Dispatches from Dallas, November 3 edition

This is a weekly feature produced by my friend Ginger. Let us know what you think.

This week, in news from Dallas-Fort Worth, two major cyberattacks in the Dallas area; Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth decides not to run for re-election; what’s up with Ken Paxton, Defend Texas Liberty, Texans for Strong Borders, and a bunch of Republican primaries for 2024; Patriot Mobile’s First Karen and other north Texas school news; (lack of) public transit in Arlington; Starbucks can’t hack it in Highland Park; good news and bad news at local museums; and more.

Also, congratulations to the Texas Rangers on winning the World Series. I’m a Houstonian by birth and one of my best friends is a Diamondbacks fan, so it’s been a difficult couple of weeks in my circles. I do wish my mother-in-law were still with us to enjoy her favorite team’s victory. And in the aftermath of the I-45 championship series, at least we can all laugh together at Ted Cruz for calling the winner the Dallas Rangers.

This week’s post was brought to you by the music of Hauschka and the David Byrne flameco playlist for November 2023.

Although there’s a lot of North Texas news in the past week or two, one of the biggest items is the upcoming election on Tuesday. Though I hope by the time you’ve read this you’ve already voted early (I haven’t as of this writing, but hope to go Friday), if you haven’t, please vote on Tuesday.

In our part of Texas, in addition to the fourteen constitutional amendments on the ballot, there are several local bonds and school bonds. For local explainers about the proposed amendments, I like D Magazine and KERA the best, though of course every media outlet in the area has one. KERA tells you who supports and opposes each amendment, which is educational in and of itself. As for recommendations, the Star-Telegram has theirs and the DMN has theirs (link is to their summary page with links to individual recommendations).

In other news:

  • As noted by our host yesterday, Dallas County says it defended itself from an attack by the ransomware group Play. The best piece I’ve actually seen about what we know and don’t know is this one from the DMN which says, correctly, we don’t know much. Also, please note KERA’s story about the county praising its IT staff during ‘Cyber Security Awareness Month’ in October. Friday is when we find out whether they’ve earned those kind words.
  • Speaking of Dallas entities that have gotten hacked recently, local mortgage company Mr. Cooper was hit. They’re figuring out what was done and what information the bad guys have. Mr. Cooper recently bought our mortgage and they’ve emailed us twice, once to tell us there was an outage and our payment wouldn’t be counted late, and again to notify us about the attack. No word yet on whether our financial information has been stolen.
  • The biggest news on the 2024 election cycle right now in north Texas is Kay Granger’s decision to stand down, as our host noted yesterday. I agree that we’re likely to get a MAGA type in her seat; Charles pointed to this Fort Worth Report piece and I strongly recommend interested parties read it for a look at who is already in the race and who’s talking about running. Granger already had a Paxton-endorsed primary challenger and the Phelan vs Patrick/Paxton split in Republican politics will almost certainly play out in Granger’s seat. The DMN and the Star-Telegram have retrospectives. Since Granger was the chair of the Appropriations Committee, her decision has gotten national press to boot, for example Talking Points Memo, which attributes it to the recent Speaker brouhaha. I’m sure that was a factor, as was the waiver she would have needed to stay on as chair or ranking member in the next session. Also, she’s 80 years old. But I also noticed this letter to the editor in the Star-Telegram saying Granger had to go over her Speaker vote. If this is what folks are saying in public, one wonders what messages she was getting in private. I wish her well in her retirement and will keep my fingers crossed that whoever survives the Republican primary isn’t utterly despicable.
  • Somewhat related: did you know new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson used to be an attorney in Plano? He argued cases for First Liberty Institute, formerly Liberty Legal Institute. That second link leads to their Wikipedia article so you can get a better idea of what our new Speaker has supported in his previous incarnation as a lawyer.
  • This post is going to have a lot of 2024 discussion, so let’s start with DMN political writer Gromer Jeffers on what he expects in 2024. He’s looking at three big things: Ken Paxton paying people back for his impeachment; the split in the Texas GOP over vouchers; and the Democratic Senate primary. I personally think the first two items are different manifestations of the same problem, which is the religious/culture war Republicans vs the business Republican split we’ve had here in Texas for a long time. A lot of the stories I’m about to discuss are also manifestations of that split.
  • First, let’s take a look at Ken Paxton: this Jeffers piece from last week talks about Paxton’s recovery from his impeachment and trial in the Senate, covering his polling, his backing of primary opponents to his House colleagues in Collin County, and the Defend Texas Liberty situation. As Jeffers points out, there’s also the matter of his upcoming securities fraud trial, and we’re starting to see movement on that: Collin County just got ordered to pay the special prosecutors in that matter.
  • Who is Paxton going after? It’s not just Collin County. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, who was one of the House’s impeachment managers, has drawn a primary opponent in Jack Reynolds, a former professor at Tarrant County College. Reynolds points at the impeachment as a reason for entering the primary. And as I mentioned last time, Rep. Kronda Thimesch of Lewisville, who voted to impeach, is being challenged by her own former campaign treasurer, who was on Paxton’s defense team. I expect to cover a lot more of these filings once the season opens on November 11.
  • Moving on to the Defend Texas Liberty/Stickland/Nazis situation, those guys are starting to look a little toxic. Dan Patrick wouldn’t give back their $3 million because 1. he said he wouldn’t and 2. $3 million, but he did decide to buy Israeli bonds with it. He looks not-so-bad today and gets his money back later, so I’m sure that’s a win-win for him. Meanwhile, the Texas Tribune dug up a list of terrible people Defend Texas Liberty is tied up with, most of whom are associates of Fuentes. They also have a piece on how state GOP chair Matt Rinaldi would rather open fire on fellow Republican Dade Phelan than disavow his cronies like Stickland who cozy up to Fuentes. The meat of that one, though, is about a different set of antisemitic Republican types tied up with young Republican groups. Yikes. And at the same time, the Tribune has linked Chris Russo of Texans for Strong Borders, an anti-immigration group also funded by the Wilks brothers, to Fuentes through an anonymous hate-filled Twitter account. Also yikes. And during all this, Defend Texas Liberty is keeping on keeping on, backing a candidate in HD2 which used to be Bryan Slaton’s seat back in the regular session, before he was expelled.
  • The Wilks Brothers and their hands and money are also up to the elbows in local party elections. The Tarrant County GOP just elected Bo French as its new Chair mid-term; French has served on the board of Texans for Strong Borders and, ahem, defended Defend Texas Liberty.
  • Also on the subject of the Tarrant County GOP, that election integrity task force that County Judge Tim O’Hare put together back in February? KERA wants to know who’s actually been punished for violating election laws but nobody can tell them. Alongside the KERA story, I’d like to note this Star-Telegram op-ed that links Sidney Powell’s admission that she lied about the 2020 election to the Republicans pushing for election integrity. I’m sure Bud Kennedy will get called a pinko commie for that piece but he’s not wrong.
  • Moving on to the 2024 Senate election, coverage here makes it mostly about Colin Allred and Ted Cruz, both because Allred is our hometown candidate and because his position in the House makes it easier to compare him with Ted Cruz. Also Cruz has clearly decided to go after Allred, as seen in the Dallas Observer and in this DMN piece about the US ambassador to Israel. Also, in local news about Allred’s current seat, State Rep. Rhetta Bowers has stepped back out of the contest for CD32.
  • This week’s issue of Six Degrees of Clarence Thomas includes loan forgiveness for his luxury RV and an attempt to subpoena Harlan Crow, Robin Arkley II, and Leonard Leo for information about their gifts to the court. The Republicans in the Senate may refuse to enforce the subpoena but the storm Crow and Thomas have set off isn’t going away.
  • Back in local news, party-switching Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has formed a Republican Mayors’ Association. The DMN’s editorial board is not impressed and thinks this may be his attempt to position himself for national office.
  • If you know about Patriot Mobile, this profile of Leigh Wambsganss may interest you. The fruit of Patriot Mobile’s labor, or, some school news from North Texas that may also interest you:
  • This week I learned that Collin County doesn’t have a public hospital, which I thought was a baseline for a civilized urban or suburban area. If you don’t have health insurance, though, faith-based urgent care will serve you with a side of Jesus.
  • Depressing news for history buffs: an angry white lady is getting diverse books banned at Texas historical sites. Books that have disappeared, not, the Texas Historical Commmission would like you to know, because of the angry lady, include Roots, White Rage, and Afro-Vegan (a cookbook).
  • Depressing in general: The Dallas Observer’s list of every mass shooting in Texas in 2023 through October 27. One would be too many, but there are 51.
  • Another suburb without another amenity I thought was basic: Arlington is the largest city in the US with no mass public transit, which has been an issue during the World Series. This may also be a problem for Arlington’s bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals.
  • Dallas’ public transit isn’t great but here’s a piece about how we might improve our streetcar systems.
  • The first Starbucks in Dallas is closing after a 30-year tenure in Highland Park Village. Apparently they can’t make enough money to justify the rent.
  • Here’s a nice piece in the Washington Post (gift link) about a (white) lawyer in Rockwall who pushed for the posthumous admission of a Black lawyer to the Maryland Bar. Read the whole thing; the history is interesting and so is the lawyer.
  • It’s good news and bad news in the Arts District this week. The good news is the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center have jointly received more than 50 works by Roy Lichtenstein from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation on the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth. The bad news is that the DMA has had to cut back its staff and hours, laying off 20 workers, or 8% of its staff, and closing on Tuesdays and at 5 pm instead of 9 pm on Friday evenings. The DMN has more, including contextualizing the layoffs with the future plans for the DMA.
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