington’s four police unions.



Dallas voters elect four new members to City Council in runoff elections

Dallas, Texas, voters elected four new members to the City Council in the June 5, 2021 city runoff elections.

Elections for six of the 14 seats on the city council advanced to runoffs from the May 1 general election, including three with incumbents. One incumbent lost re-election. In District 14, Paul Ridley defeated incumbent David Blewett 61% to 39%. In District 4, incumbent Carolyn King Arnold defeated Maxie Johnson 55% to 45%. In District 7, incumbent Adam Bazaldua defeated Kevin Felder 64% to 36%.

Blewett was the only incumbent to lose an election in 2021. In 2019, two incumbents lost re-election: Kevin Felder in District 7 and Philip Kingston in District 14, who was defeated by Blewett. In 2017, four incumbents lost re-election and in 2015, all incumbents were re-elected.

In Districts 2, 11, and 13, incumbent councilmembers Adam Medrano, Lee Kleinman, and Jennifer Staubach Gates did not run for re-election due to term limits. In District 2, Jesse Moreno defeated Sana Syed 58% to 43%. In District 11, Jaynie Schultz defeated Barry Wernick 54% to 46%. In District 13, Gay Donnell Willis defeated Leland Burk 54% to 47%.

The Dallas City Council is the city’s primary legislative body. It is responsible for approving and adopting the city budget, levying taxes, and making or amending city laws, policies and ordinances. All fourteen seats on the Dallas City Council are up for election every two years.

To read more about the 2021 Dallas City Council elections, click here:



Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigns as Texas Secretary of State

Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigned as Texas secretary of state effective May 31, after the Nominations Committee of the Texas State Senate did not take up her nomination for another term.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed Hughs on August 19, 2019, to succeed David Whitley after he did not receive enough confirmation votes from the state Senate to remain in office. Hughs previously served as the chair of the Texas Workforce Commission.

The Texas secretary serves as the chief election officer for Texas, assists election officials at the county level, and ensures that election laws are uniformly throughout Texas. Additionally, the secretary publishes government rules and regulations and commissions notaries public.

Texas is one of nine states where the governor selects the secretary of state. So far, Gov. Abbott has appointed four secretaries of state.

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Texas voters will decide in November whether to allow counties to issue bonds to fund infrastructure in blighted areas

On May 28, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment that would add counties to the list of political subdivisions that may issue bonds to fund transportation and infrastructure projects in underdeveloped or blighted areas of the county. Currently, the Texas Constitution states that the legislature by general law may authorize incorporated cities and towns to issue such bonds. The proposed amendment would also prohibit counties from allocating more than 65% of property tax revenue increases annually to repay the bonds and prohibit counties from using the funds from the issuance of the bonds to build toll roads.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was filed as House Joint Resolution 99 (HJR 99) on February 24, 2021. On May 13, 2021, the state House passed HJR 99 in a vote of 127-15, with eight absent or not voting. On May 26, the Senate approved an amended version of HJR 99 by a vote of 27-4. On May 28, the House voted to pass the amended version of HJR 99 by a vote of 126-13 with 11 absent or not voting.

The amendment is the eighth referred to the ballot during the 2021 legislative session, which adjourned on May 31. In November, Texas voters will also be deciding on

  1. limitations on religious services;
  2. a right to a designated essential caregiver in a nursing facility;
  3. homestead tax limits and exemptions for surviving spouses of disabled individuals and military service members;
  4. eligibility requirements for state judicial office;
  5. the power of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct over candidates seeking judicial office; and
  6. charitable raffles at rodeo venues.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Legislators were permitted to file constitutional amendments through March 12, 2021, unless permission was given to introduce an amendment after the deadline.

• Democrats filed 92 (42.2%) of the constitutional amendments.

• Republicans filed 126 (57.8%) of the constitutional amendments.

• In the state Senate, 58 (26.6%) of the constitutional amendments were filed.

• In the state House, 160 (73.4%) of the constitutional amendments were filed.

• Of the Democrats, Rep. Richard Raymond (D-42) filed the most constitutional amendments—eight.

• Of the Republicans, Rep. Cody Vasut (R-25) filed the most constitutional amendments—seven.

Eight proposed constitutional amendments that received a vote in at least one chamber died with the adjournment of the legislative session. The amendments related to extending emergency declarations, property tax exemptions for certain physicians, the issuance of bonds, the reliability of state utilities, denial of bail for certain crimes, and the state budget. 

Between 2009 and 2020, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%. In 2021, 8 of the 218 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 3.7%, down from 4.6% in 2019.

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Constitutional amendment establishing a right to a designated essential caregiver will be on the November ballot in Texas

On May 27, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would provide residents of nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and state-supported living centers with a right to designate an essential caregiver who may not be prohibited from visiting the resident. It would also authorize the Texas State Legislature to pass guidelines for facilities to establish visitation policies and procedures for essential caregivers.

Senate Bill 25, the implementing legislation for the amendment, was approved in the last few days of the 2021 legislative session. SB 25 requires the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to develop guidelines for the visitation policy of designated essential caregivers. The guidelines are required to include a visitation schedule, a minimum duration for visitation, physical contact between caregiver and the resident, and rules on safety protocols including a signature that a caregiver will comply with all protocols. 

The bill would also allow the facility to revoke the designation of the caregiver if the caregiver does not follow the protocols. The resident would be allowed to immediately designate a new essential caregiver. SB 25 would also allow nursing facilities to petition the Health and Human Services Commission to suspend visitation for an initial seven days and up to 14 days in a year if there is a health risk. The commission would be allowed to deny the petition if they disagree with there being a health risk. The law was designed to take effect on September 1, 2021.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R) said, “Visiting a loved one in a nursing home should be a right, not a privilege. If another health emergency occurs, our state’s caregivers will always have a way to safely go inside a facility for scheduled visits and ensure that their loved one’s physical, social, and emotional needs are being met.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 19 (SJR 19) on March 3. On March 17, the state Senate passed SJR 19 in a vote of 29-0 with two absent. The House passed an amended version of SJR 19 on May 24, by a vote of 142-1 with seven not voting or not present. On May 27, the Senate concurred with the House amendments.

The amendment is the second referred to the Texas ballot that is related to policies put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. The legislature also voted to refer an amendment that would prohibit the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services or organizations. 

As of May 28, Ballotpedia has identified 11 ballot measures certified for statewide ballots that were proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations. On May 18, 2021, Pennsylvanians approved two constitutional amendments related to the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the pandemic. The other ballot measures will be decided in 2022 and concern changes to election procedures, convening legislative sessions, and increasing appropriations limits during emergencies.

Since 1876 when the Texas constitution was adopted, it has been amended 507 times. Voters approved 91% (154 of 169) and rejected 9% (15 of 169) of the constitutional amendments on ballots between 1995 and 2019.

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