Political news

Laura Buckman / Bob Daemmrich

This year's governor's race was billed as the first actual competitive race for Texas governor since Ann Richards lost to George Bush in 1994. Current Governor Rick Perry was stepping down, making way for Attorney General Greg Abbott to take the GOP nomination. Newly-minted national political celebrity State Senator Wendy Davis made a run for Democrats.

But unless something unexpected happens today, the race could be a repeat of the GOP 12 point win in 2010.

The race opened with Abbott finally stepping out of Governor Perry's nearly 14 year shadow. Perry announced he would not seek a fourth full term on July 8th. Less than a week later, after years of waiting...and raising a bunch of money, Abbott finally announced his run for the governor's office.

Brittany Maynard, who was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor, went through with her plan to end her life on Saturday at her home in Oregon.

Maynard, who spoke publicly about her choice to end her life, revived the debate of assisted suicide in the United States.

In an obituary posted to her site on Sunday night, Maynard is said to have had a "brief but solid 29 years." This past year, she was diagnosed with a stage 4 malignant brain tumor.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

Today's the last day of early voting in Texas.

Reports had voter turnout trending well above average on that first day of polling, but that narrative has since fizzled. The Texas Tribune reports overall voter turnout is down in most of the state, compared to the last midterm election in 2010 ­– or at least so far. So what happened?

Texas Standard’s David Brown sits down with Regina Lawrence, the director for the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and a professor at UT-Austin, to discuss Texas’ voter turnout. 

screen capture of Glenn Hager video

Early voting wraps up today. Candidates have spent the last two weeks focused on get-out-the-vote efforts, making sure supporters don't forget to cast a ballot. But campaigns have also released final campaign videos, maybe in hopes of winning the votes of those few remaining undecided Texans.

These ads can take many different forms, from traditional television ads to testimonials from supporters. So for your viewing pleasure, we've compiled a short list of ads from the state's top races that have been released in the last week.

Photo by KUT News

Isabel Rios is standing outside the Fiesta Supermarket on Stassney Lane, approaching shoppers as they walk toward the store. It's the only early voting location near Dove Springs.

"Hola!" she says, walking toward a couple shoppers. "Hello. Votan? Votan, señoras?” 

Rios is stumping for District 2 city council candidate Edward Reyes at Fiesta, the closest early voting location to the Dove Springs neighborhood. She and Reyes say their job has turned from campaigning to encouraging people to vote at all. 

“Just talking and encouraging people to vote," Rios says. "Trying to engage people as we can.”

Mark Graham / Cooper Neil via the Texas Tribune

Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis are in the home stretch of their battle to become the next Texas Governor. And by now, the candidates have done pretty much all they can to make sure voters know who they are and what their plans for are for the state. But just in case you weren't sure, here's a look at the differences, and similarities, between the two on 5 specific issues.

Let's start with education, specifically K-12 public schools.

Here, and you might see a pattern throughout this story, both candidates say they want Texas to have an elite public school system.

Texas Tribune

Democrat for Texas Governor Wendy Davis sold at least 4,450 hard copies of her memoir Forgetting to Be Afraid since it was published on September 9th, Nielsen BookScan reports. Conservatives have bashed the number as dismal, but some independent book industry veterans say the sales figure is actually respectable.

Photo by Marjorie Cotera for the Texas Tribune

There’s been plenty of attention this election season at the top of the ballot – to the governor’s race. But some local ballots in Texas can be up to 4 pages long. And voter attention spans drop off dramatically after checking the box for governor.

In 2010, the gap between those who voted for governor and lieutenant governor statewide was more than 44,000. That's 44,000 people who walked into the voting booth, check governor, and said, "I'm done."

It's what Rice University political scientist Mark Jones calls "drop-off."

So, why's it so hard for voters to completely fill out a ballot?

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Gov. Rick Perry was at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California last night, talking about next week's elections.

Perry's speech played off a 1964 speech by Reagan called – perhaps fittingly, in light of Perry’s presidential aspirations – “A Time for Choosing,” which launched the career of the “Great Communicator” and future president.

However, presidential allusion aside, the speech wasn’t Rick Perry throwing his hat into the ring for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera & Bob Daemmrich via Texas Tribune

The words a political candidate uses mean a lot. But how those candidates say those words can make a big difference, too. Especially in a place like Texas.

UT linguist Lars Hinrichs studies the Texas accent. He and some students wanted to see how the two leading candidates for Texas governor match up when it comes to sounding Texan.

Ben Philpott/KUT

We're finally in the home stretch of the 2014 elections. And while you're likely to see dozens of campaign ads on TV this last week...it's a knock on a door that may determine the outcome of several elections. The "get out the vote" campaigns being run by Republicans and Democrats are ramping up before the end of early voting this week.

Once again the U.S. Supreme Court is correcting its own record, but Wednesday marks the first time that the court has called attention to its own mistake with a public announcement. And it was the erring justice herself, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked the court's public information office to announce the error.

U.S. Government

Recent world events seem so complicated – and perhaps intractable – that some citizens may reel from a sense of hopelessness. But maybe our collective memory fails us – it’s easy to forget how much the world can change in just a matter of days.

In less than two weeks in 1978, a world-changing event not only ended one of the most bitter conflict in modern history (or at least a part of it), with effects that endure to this day.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright speaks with Texas Standard’s David Brown about his new book, "Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David," a detailed account of the Camp David accords between Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Facilitated by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the agreement brought peace between Egypt and Israel. 

Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune, Laura Buckman / Bob Daemmrich

Early voting for the November election starts today. And to arm you with information before you head to the polls, KUT's Nathan Bernier and political reporter Ben Philpott have been highlighting the candidates in a few key state-wide races, and letting you know just what the offices they're running for can and can't do.

Nathan: So, I guess we've saved the best for last: let's talk about the governor's race and have a quick rundown of the governor's powers, as well.

Ben: The Texas governor is traditionally considered to be a weak office. And there's a reason for that. When Texans were writing up their constitution after the civil war, the LBJ school's Sherri Greenberg says they were eager to limit any and all powers of any so-called carpetbaggers from reconstruction.

"So when Texans wrote the Texas constitution, this very populist document, with as much power as possible vested in the people and at the lowest, most local, level of government," Greenberg said.

Of course, it wasn't just Texas. Decentralizing government power was a broader trend across the country in the 1800’s. And that action in Texas left us with what's considered a weak governor.


The month before Election Day is always filled with a wealth of rhetoric as politicians plead their case before the polls open.

This October has been no exception; the sheer influx of information this week alone can be daunting. So Texas Standard's David Brown sat down with Austin American-Statesman chief political correspondent Jonathan Tilove to sort through the run-up to early voting.

Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune: Jennifer Whitney / Michael Stravato

Early voting starts Monday for the November 4th election. And to help you head to the polls with as much information as possible, KUT's Nathan Bernier and political reporter Ben Philpott have been giving you a rundown of some of the state's key races, along with telling you just what the offices in question actually do.

Today, they talk about the office that some people say is the most powerful one in the state of Texas: the lieutenant governor.

Ben: So here's what a lieutenant governor can do, and why those powers are considered so important. First up, the lieutenant governor gets to be governor if the governor dies and even if the governor just leaves the state for a few days.

Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune, Michael Stravato and Cooper Neill

You probably already know that Texans will be electing a new governor next month. But the absence of Governor Rick Perry from the ballot has had a domino effect on other state-wide offices.

Meaning we'll also be electing new people to all 7 of the top state-wide offices. That includes Attorney General. KUT's All Things Considered host Nathan Bernier and Political Reporter Ben Philpott will help explain what the office does and who's running to be the state's next top lawyer, 

Ben: This office, like many, can take on the personality and priorities of the office holder. Especially, if you've been in that office for more than a decade, like current Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune

Early voting starts Monday for the November 4th elections.

But before you head to the polls, KUT wants to make sure you know what you're voting on. Not only on who's running, but on what the office they're running for actually does. To do just that, All Things Considered host Nathan Bernier is going to spend the rest of the week talking with KUT's political reporter Ben Philpott.

Ben: I guess we should start with how the office is pronounced. Some people hit the letters M and P when they say "Comptroller." Others pronounce it like the word "Controller." The state's spelling, Comptroller, comes from the Old English spelling. When American governments were getting set up, they often took the Old English spelling. But what about the pronunciation?

The remains of thousands of U.S. soldiers who died in the Korean War are "left here and there uncared and carried away en masse," a North Korean military spokesman said Monday.

He said the remains are being put at risk by large construction projects – and by the halting of joint recovery efforts. North Korea is estimated to contain the remains of more than 5,000 American soldiers.

From Seoul, Jason Strother reports:

The besieged city of Kobani, Syria, has seen an increase in air strikes and fighting, with Kurdish fighters in the area saying they've stopped the extremist group ISIS from advancing. As the U.S.-led coalition carried out strikes on areas east and south of Kobani, new reports emerged about Turkey's role in supporting the fight against ISIS.