2023 election results: Statewide

There are a few items of interest here, starting with this.

Property tax cuts, a raise for retired teachers and billions in investments in infrastructure, research, tech and energy appeared headed for passage as voters showed their approval for more than a dozen constitutional amendments, according to early returns on Tuesday night.

But a measure to allow judges to retire at a later age appeared to be going down, with barely over one-third of Texans voting for it.

And a few others — including a property tax exemption for biomedical inventory and equipment from property taxes, were passing by only slim margins.

Voters weighed 14 constitutional amendments totaling up to $20 billion and appeared ready to approve 13 of them.

The most definitive support appears to be going to Prop 4, the $18 billion property tax relief measure, which had 87% of the vote in early returns.

As of 9 PM. the SOS had Prop 13, the one to raise the judicial retirement age, losing 61-39. Everything else was passing, with only Props 10 (the property tax exemption for biomedical inventory and equipment) and 12 (killing the office of Treasurer in Galveston County) at less than 60% support. I expect them all to pass.

Houston Landing tracked a bunch of school bond referenda.

Houston-area voters appeared to back $5 billion in bonds for new school buildings, technology upgrades and athletics facilities, according to early and absentee voting returns.

This election cycle, 10 school districts across greater Houston put bond issues on the ballot, ranging from $15 million to $2 billion, worth a total of $5.7 billion. In most cases, voters appeared to green light the initiatives, sending them toward passage.

School bond measures allow districts to borrow money for construction or other large investments. If voters approve, districts are pre-approved to borrow a set amount of money, which they pay back over time. For each proposition to pass, a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote is needed.

Conroe Independent School District in Montgomery County put forward the largest bond package at $2 billion. Most of the money would be used to improve existing campuses and purchase new sites, according to the ballot proposition. However, the district says it also will make other investments, such as a competition swimming pool and an agricultural barn for its career and technical education program.

Aldine and Katy ISDs presented the second- and third-largest packages at $1.8 billion and $840 million, respectively.

Houston ISD did not put a bond levy on the ballot, but new Superintendent Mike Miles said residents should expect one as soon as next fall. The last time HISD voters passed a school bond was in 2012, when a measure raised $1.9 billion for facilities upgrades. Miles says many of the buildings in Texas’ largest district are overdue for fixes.

I can’t wrap my mind around Mike Miles campaigning for a bond referendum right now. You can click over and see their reporting, but as of 9 PM the Conroe and Aldine bonds were all passing, while the Katy bonds for school renovations/construction and technology (which accounted for abut 95% of the bond money) were passing while two other referenda for athletic facilities and a swimming pool were trailing. There are a lot more referenda on the ballot around the metro area, look to see how yours was doing.

Possibly the most contentious school bond election was in Midland, where the usual villains were doing villain things.

Allies of influential Texas billionaire Tim Dunn are pushing ahead in Austin with efforts to create a private-school voucher system that could weaken public schools across the state. Meanwhile, Dunn’s associates in his hometown of Midland are working to defeat a local school bond proposal that his district says it desperately needs.

Dunn, an evangelical Christian, is best known for a mostly successful two-decade effort to push the Texas GOP ever further to the right. His political action committees have spent millions to elect pro-voucher candidates and derail Republicans who oppose them. Defend Texas Liberty, the influential PAC he funds with other West Texas oil barons, has come under fire after The Texas Tribune revealed that the PAC’s president had hosted infamous white supremacist Nick Fuentes for an October meeting and that the organization has connections to other white nationalists.

Less known are Dunn’s efforts to shape politics in his hometown of Midland, which will come to a head next week. On Tuesday, residents in the Midland Independent School District will vote on a $1.4 billion bond, the largest in its history, after rejecting a smaller measure four years ago. A dark-money organization whose leaders have ties to Dunn’s Midland oil and gas company, as well as to a prominent conservative public policy organization where Dunn serves as vice chairman, have become among the loudest voices against the bond.

On Sept. 21, less than two months before the Midland bond election, three Midland residents with deep connections to Dunn and his associated public policy organization registered a “social welfare” nonprofit called Move Midland.

The nonprofit is headed by Rachel Walker, a public affairs manager for Dunn’s oil and gas company, CrownQuest Operating LLC, according to public records. A second member, Ernest Angelo, is a former Midland mayor and board member of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank that Dunn has helped lead for more than two decades. The third member of the nonprofit’s board is Elizabeth Moore, a former West Texas development officer for the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Within weeks, the nascent nonprofit had a website, campaign signs and a social media presence as its directors appeared on local radio shows and in community debates to oppose the bond. In the local newspaper, another former mayor urged residents to visit Move Midland’s website for insights about the election. That former mayor, Mike Canon, had run for the Texas Senate in 2018 to unseat Kel Seliger, a prominent Republican who opposed vouchers. Another PAC funded by Dunn, Empower Texans, provided the bulk of his war chest, nearly $350,000, in a losing effort.

Move Midland and its directors have not called attention to their relationship to Dunn and his entities in public appearances. Biographies of the three directors on the nonprofit’s website make no mention of Dunn, CrownQuest or the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where Dunn serves as vice chair of the board.

Walker and other members of the group did not respond to voice messages, emails, Facebook messages or requests made through the Move Midland website.

There’s more, but you get the idea. The good news is that the bond issue was on its was to passage with about 56% of the vote. There were still two voting centers that had not reported yet, but the margin looks pretty big to me.

And finally, one more race of interest:

Former Mayor Cody Smith takes an early lead in a three-way race for Uvalde’s next mayor. Kimberly Mata-Rubio, who became a gun control advocate after her daughter was killed in the Robb Elementary mass shooting last year, had out-raised Smith by $55,000 but was trailing by a wide margin after the early vote results were tallied.

The city’s top elected office came up for grabs after Mayor Don McLaughlin in July announced his resignation to seek higher office in the Texas House.

Smith, a banker who served as Uvalde’s mayor from 2008-12, received 68% of early votes, with more than 1,090 ballots cast in his favor.

Mata-Rubio trails far behind with 30% of the vote, or 480 ballots. In third place is elementary school teacher Veronica Martinez, who received just under 2% of the early ballots cast — 29 votes.

I was rooting for Kim Mata-Rubio, but it was not to be. It appears the campaign was cordial, so there’s that. I’m sure we have not heard the last of her or of other Robb Elementary families. The Trib confirmed the result.

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