Valdez wins race to face Abbott in Nov. gubernatorial election

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez defeated Houston businessman Andrew White, the son of the late former governor, Mark White, in the May 22 Texas Democratic Party primary runoff.

Valdez, the first Latina to win a gubernatorial primary in Texas, will run against incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who is seeking a second four-year term, in the November 6 general election.

Valdez garnered 230,467 votes, or 53.32 percent of the total vote, to White’s 201,713 votes, which came to 46.67 percent. Historically, this was the lowest recorded turnout for a Texas Democratic Party gubernatorial runoff. Only 2.83 percent of the state’s 15,249,541 registered voters cast a ballot.

Notably, two incumbent state legislators were defeated in the runoffs:

• Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, lost to Alex Dominguez, a Cameron County commissioner. House District 27, which Oliveira represents, includes part of Cameron County. First elected in 1981, Oliveira, the dean of Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation, is the fifth-most senior member of the Texas House of Representatives. He currently chairs the House Committee on Business and Industry and is a three-time past chairman of the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means.

• Rep. Scott Cosper, R-Killeen, lost to Dr. Brad Buckley, a Killeen veterinarian. Cosper, a former mayor of Killeen, was elected to represent House District 54 in 2016. He is a member of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. House District 54 includes Lampasas County and part of Bell County.

Safety talks are held

Gov. Abbott on May 22 launched a series of roundtable discussions “to generate solutions that improve safety and security at Texas schools and in our communities.”

Abbott’s forums at the Capitol were in the aftermath of the May 18 shooting that left 10 dead and 10 injured at Santa Fe High School near Galveston. Invited to participate in the discussions were parents, teachers, students, legislators and interest groups that advocate for and against further gun regulations.

Also invited to participate were victims, educators and family members from Santa Fe, Sutherland Springs, Alpine and Italy, Texas, where other shootings occurred. Other invitees included school administrators who allow the arming of teachers and those who do not, as well as experts on matters of school safety, mental health, law enforcement, bullying and more.

“I am seeking the best solutions to make our schools more secure and to keep our communities safe. I look forward to hearing from all sides of the debate, and from expert perspectives on these issues. Working together, we can ensure a safe learning environment for students and safer communities for all Texans,” Abbott said before the hearings.

In other news, on May 20, Abbott issued a statewide call for Texans to take part in a moment of silence at 10 a.m. on May 21 to honor the memory of the victims of the Santa Fe shooting.

Plain language is goal

Texas Insurance Commissioner Kent Sullivan on May 23 announced that the Texas Department of Insurance is redesigning its website to help customers solve problems.

Sullivan, who refers to himself as a “plain language champion” admits it’s unlikely that the agency can get rid of terms like “contingent nonforfeiture benefit” overnight, but progress is being made.

The agency is calling for volunteers to help make sure consumer information is easy to understand.

Sullivan said he issued guidance to long-term care insurers about writing rate notices in plain language and that letters and forms are being rewritten with an eye toward shorter words and formats that are easier to read.

Sullivan said the goal is to use plain language in everything the agency does — on the website, in writing and on the phone.

“It’s not enough to be technically accurate if no one understands your message. It’s win-win when consumers understand insurance and how it works,” he said. “We invite you to hold us accountable. Insurance can be complex. That makes it even more important to keep the language simple.”

Zika cases are
reported

The Texas Department of State Health Services on May 22 said the agency has received reports of the first Texas Zika cases of 2018.

The two reported cases are travel-related, involving residents of Williamson County who got sick while abroad.

Some 55 cases of Zika were reported in calendar year 2017. More data for previous years is available at TexasZika.org.

The health department is urging people to protect themselves from mosquito bites this spring as they travel, particularly to warmer climates where Zika is more prevalent, namely Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Ed Sterling is  director of Member Services for the Texas Press Association.

edsterling@texaspress.com

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