News Roundup: Along Party Lines, Senate Committee Approves David Whitley For Secretary Of State

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 28, 2019 6:36 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The ongoing saga surrounding the confirmation of Texas Secretary of State David Whitley came to a head Thursday.

The state Senate Nominations Committee had put off voting on Gov. Greg Abbott’s pick for the state’s chief election official the last few weeks. And just Wednesday, a federal judge said Whitley had created a “mess” when his office issued an advisory questioning the citizenship of about 98,000 voters. Tens of thousands of those people have already turned out to be eligible to vote.

Ahead of the committee’s vote Thursday morning, Vice Chair and Austin Democrat Kirk Watson, discussed the court ruling and said he couldn’t support Whitley.

“The court found that perfectly legal naturalized Americans were burdened with what the court finds to be ham-handed and threatening correspondence from the state which exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us,” Watson said.

After Watson’s remarks, committee Chair Dawn Buckingham called for a vote. The seven-member committee ultimately voted along party lines, with all four Republicans voting to advance Whitley’s confirmation to the full Senate. Still, Whitley will need the support of two-thirds of state Senators present on the day of his vote to be confirmed. All twelve Democratic Texas Senators have said they would vote against Whitley – which would be enough to prevent him from keeping the post.

The suspect accused in last year’s deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School will not be tried in Galveston County. 

As Houston Public Media’s Gail Delaughter reports, a judge granted a change of venue after defense attorneys argued they couldn’t get a fair trial locally because of all the publicity about the case.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis is accused of capital murder after last May’s shooting at Santa Fe High School that left ten people dead and thirteen wounded. Citing social media comments about the case, defense attorneys argued that the Galveston County jury pool is tainted and Pagourtzis couldn’t get a fair trial. There’s no word yet on where the trial will be moved or when it will take place.

The 2019 James Beard Award semifinalists were announced Wednesday and Texas restaurants and chefs racked up 27 nominations.

Fifteen of those are contenders in national categories. For example, Petra & the Beast in Dallas is in the running for Best New Restaurant. McPherson Cellars in Lubbock and Jester King Brewery in Austin are up for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer. And Houston’s Jonathan ‘Jonny’ Rhodes of the restaurant, Indigo, is a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year. More than half of the people nominated for Best Chef in the Southwest hail from Texas. That category includes restaurants from the Lone Star State, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah. 

The Texas city that earned the most nominations? Houston. And that’s where the finalists for all of these awards – known as the “Oscars of food” – will be announced on March 27.