News Roundup: Special Election In Fort Bend County Will Be A Test For Republicans In November

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Alexandra HartAugust 15, 2019 12:29 pm

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

Gov. Greg Abbott has set a date for the special election to replace state Rep. John Zerwas who announced his retirement last month. The election will be Nov. 5.

Zerwas’ seat covers much of Fort Bend County, an area of rapidly shifting demographics. Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser says those changes will make for a competitive election.

“So, it’s going to be a real test for the Republicans and Democrats to see who has the energy and the enthusiasm and the turnout capabilities to win this special election,” Steinhauser says.

He also says that Republicans will need to appeal to a broader base in order to hold on to that seat.

“There needs to a be an organization behind the best candidate so that they can get their people to the polls, and to persuade some of those in the middle why they should vote for Republicans instead of the Democrats,” he says.

Candidates have until Sept. 4 to file.

Texas immigration advocates worry that the Trump administration’s rule change, which affects immigrants who receive public benefits, will scare more people away from government programs, even those not affected by the rule change. KERA’s Courtney Collins has more:

Earlier this week, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, talked with NPR about changes to the “public charge” rule.

The changes make it harder for those who use SNAP, Section 8 and non-emergency Medicaid to apply for legal residency. This is what Cuccinelli said when asked whether Emma Lazarus’ words etched on the Statue of Liberty were part of the American ethos:

“They certainly are. Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and will not become a public charge.”

While SNAP, housing assistance and Medicaid are targeted, Cheasty Anderson with the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas says many popular benefits will not count against an applicant.

“CHIP is not counted, WIC is not counted. And there are, in the final regulation that they’ve published, there are some exceptions, like pregnancy Medicaid does not count.”

But that hasn’t stopped applicants from withdrawing. In many cases, they’ve pulled citizen children off the registers, too, which advocates say is unnecessary.

“What they’re building is what we as advocates are starting to call the ‘invisible wall’ – attempting to isolate immigrant communities, make them feel unwelcome, make them feel intimidated, make them withdraw from society, to a certain extent.”

The rule change will take effect on Oct. 15.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is formally resuming his campaign. The El Paso native suspended the campaign after the shooting in his hometown that killed 22 people.

In a speech Thursday, he rejected calls by some to drop out, and focused instead on the upcoming Senate race against John Cornyn.

“We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem, that person who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment in peril. And that is Donald Trump,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said he will focus less on traditional campaign stops in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire and, instead, visit places he sees as adversely affected by the president’s policies.