The Mignon Memo

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.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Posted November 20, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Governor Greg Abbott Sets Date for Special Runoff Elections in Texas

Tuesday, January 28, 2020, has been set by Gov. Greg Abbott as the date for special runoff elections to fill three vacant Texas House District seats.  The three seats include House District 28 in Fort Bend County, vacated by Rep. John Zerwas; House District 100 in Dallas County, vacated by Rep. Eric Johnson; and House District 148 in Harris County, vacated by Rep. Jessica Farrar.

In the Fort Bend County race, Democrat Elizabeth “Eliz” Markowitz will face Republican Gary Gates, a race that has drawn national attention.  Democrat Lorraine Birabil will face Democrat James Armstrong in the Dallas County runoff.  And in the Harris County race, Democrat Anna Eastman will face Republican Luis La Rotta.

In additional election news, mayoral candidates Sylvester Turner and Tony Buzbee will face each other in the runoff election for Houston Mayor set for Saturday, December 14th.

Austin’s Zilker Tree Lighting Set for Sunday, December 1st

Get ready to spin yourself dizzy under the lights at the Zilker Tree!  The annual Zilker Holiday Tree Lighting will take place at 5:30pm the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, officially kicking off the holiday season in Austin.  First lit on December 10, 1967, the Zilker Holiday Tree tradition is now in its 53rd year.  To create the 155 foot tall man-made tree, 39 strings of over 3,000 colored lights are draped from one of Austin’s 17 historic moontowers — the red, yellow and blue LED bulbs are strategically placed on each string to give the tree its distinctive swirl pattern.  The honor of first lighting the tree each year is awarded to children who have won the Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s tree art contest.

The 2019 Zilker Holiday Tree will be lit from 6pm to midnight every night between December 1st and January 1st.

Only in Austin…

Still MORE scooters are zooming around Austin!  Revel, a Brooklyn-based moped-sharing company, released 1,000 sit-down scooters at the beginning of the month, and we’re seeing them all around downtown Austin.  Revel’s blue Vespa-esque scooters and the peppy red versions previously released by Oxnard-based Ojo are touted as zippier options than the more common stand-up scooters, reaching speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and able to last 50 miles on one charge.  According to the city’s mobility site, Austin now has close to 18,000 scooters and e-bikes permitted for circulation.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!  See you in December!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Posted November 13, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

2019 Texas Capitol Ornament

This year’s Texas Capitol Ornament was inspired by the famed Lone Star Locomotive and features historic details typical of steam trains from the late 19th century such as a smokestack, steam whistle and cattle guard. The train is ready for the holidays with its Texas Capitol wreath, flags and bunting, and Sunset Red granite fills the Austin-bound railcar to become part of the Texas Capitol.  This is the 24th ornament in the series, and proceeds from its sales support ongoing preservation of the Texas Capitol, which welcomes over one million visitors annually.  Mark your calendars – the annual Texas Capitol Gift Shop sale runs from December 2-6 and everything in the store will be 20% off.

Texas Legislators Make Endorsements in Democratic Presidential Primary

Senator Beverly Powell (D-Burleson/Ft. Worth) has joined Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) and Representative Victoria Neave (D-Dallas) in endorsing Joe Biden in the Democratic Presidential Primary.  In additional Biden campaign news, Jane Hamilton, a Democratic strategist who served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Ft. Worth), was named Texas state director.

Texan Julián Castro’s list of endorsements by Texas state legislators lengthened after fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke exited the race on November 1st.  Castro now counts among his supporters:  Sen. José Rodríguez (D-El Paso, retiring), Rep. César Blanco (D-El Paso, now running for Senate District 29), Rep. Art Fierro (D-El Paso), Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), Rep. Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso, the House Speaker Pro Tempore), Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass, now retiring), Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson), Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) and former Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston, retired at the end of September).  The Castro campaign is looking to hire a state director.

Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Dripping Springs) is the first Texas elected official to endorse Elizabeth Warren, who named a Texas state director in October.

Texas State Representative Poncho Nevárez Will Not Seek Reelection

On Friday, Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) announced he will not run for reelection.  Rep. Nevárez has been a member of the Texas House since 2013, representing a district that encompasses a large portion of the state’s border with Mexico.  He chaired the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety during the latest legislative session and was named vice chair of the House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety when it was created this summer after the mass shootings in Odessa and El Paso.

Only in Austin…

Jimmy Fallon brought the Tonight Show to UT Austin last week, filming an episode on campus at Bass Concert Hall for about 3,000 lucky student lottery winners.  The show opened with an epic video Fallon recorded over a couple of days in Austin featuring 6th Street, scooters, OU jokes, the Longhorn Band and the Texas Pom Squad, all to the tune of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”  His guests included UT Professor and Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey (of course!), Chip and Joanna Gaines and a performance by musical guest Gucci Mane that really got the crowd going.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Posted November 6, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Texas Election Results from November 5, 2019

 Constitutional Amendments:  On Tuesday, Texas voters considered ten constitutional amendments proposed by the 86th Legislature.  9 amendments passed with large margins and 1 amendment failed to pass.

Here are the constitutional amendments Texas voters tackled on Tuesday:

Proposition 1 — “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.” DID NOT PASS

Proposition 2 — “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.” PASSED

Proposition 3 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.” PASSED

Proposition 4 — “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.” PASSED

Proposition 5 — “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.” PASSED

Proposition 6 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.” PASSED

Proposition 7 — “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.” PASSED

Proposition 8 — “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.” PASSED

Proposition 9 — “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.” PASSED

Proposition 10 — “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.” PASSED


 Texas House of Representatives:  Additionally, voters in Dallas, Harris and Fort Bend Counties voted in special elections to fill empty seats in three state House districts.  All will now move to runoff elections as none received more than 50% of the vote, according to unofficial results by Wednesday morning.

 Fort Bend County – House District 28

Democrat Elizabeth “Eliz” Markowitz and Republican Gary Gates head to a runoff to fill the seat vacated by former State Representative John Zerwas, MD – a race that has drawn national attention.

Gates was one of six GOP candidates in this special election and received 28.45% of the vote with Markowitz being the only Democrat in the race, with 39.06% of the vote. Republican Tricia Krenek came in third with 18.13%.

Dallas County – House District 100

Democrat Lorraine Birabil will face Democrat James Armstrong in a runoff for the seat vacated by former State Representative Eric Johnson. Birabil got 33%, with Armstrong had 21%, finishing just five votes ahead of Daniel Davis Clayton and 121 votes ahead of Sandra Crenshaw in the all-Democrat race. Margins are narrow enough to make recount requests eligible.

Harris County – House District 148

The race for the seat vacated by former State Representative Jessica Farrar is headed to a runoff between Democrat Anna Eastman with 18.5% of the vote and Republican Luis La Rotta with 17.19%. Only two other candidates, Democrat Adrian Garcia and Republican Ryan McConnico, were in double digits in the 15-way race.


Houston – Mayor’s Race:  Incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner, who was elected in 2015 after serving 27 years in the Texas House of Representatives, appears to be headed to a runoff with Tony Buzbee, a Houston attorney. As unofficial election results continued to come in at 3:45am Wednesday morning, Mayor Turner received 49% of the vote while Buzbee trailed behind with 29%. In third place was Bill King, the businessman who narrowly lost to Turner in the 2015 mayoral contest. It is unclear when the final vote count will be completed in Harris County.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Posted October 30, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Texas House Committee on Public Education Meets in Austin

On Monday, the House Public Education Committee met in Austin to learn about the implementation of the school finance reform bill passed during the recent legislative session.  House Bill 3, an $11 billion measure, increased funding for Texas school districts by increasing the basic allotment for each student, providing teacher pay raises and funding full-day Pre-K for all eligible students.

Legislators heard from Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath concerning issues with the measure’s implementation, such as the agency’s power to resolve any problems with the law before the Texas Legislature meets again in 2021.  Also discussed was the lack of clarity school districts face in predicting the amount of funding they will receive as they wait for final calculations from the state on things like tax revenue and funding for low-income students.  To help explain the complex new law, TEA began posting weekly web videos this summer – the series is scheduled to continue until June 2020.

Have You Heard About Texas 2036? 

In 2036, Texas will turn 200.  By then, 10 million more Texans are expected to call this state home.  Growth has always been a part of Texas, but it will bring new challenges as leaders try to preserve the best parts of Texas and expand opportunity for all citizens.  That’s where Texas 2036 comes in, a nonprofit organization working to build statewide support for sustained, data-driven planning efforts, led by Founder and Chairman Tom Luce and President and CEO Margaret Spellings.  The organization’s website explains that Texas 2036 is focused on engaging “Texans and their leaders in an honest conversation about our future, focusing on the big challenges.  We offer non-partisan ideas and modern solutions that are grounded in research and data to break through the gridlock on issues that matter most to all Texans.”  The website features a weekly blog, a good way to keep up with the important issues being studied by Texas 2036.

Only in Austin…

For the third year in a row, Amanda and Joel Pace are transforming their South Austin home into Diagon Alley ATX Halloween House.  For months the family has been as busy as house-elves constructing additions to the Harry Potter-themed attraction, which will be open to muggles and wizards alike from Halloween evening through November 2nd.  This year’s version features Hogwarts Castle, wizard shopping district Diagon Alley, Eeylops Owl Emporium, the Knight Bus, Hogwarts Express and the dome of Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

Happy Halloween and remember to vote!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Posted October 23, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Will Not Seek Reelection

Speaker Dennis Bonnen on Tuesday announced he will not seek reelection as a member of the Texas House of Representatives when his term ends in January 2021.  He has served in the body since 1997 and was elected Speaker at the beginning of the 2019 legislative session.

Houston Astros Return to the World Series!

The Houston Astros defeated the New York Yankees Saturday, winning the American League pennant and sending the Astros back to the World Series for the second time in three years.  The 2017 World Champion Astros and the Washington Nationals, appearing for the first time in the World Series, met last night in game one of the championship series.  While Houston lost last night, we are sure they will ultimately be World Series champs again.  Game two is tonight — Go Astros!

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush Visits Students in Round Rock and Pflugerville

Fourth graders at Round Rock Christian Academy and Pflugerville’s Riojas Elementary received a special lesson on Texas history Monday.  Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a former teacher, made visits to both schools as part of his Year of Education initiative, in which he intends to visit 50 schools.  Students pretended to be cartographers using gloves, magnifying glasses and replica maps from 1830, and even had the opportunity to hold a cannonball from the Battle of the Alamo.  Comm. Bush said the initiative was developed after a historic investment in public education by the state legislature.

Only in Austin…

Austin’s Pease Park recently celebrated a groundbreaking to start work on Kingsbury Commons, the southern entrance to the 84 acre park located close to downtown along North Lamar Boulevard.  Pease Park is a beautiful urban space known to Austinites as the home of the very unique Eeyore’s Birthday Party every April.  Park improvements will feature multiple playground areas including a very large “treescape” sphere, sports facilities, improved trails and a community event space.  The grand opening is anticipated for the spring of 2021 – a very cool 3D fly-through video of the project can be found within the link above.  What a great place to walk the doggos one day!