The Mignon Memo

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Posted February 19, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Early Voting in Texas Has Begun

Early voting in Texas started yesterday and will run through Friday, February 28 – here’s everything you need to know to vote early and make Ryan Gosling happy.

Texas State Senator Kirk Watson Resigns

Effective April 30th, Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) will resign from the Texas Senate to become the founding dean of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.  Sen. Watson was first elected to the Texas Legislature in 2006, after having previously served as Austin mayor from 1997 to 2001.  Governor Greg Abbott will set the date for a special election to serve the remainder of his term, which ends in 2023.

Only in Austin…

For the 10th consecutive year, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport set an annual record for passengers, with more than 17.3 million in 2019.  Airport visitors also had a record-breaking appetite for the unique fare offered at the newly enlarged airport, whose expansion included more than 30 new and remodeled restaurants.  Last year travelers enjoyed:

  • 1,603,602 tacos
  • 71,798 pounds (35.9 tons) of brisket
  • 28,281 Lammes Candies
  • 489 kegs of Real Ale Axis IPA
  • 3,000 bottles of Tito’s Vodka
  • 12,107 guitar picks
  • 1,327 live music performances across seven stages throughout the terminal

With amazing local restaurants like Salt Lick BBQ, Huts Hamburgers, East Side Pies, Peached Tortilla, Saxon Pub, 24 Diner, Ruta Maya Coffee and Amy’s Ice Cream, a layover at the Austin airport might actually be considered a good thing!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Posted February 12, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

20 More Days Until Texas’ 2020 Primary Election — Early Voting Begins Next Tuesday, February 18

Super Tuesday – this year on March 3 – is looming large on voters’ calendars.  On that day, Texas, along with Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Virginia, will hold its presidential primary.

While the presidential election is garnering a good portion of the attention, Texas voters will have a full ballot of statewide and local races to consider while in the voting booth.  Efforts to turn out record numbers of voters are underway, and candidate forums, like the one pictured above featuring State Representative James Talarico (D-Round Rock) and hosted by the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation in Round Rock Monday night, are an excellent way to engage voters in the process.  If you’re interested in locating an event near you, click here — the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation is hosting a series of over 40 candidate forums and town halls leading up to election day.

Early voting begins next Tuesday, February 18, and runs through Friday, February 28 – click here to check on early voting locations in your area.

Newest Faces in the Texas Legislature

The newest members of the Texas House of Representatives were sworn in to office Tuesday.  State Representatives Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas), Anna Eastman (D-Houston) and Gary Gates (R-Richmond) were elected January 28 in special elections to serve out the terms of their predecessors.  All will defend their seats in the March primary and the November general election in order to win a full term, which begins in January 2021.

The University of Texas System Seeks Approval for Medical School in Tyler

The University of Texas System hopes to establish the first medical school in East Texas to improve health care access in the region.  Officials from the UT System and its two Tyler institutions recently announced a plan to establish the school in Tyler and the board of regents will vote at its next meeting scheduled for February 26.   If approved, it would be the seventh in the UT System; in 2016, both UT Austin and UT Rio Grande Valley opened medical schools.

Only in Austin…

If you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day this Friday, may we suggest The Galentine’s Show by The Cathedral and atxGALS.  The Queen of Hearts-themed night kicks off at 6pm in The Cathedral’s gorgeous space (an incredibly refurbished 1930s church located in East Austin), and will feature tunes from DJ Diggy Dutch, a specially curated art exhibit showcasing 10 amazing local women artists, a photo booth and delicious cocktails provided by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Dulce Vida Tequila and Austin Eastciders.  The night promises to be a fun and festive way to support local arts and the community, as a portion of the proceeds will benefit Girls Empowerment Network.  Lovely festive dress is encouraged; purchase tickets here.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Posted February 5, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Patrick is Mahomie!

Shout out to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback (and native Texan) Patrick Mahomes, who was born in Tyler, played high school football in Whitehouse and quarterbacked at Texas Tech, now named Super Bowl LIV MVP!  On Sunday he led Kansas City back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and to its second-ever Lombardi Trophy and its first in 50 years in a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers.  What a game and what a guy — Patrick is Mahomie!

Upcoming Legislative Hearings at the Texas Capitol

As the new year progresses, the legislative committee hearing schedule is ramping up – Texas House and Senate committees are setting meetings in Austin and around the state in order to consider interim charges assigned to each committee last fall.  Legislators will hear from constituents and interested parties throughout the year and use those findings to craft legislation for the 87th Legislative Session which convenes Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

Several hearings are set to take place at the Texas Capitol in the next couple of weeks, including the House Ways and Means Committee, which meets at 10:00 AM today, Wednesday, February 5th, to consider interim charges relating to tax collection and monitoring the State Auditor’s review of agencies under the committee’s jurisdiction.  The Senate Business and Commerce Committee meets this Thursday, February 6th to assess the electricity market in Texas, and the House Higher Education Committee meets next Tuesday, February 11th regarding the implementation of measures passed last session relating to sexual harassment at public and private postsecondary educational institutions, a student loan repayment assistance program for peace officers and hazing.

As always, these legislative hearings are free and open to the public – Texas House and Senate committee schedules can be found here, a map of the Texas Capitol can be found here, and House and Senate interim charges can be found here and here.

Only in Austin…

A visit to the Texas African American History Memorial, located on the southwest corner of the Texas Capitol Grounds, is a wonderful way to observe Black History Month in Austin in February.  Officially dedicated in 2016, the 27-foot high, 32-foot wide monument depicts Juneteenth – Emancipation Day, June 19, 1865 – when Union troops arrived in Texas and announced the freedom of slaves in the United States.  Other scenes depicted on the memorial include black Texans’ roles in advancing the cattle, cotton and oil industries, as well as major social, political and cultural icons.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Posted January 29, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Election Results:  January 28 Special Runoff Elections in the Texas House

Results are in for the three special runoff elections for vacated seats in the Texas House.  The race for Fort Bend County’s House District 28 has been the most anticipated election this cycle and garnered national attention.  In the end, Republican Gary Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz by 16 percentage points, 58% to 42%, and will finish the term of former Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond).

In Dallas County’s heavily Democratic House District 100, community advocate Lorraine Birabil was victorious over businessman James Armstrong III with 66% of the vote, and will finish the term of now-Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.  And in Harris County’s House District 148, Democrat and former Houston ISD trustee Anna Eastman defeated Republican power engineer Luis LaRotta with 65% of the vote; she will fill the seat of former Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) for the remainder of her term.

The winners of these three special elections will serve out the year as members of the Texas House of Representatives, but will have to defend their seats in the March primary and the November general election in order to win a full term, which begins in January 2021.

Voting in Texas on Super Tuesday:  Everything you need to know

Texas voters will head to the polls March 3 to select their major party candidates for several statewide races and legislative seats.  Here’s an overview of everything Texans need to know about casting a ballot in the 2020 primaries.

Who is on the ballot?

All Texans’ ballots will include the statewide races, but the rest of the races on your ballot will be determined by where you live.  On the federal level, Texans are divided among 36 congressional districts.  On the state level, Texans are divided into 150 House districts, 31 Senate districts and 15 State Board of Education districts.  Your address determines your district and who represents you.  All congressional and Texas House districts are up for election this year, along with one U.S. Senate seat, several Texas Senate seats and eight State Board of Education seats.

Your local elections

 Each of Texas’ 254 counties administers its own elections on races that range from county commissioner seats to district attorneys.  Information about what’s on the ballot in specific counties can be found on the list of county websites maintained by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.  Voters can also find local ballot information or candidate listings on the websites for the nonpartisan League of Women Voters or local newspapers or TV stations.

Your statewide candidates

 The primary election ballots in Texas consist of races for 10 statewide positions, including the race to determine who will represent the state in the U.S. Senate alongside Sen. Ted Cruz. The remaining races are for railroad commissioner and eight seats on the state’s two highest courts — the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals.

What dates do I need to know?

 The last day to register to vote is February 3.

Is there a way to confirm whether I’m registered to vote?

The Texas secretary of state’s website will tell you whether you’re registered if you log in one of these three ways:

  • Provide your Texas driver’s license number and date of birth
  • Provide your first and last names and the name of the county in which you reside
  • Provide your date of birth and Voter Unique Identifier (VUID), which appears on your voter registration certificate

Check if you’re registered to vote here.

How can I register to vote?

You’ll need to fill out a voter registration application at least 30 days before the election.  You can request the application through the mail or find one at county voter registrar’s offices, post offices, government offices or high schools.  While you can’t register to vote online in Texas, you can print out the application online and mail it to the voter registrar in your county.  Applications must be postmarked by the February 3 deadline.  Download an application here.

The last day to apply for a ballot by mail is February 21.

How do I know if I’m eligible to vote by mail?

You are only allowed to vote by mail for one of the following four reasons:

  • You will not be in your county election day (March 3) or the entire span of early voting (February 18-28).
  • You are sick or disabled.
  • You will be 65 years old or older by election day.
  • You are confined in jail but otherwise eligible (i.e., not convicted of a felony).

The early voting clerk in your county must receive your application to vote by mail by February 21.  Eligible voters will either need to make sure the ballot is postmarked by election day or received by an early voting clerk by 5 p.m. March 4.  Download an application to vote by mail here.

Early voting runs from February 18 to February 28.

Where am I allowed to vote early?

Voters can cast ballots at any polling location in the county where they are registered to vote.  Early voting locations can be found on the Texas secretary of state’s website two days before early voting begins.

Who is eligible to vote early?

Anyone who is registered to vote may vote early, but it must be done in person unless you qualify to vote by mail.

Election day is March 3.

Are polling locations the same on election day as they are during early voting?

Not always.  It’s recommended to check the open polling locations in your area before you head to cast your ballot.  With some exceptions, election day voting may be restricted to locations in your designated precinct.

What do I need to know about going to vote?

How can I find which polling places are near me?

The secretary of state’s website has information on polling location options on election day and during the early voting period.

What form of ID do I need to bring?

You’ll need one of seven types of valid photo ID to vote in Texas:

  • A state driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • A Texas election identification certificate (issued by DPS)
  • A Texas personal identification card (issued by DPS)
  • A Texas license to carry a handgun (issued by DPS)
  • A U.S. military ID card with a personal photo
  • A U.S. citizenship certificate with a personal photo
  • A U.S. passport

What if I don’t have a valid photo ID?

Voters can still cast votes if they sign a form swearing that they have a “reasonable impediment” from obtaining a proper photo ID.  However, those voters will also have to present one of the following types of identification:

  • A valid voter registration certificate
  • A certified birth certificate
  • A copy of or an original current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other document that shows the voter’s name and address.  (Any government document that contains a voter’s photo must be an original.)

Only in Austin…

For those looking to add some ink, the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival takes place this weekend in Austin at Palmer Events Center.  The festival features skilled tattoo artists and performance art to give audiences a unique balance of entertainment and education.  Tattoo contests (such as Tattoo of the Day), seminars on tattoo art history, form and meaning and family friendly entertainment will all be on the agenda.  A list of attending tattoo artists can be found at the link above.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Posted January 22, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Representative Giovanni Capriglione Named House Appropriations Chair

Speaker Dennis Bonnen appointed Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) Chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Friday.  Rep. Capriglione succeeds Rep. John Zerwas in the role, who resigned last fall to join The University of Texas System as Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs.  Rep. Capriglione has been a member of the powerful committee for the last three sessions, and served as a subcommittee chair the last two sessions — first on the Subcommittee on State Infrastructure, Resiliency, and Investment, and then on the Subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform.  He was first elected to the Texas House in 2012.

Texans Involved in Senate Impeachment Trial

Three Texans have been given prominent roles in the Senate impeachment trial, which began Tuesday.  U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Texas Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) one of the seven House managers for the trial because of her judicial background.  Former Baylor University President Ken Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton prior to his impeachment, has joined President Donald Trump’s legal defense team.  Additionally, Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-Heath) will serve as one of several U.S. House members on President Donald Trump’s impeachment team, which will serve advisory and television advocacy roles during the trial.

Only in (or a little south of) Austin…

Texas Tulips, a new cut-your-own flower field blooming near San Antonio, will open its fields to the Instagramming public this Thursday, January 23rd.  Originally scheduled to open in February, the date was moved up due to early blooming flowers.  Texas Tulips’ second location (the first is near Dallas) is located in La Vernia, about 30 miles west of downtown San Antonio.  Plan to visit soon, as the lifespan of these gorgeous flowers is short — the fields will be open seven days a week from 9 AM to 8 PM through mid-March.  Be sure to schedule that pretty pink pedicure for your tiptoe through the tulips!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Posted January 15, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Texas 2020 Election Notes

With election season fast approaching and Texas’ 228 delegates looming large in the 2020 Presidential election, the Texas Tribune has published a handy list of Texas 2020 election dates for your calendar as well as a Texas 2020 Ballot.

Important dates in the near future include:

  • February 3 – last day to register to vote in the Texas primary election
  • February 18 to February 28 – early voting period for the primary
  • February 21 — last day to request a ballot to vote by mail in the primary
  • March 3 – Primary Election Day in Texas

Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation Announces Non-Partisan Candidate Forums

With the goal of informing every voter on public education issues, Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation has announced For the Future, a series of over 40 non-partisan candidate forums and town halls leading up to the March 3, 2020, primary election in Texas.  These events, held all over the state, will focus on public education issues and on candidates for the Texas Legislature, and each will include statewide questions as well as ones crafted by local stakeholders.  Every event will be live-streamed, with links accessible from RYHT’s social media accounts.  A list of all events can be found here.

Governor Greg Abbott Leads Economic Development Mission Abroad

Gov. Greg Abbott departed Tuesday for an economic development mission to Israel and Switzerland, where he will participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos, tour businesses and hold meetings with public officials and executives. This is the Governor’s second trip to both countries.

Only in Austin…

South by Southwest, the massive festival celebrating the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries, will tsunami over Austin March 13-22, and it released the latest wave of keynote speakers, panels and performances this week.  The lineup is bigger and more amazing each year – the latest speakers named include The Late Show host Stephen Colbert, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Emerson Collective founder/president Lauren Powell Jobs and DJ/producer Diplo, and more participants are being announced regularly.  The full conference schedule can be found here; registration info can be found here.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Posted January 8, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Julián Castro Endorses Elizabeth Warren for President

On Monday, Julián Castro endorsed Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren for President, just days after ending his own presidential campaign.  The former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and San Antonio Mayor was friendly with Sen. Warren during the campaign and his endorsement was not considered a surprise.  Some of his prominent early supporters, however, have instead announced their preference for former Vice President Joe Biden in the race, including five Texas state representatives:  Reps. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission) and Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco).

Second Meeting of the Domestic Terrorism Task Force

On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott convened the second meeting of the Domestic Terrorism Task Force at the Texas Capitol.  The panel, which was created after the mass shooting in El Paso last August, is charged with exploring methods to prevent statewide acts of extremism.

Representative Donna Howard Named Chair of the Texas Women’s Health Caucus

Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) has been named Chair of the Texas Women’s Health Caucus.  The caucus will focus on budgetary and public policy issues concerning women’s health as the Texas House prepares for the 87th Legislative Session convening in January 2021.  Congratulations, Rep. Howard!

Only in Austin…

If you have an interest in fashion, you’ll want to visit the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum’s new exhibit Fashion Forward, which opened December 21st and runs through April 12th.  The exhibit showcases items of apparel curated from the Texas Fashion Collection, a 20,000 piece collection of 20th century garments housed at the University of North Texas; creations from Christian Dior, Geoffrey Beene, Giorgio Armani and Anne Klein, as well as Italian designers Missoni and Emilio Pucci, and many others, are featured in the exhibit.  Each couturier is a recipient of the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion.  Seems like a great way to inspire those of us wanting to Marie Kondo our closets in honor of the new decade…!

Welcome to 2020!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous year!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Posted December 18, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Wins Second Term in Runoff Election

Sylvester Turner won reelection to a second term as Houston Mayor on Saturday, easily defeating lawyer Tony Buzbee by 57% in the runoff election.  He will join a Houston City Council that has made a noticeable shift to a younger and more progressive body, and one on which more women than men will serve for the first time in at least 30 years.

U.S. Senate Democrats endorse MJ Hegar

On Monday the U.S. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed MJ Hegar in the March 3, 2020, primary race against U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).  While Texas voters are still familiarizing themselves with the Democrats in the race to challenge Sen. Cornyn, Democrats in D.C. have chosen to back the former Air Force pilot and working mother in the contest.  The endorsement is one of the biggest developments so far in the primary race, which has drawn a dozen candidates including State Senator Royce West, former Houston congressman and 2006 gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell and labor organizer and author Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez.

Only in Austin…

There’s still time to take a stroll through Austin’s Trail of Lights at Zilker Park!  Now in its 55th year, the Trail of Lights is one of Austin’s largest events, entertaining thousands of visitors every year with more than 60 displays, 2 million lights, food trucks, live music and holiday activities such as a fun run.  It will run nightly until Monday, December 23rd.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!  See you in 2020!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Posted December 17, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Your Candidates for the 2020 Texas Elections…

The field is now set for the March 3, 2020, primaries in Texas as the candidate filing period ended Monday, December 9th.  There were some interesting last-day filings, such as Pierce Bush, grandson of the late President George H.W. Bush, who filed to run in a packed GOP primary to replace U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land).  Additionally, former White House doctor Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s one-time nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, filed on Monday to replace U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) – he’s the 13th candidate to enter that primary race.

In the Texas House, three additional members have made their plans to not seek re-election known:  Rep. Rick Miller announced last week he will not compete for his seat; Rep. Mike Lang, after a couple of previous election decision changes, at the last minute on Monday filed to run for Hood County Commissioner instead of the Texas House; and late Tuesday Rep. Bill Zedler announced his decision to retire.  That brings to 13 the number of Texas House members not running for re-election; there is only a 9 seat margin in the House between the two parties.

Texas House and Senate Christmas Trees

The two 25+ foot tall Christmas trees that arrived at the Texas Capitol last week are now fully decorated and on display in the House and Senate Chambers.  Their presence, along with the Christmas music playing in both Chambers, really brings the Christmas spirit to the Capitol.  It’s no mean feat wrestling those huge trees into the historic building either – they must traverse through small doorways and up winding staircases to reach each chamber.  To see how they do it, the House has posted a timeline of photos.

Only in Austin…

Austin’s Christmas-themed bar scene is bigger than ever this year, with more than half a dozen festive holiday spots open this December.  Ones we hope to survey, purely for informational purposes of course, include Miracle on 5th Street, a multi-room, multi-level, over-the-top interactive Christmas experience; Lala’s Little Nugget, where it’s actually Christmas all year long; Gibson Wonderland, with its Rum Pum Pum (hot buttered rum) and Gin-gle Juice (Dripping Springs gin, green chartreuse, sweet vermouth and orange bitters); and Old Thousand’s “Dope Chinese Food Take-Over of She’s Not Here” for an incredible meal and drinks off The Naughty List.  After all of that holiday cheer, we’re heading to Mozart’s coffeehouse on Lady Bird Lake for hot cocoa on the deck under the gigantic Christmas light display set to all of the best holiday tunes.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Posted December 5, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Christmas Arrives at the Texas Capitol

The Christmas season officially arrived at the Texas Capitol and Governor’s Mansion on Monday, with the horse-drawn carriage delivery of Christmas trees from the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association.  Elves will spend the week decorating the massive trees now standing in the Texas House and Senate Chambers, and visitors from all over the state will be able to enjoy them through the New Year.  For the eleventh year in a row in the Texas House, each of the 150 members will have the opportunity to place a special ornament, decorated by constituents to represent their district, on the tree – some past ornament collections can be seen here, here and here.  We can’t wait to show you the beautifully decorated trees next week!

Newsworthiness from the Texas Capitol:  Filing Deadlines and Interim Charges

Candidates have until next Monday, December 9th, to file to run for political office in Texas.  After the candidate filing deadline, we’ll have the big picture of who’s retiring, who’s going to have a primary election and what the hot general election races will be.  If you’d like to keep up with candidate filings, the Texas Secretary of State’s website has all of the information here.

Additionally, the Texas Senate and the Texas House have each released their lists of committee interim charges, which can be found here and here.  Senate and House committees will spend the next year studying these specific issues, using the findings to file legislation for the 87th Legislative Session which begins at noon on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott to Chair Republican Governors Association for 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott was named chair of the Republican Governors Association for the 2020 elections just before the Thanksgiving holiday.  Currently in his second term, Gov. Abbott is not on the ballot in 2020 but governors in 11 other states are, including 7 Republicans.  He previously served as vice chair of the RGA.

Only in Austin

Now that the tryptophan from Thanksgiving dinner has worn off, we’ve got a new restaurant recommendation for you:  Carpenters Hall, the beautiful new on-site restaurant at the Carpenter Hotel near Zilker Park.  The property has been open a little over a year so now is a good time to check it out — though reservations are a good idea as it’s always hopping!  The hotel took over what was the union hall building for Austin Carpenters Local 1266, which was built in 1948.  The location now includes the 93-room boutique Carpenter Hotel, the Q Hut (a half-dome outdoor party place), Carpenters Hall restaurant and the Hot L Coffee café.  Chef Grae Nonas, of former Austin restaurant Olamaie, says the food is “a fresh eyes-approach of the Texas/Austin past” – we just say it’s delicious.