Must Read Texas – December 29, 2013

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:


1. Here’s the AP story on the passing of Jack Blanton:
Civic leader, oil tycoon and philanthropist Jack Sawtelle Blanton Sr. died Saturday. He was 86.

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.”

The Shreveport native grew up in Houston and graduated from Lamar High School. He earned a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1950.

Blanton joined Scurlock Oil Company in Houston that same year, becoming its president in 1958 and then chairman in 1983, after the company was sold to Ashland Oil.

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.

He is survived by three children: Elizabeth Blanton Wareing, Jack S. Blanton Jr. and Eddy S. Blanton.

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.


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.

Lighter clicks:
– 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.


TT: Harold Simmons, GOP Mega-Donor, Dead at 82 (12/29/13 4:32pm)

AP: 2014 promises political change in Texas (12/29/13 4:31pm)

AP: Development could threaten central Texas bats (12/29/13 4:31pm)

AP: Fire marshal preaches safety, training after West (12/29/13 4:30pm)

AP: Civic, business leader Jack Blanton dies at 86 (12/29/13 4:28pm)

NYT / TT: Hoping the Power of a Bush Can Draw In Hispanics (12/29/13 4:27pm)

NYT /TT: Highways Are a Talking Point as Hopefuls Take to the Road (12/29/13 4:26pm)

THE HILL: Cruz defends shutdown, blames Dems (12/29/13 4:25pm)

POLITICO: Cruz unapologetic about ‘whirlwind’ first year (12/29/13 4:22pm)

POLITICO: Cruz brushes off his critics (12/29/13 4:21pm)

DMN: State District Judge Carlos Cortez arrested on assault charge at his Dallas apartment (12/29/13 4:19pm)

DMN: Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons diedSaturday night at 82 (12/29/13 4:17pm)

DMN: Ted Cruz says he’s hired lawyers to renounce Canadian citizenship (12/29/13 4:16pm)

WFAA ABC DALLAS: Inside Texas Politics: 12/22 (12/29/13 4:13pm)

FWST ($): Texas wind industry might face a future without incentives (12/29/13 4:12pm)

FWST ($): New round of Texas laws may raise cost of mixed drinks (12/29/13 4:11pm)

FWST ($): 13 IN 2013: Tiny West battles pain, controversy as it rebuilds after blast (12/29/13 4:09pm)

CHRON ($): West Texas wind soon will light up Dallas (12/29/13 4:06pm)

CHRON ($): HPD lags in dashboard cameras; many shootings not filmed (12/29/13 4:06pm)

SAEN ($): Republicans say Wendy Davis libel suit says much about her (12/29/13 3:22pm)

SAEN ($): Eagle Ford impact on Karnes: Great gains and big needs (12/29/13 3:15pm)

SAEN ($): Texas foster deaths hit grim record (12/29/13 3:14pm)

VIDEO: U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” (12/29/13 12:39pm)

ABC NEWS: 2013 Game Changers: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

AAS ($): Property tax bill with far-reaching consequences had hidden beginning (12/29/13 1:32am)

AAS ($): Experts: Expect another ‘growth spurt’ for Austin’s economy in 2014 (12/29/13 1:30am)


DMN: 2013 Texans of the Year: Those who Answered the Call at West (12/29/13 4:16pm)

FWST: Perry, TDI should remove roadblocks to Obamacare (12/29/13 4:07pm)

CHRON: The spirit of Houston (12/29/13 4:04pm)

CHRON: Sobering tax (12/29/13 4:02pm)

CHRON: Ethics cloud at HCC (12/29/13 4:02pm)

SAEN ($): San Antonio made progress in 2013 (12/29/13 3:25pm)

SAEN ($): Four policy goals to accomplish in 2014 (12/29/13 3:24pm)

SAEN: Reform NSA data mining procedures (12/29/13 12:57pm)

SAEN: What doesn’t the AG want us to know? (12/29/13 12:56pm)

BLOGS (from the left)

BOR: Texas Will Run Out of Water Before It Runs Out of Oil (12/29/13 11:59pm)

BFL: Texas Democrats need to embrace their inner underdog for 2014 (12/29/13 7:43am)

BFL: Heckuva rebranding there, Republicans (12/28/13 1:23pm)

OFF THE KUFF: We need to take better care of our water (12/28/13 11:35am)

BLOGS (from the right)

OFFICE OF GOV. PERRY: Statement by on Death of Harold Simmons (12/29/13 4:33pm)

WATCHDOG WIRE: Probate abuse: The candid reality in Texas and beyond (12/29/13 1:20am)

Author: Must Read Texas

Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) & Jason Stanford @MustReadTexas