AUSTIN (Nexstar) – Governor Greg Abbott announced improvements to the state’s testing laboratories Thursday, after a man in Fort Bend county tested positive for the coronavirus. Texas currently has six laboratories capable of testing for the coronavirus, with four more planned to come online by the end of the month.
“The state lab can perform approximately tests for 26 patients a day, Houston and El Paso can perform tests for approximately 15 people per day, Dallas and Lubbock can perform tests on approximately 10 patients per day,” Abbott said. “Once the other public health labs in the state complete the testing validation process, and begin testing, the state pubic health lab network will be able to process more than 125 COVID-19 tests per day”
Congress approved an $8.3 billion emergency spending package on the same day to help prevent the further spread of the virus by stockpiling medical supplies, purchasing additional testing kits and conducting research.
Super Tuesday in Texas
The final few days before Super Tuesday witnessed a nationwide momentum shift for former vice president Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary. Texans witnessed the change in currents firsthand.
Biden walked away from Super Tuesday with 573 delegates and victories in 10 states, including Texas which was one the night’s and most contested and valuable battlegrounds. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders came away with four states, including California and his home state of Vermont, for a total of 503 delegates.
Early voting data appeared to favor Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in some of the largest counties in Texas.
In Bexar County, Sanders received nearly twice as many early votes as the former vice president. On election day, however, Biden surged among San Antonio-area voters, beating Sanders by 2%, or almost 2,000 votes. Sanders still secured the county because of early voters.
Biden held a small lead 2,000-vote lead over Sanders in Dallas County during early voting. On Super Tuesday, Biden’s lead grew to more than 30,000 votes.
Biden’s last-minute wave of momentum took shape last Saturday after a dominant performance in the South Carolina primary.
Then, the night before Texas voters arrived at the polls, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend Indiana, and Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, both who had suspended their presidential campaigns just hours earlier, flew to Dallas to endorse Biden in-person during a nationally-televised rally.
Israel looks ahead to fight for Texas House
Nine district seats stand between Democrats and taking back the Texas House. The last time Democrats controlled the chamber was in 2002.
Flipping the House would give the party vital leverage in redrawing voting district lines during the 2021 legislative session.
“We want a fair map,” Texas House Democrat Celia Israel said. “There’s a lot of energy and interest because you have a Republican Governor, a Republican lieutenant governor. For the sense of balance, it’d be wonderful to have a Democratic house so that we get a fair map that has more balance for a state that is is not as bright red as people might think.”
Israel leads the House Democratic Campaign Committee, which helps to elect more democrats to the House by directing campaign resources to the most competitive races around the state.
Meanwhile, Republicans are focused on taking back some of the 12 seats they lost in the 2018 midterm elections.
Republican candidates in House District 45 are heading to a runoff after neither of the front runners were able to win the election outright with more than 50% of votes. Carrie Isaac and Kent Wymore received 48% and 41% of the votes respectively.
Isaac runs a non-profit and is the wife of former Texas House Representative Jason Isaac, who was ousted by the current District 45 incumbent, democratic Representative Erin Zweiner, in 2018. Wymore is an attorney.
Whoever wins the runoff in May will face Zweiner in the general election in November.
On Super Tuesday, the Republican Primary for HD-47 was too close call. Attorney Jennifer Fleck will be advancing to a runoff, but her opponent is yet to be determined.
Don Zimmerman, Former Austin City Council Member, and Austin Police Officer Justin Berry were separated by only a single vote. While Zimmerman has the edge-up for the time being, with 4,099 votes to Berry’s 4,098, both candidates will be going into the official vote canvass next week.
Whichever candidate emerges from the canvas will be going against Fleck, who received 32% of the vote in the initial primary. Fleck was motivated to run for the seat after writing legislation to prevent school districts from teaching certain topics in sex ed classes such as what she calls “gender confusion classes.”
“I think it’s the most-important thing right now is to make sure that our children aren’t being indoctrinated with an agenda that’s destructive and unhealthy,” Fleck said.
District 47, which contains southwest Austin and Lakeway, had long been considered a Republican stronghold until Democrat Vikki Goodwin unseated Republican incumbent Paul Workman during the 2018 midterms. Workman had held the district since 2011. Goodwin is confident the district will stay blue in November.
“I feel like this district is moving in a democratic direction, and I feel like public education is a huge issue, transportation, healthcare,” Goodwin said. “These are all things I’ve worked very hard to improve those situations for all people.”
Trump endorsements in Texas
Endorsements given by President Trump have helped propel two Texans running for congress to advance in competitive republican primaries.
Republican Ronny Jackson, a retired Navy Admiral who served as a White House physician, has advanced to a runoff in a crowded U.S. House District 13 race in the Panhandle.
Prior to his endorsement, Trump had nominated Jackson to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2018. However, Jackson eventually withdrew himself from consideration after allegations of workplace misconduct.
Speaking on his endorsement from Trump, Jackson says, “Any of the candidates in this race, in this particular district, the most-conservative district in the United States, total Trump country here, would die for the President’s endorsement, right? I got it because the President trusts me.”
Jackson will face Republican Josh Winegarner in the runoff. Winegarner, who led in the March 3rd primary with 39% of the vote, has been endorsed by current U.S. House District 13 Congressman Mac Thornberry.
San Angelo Republican August Pfluger experienced a decisive victory in another crowded race in U.S. House District 11. He secured 52% of the vote, avoiding a runoff and advancing to the general election in November.
Trump had endorsed Pfluger, who is an Air Force veteran, before early voting began late February.
Pfluger is now favored to win the traditionally republican district in November.