Harold Simmons, Jack Blanton Pass Away;
DMN’s “Texans of the Year”: Heroes of West;
AP: 2014 to Bring Political Change;
Sunday Talk: U.S. Sen. Cruz on ABC, U.S. Rep. Castro on NBC
Good morning from Dallas.
Let me know if you’re headed to the Alamo Bowl tonight.
Here’s the weekend brief:
TWO TEXAS TITANS PASS AWAY: BLANTON, SIMMONS
Blanton passed away peacefully in his Galveston home, according to Peter Wareing, Blanton’s son-in-law.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, called Blanton a great leader and a dear friend.
“He dedicated his time, effort, and knowledge to the improvement of the state and Houston, and we’re all better for it,” Ellis said. “Jack provided an example of what it truly means to be a civic leader. He’ll be missed dearly.”
His leadership touched every aspect of the Houston community, friends and family said. Blanton served on numerous boards, including that of the Houston Endowment, the Methodist Hospital Healthcare System, the Texas Medical Center and the Houston Zoo.
He is known for diversifying the investment portfolio of the Houston Endowment, helping grow its asset to more than $1 billion in the 1990s.
Appointed to the Board of Regents of University of Texas System by Gov. Mark White in 1985, Blanton expanded the university’s presence to South Texas, establishing University of Texas in Brownsville. The University of Texas also renamed its art museum after Blanton in 1997 to honor a $12 million donation it received from the Houston Endowment, helping to make it the nation’s largest university museum.
Blanton, a stellar tennis player, once beat President George H.W. Bush.
2. Here’s Ross Ramsey’s quick TT story, already updated with statements from Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-TX), on the passing of GOP mega donor and businessman Harold Simmons:
Harold Simmons, a Dallas businessman and billionaire, philanthropist and Republican mega-donor, died Saturday at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. He was 82.
His death was first reported by The Dallas Morning News. Simmons’ wife, Annette, told the paper he had been “very sick for the last two weeks” and said the family had celebrated Christmas at the hospital.
Simmons was a major donor to Republican candidates and causes. He is the second important GOP financier to die this year; in April, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry passed away at age 80.
His support of conservative causes and candidates is decades deep, though he sprinkled in donations to Democrats from time to time. The Center for Public Integrity ranked him as the second-biggest overall political donor during the 2011-12 election cycle, giving $31 million by that organization’s count. That total included $23.5 million to American Crossroads, a PAC started by Republican consultant Karl Rove and others.
Since 2000, he contributed at least $5.9 million to state candidates, according to reports filed at the Texas Ethics Commission. That doesn’t include contributions for most of the second half of this year; candidates will report those next month. He bet big on Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, giving $150,000 in July. And he contributed $50,000 to Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who is running for lieutenant governor.
The Harold Simmons Foundation was a major donor to The Texas Tribune, contributing $50,000 over the last four years.
Simmons was born in May 1931 in the tiny northeast Texas town of Golden, a small town in northeast Texas. He worked as a bank examiner, then bought a pharmacy across the street from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, expanded that into 100 stores and sold it all to Eckerd Corp. That launched his career as a highly successful and often controversial investor. One of his companies, Waste Control Specialists, has been a frequent subject of legislative and state agency debates; it operates a low-level radioactive waste facility in Andrews, a West Texas town near the New Mexico border.
* * * * *
UPDATED, as remarks and remembrances come in:
Attorney General Greg Abbott: “Harold Simmons lived the American Dream. His path began with the purchase of a small drug store, and through hard work and the free enterprise system, he was able to turn that investment into one of the greatest American success stories of all time. The Simmons family shared his success with the state he dearly loved, giving generously to make advancements in healthcare and to improve higher education. The legacy of Harold Simmons will live on to benefit millions of Texans who never had the opportunity to meet the legendary Texan. Cecilia and I send our thoughts and prayers to Harold’s family, and to all those mourning his loss.”
Gov. Rick Perry: “Harold Simmons was a true Texas giant, rising from humble beginnings and seizing the limitless opportunity for success we so deeply cherish in our great state. His legacy of hard work and giving, particularly to his beloved University of Texas, will live on for generations. Anita and I send our thoughts and prayers to the Simmons family.”
Your absolute must clicks:
> DMN’s editorial board honors the ‘Heroes of West” as their “Texans of the Year.” Meanwhile, DMN’s Keven Ann Wiley explains why a couple other high profile Texans didn’t win.
> AP has a 2014 political overview.
> TT’s Alexa Ura, for Texas editions of the NYT, reports on the Hispanic appeal of George P. Bush.
> U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was named a “2013 Game Changer” by ABC News, and appeared on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. He was “unapologetic” about the government shutdown.
> U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) was the Democratic headliner on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
IN TODAY’S AAS: OPPOSING VIEWS: MACKOWIAK AND STANFORD
MRT co-founder Jason Stanford and I share our opposing views on Republican and Democratic resolutions for the New Year in today’s (Monday) Austin American-Statesman.
We will paste the columns in tomorrow’s brief.
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– The FWST editorial board is calling on Gov. Perry and the Texas Department of Insurance to remove any roadblocks to Obamacare in Texas.
– The SAEN editorial board criticizes legislative immunity regarding redistricting.
– SAEN reports (behind paywall) on a new, “grim” record for foster deaths in the state of Texas.
2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– SAEN’s Peggy Fikac reports (behind paywall) on Republican plans to use a libel suit filed several years ago against a newspaper by gubernatorial candidate and State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth).
– DMN’s Todd Gillman reports that Sen. Cruz has hired lawyers to prepare to renounce his Canadian citizenship in 2014.
– Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff pens an SAEN op ed on Bexar County economic development.
Other stories of interest:
– State District Court Judge Carlos Cortez was arrested Saturday for assault.
– 17 incredibly impressive students at the University of Texas.
– Johnny Football says he is “nowhere close” to making a decision about his future. (If he returns to College Station, I will take a 24 hour break from Twitter)
Your Daily Source of Inspiration:
– Heroes among us.
BLOGS (from the left)
BLOGS (from the right)