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OPINION: State Capital Highlights: Campaigns in final push as election day approaches

AUSTIN — Polls continued to show Republican candidates ahead in top-of-ballot races as Texas moved closer to the Oct. 31 early voting deadline before Election Day, Nov. 4.

Political campaigns continued to work feverishly across Texas, knocking on doors, holding rallies, robocalling, planting signs, flooding mailboxes and barraging email accounts.

Gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Republican state Attorney General Greg Abbott, with their multi-million dollar advertising budgets, redoubled their appeals to television viewers. Abbott, ahead in the fundraising competition to fuel their respective campaigns in the closing days, and Davis were to report their campaign cash on hand totals to the Texas Ethics Commission on Oct. 28.

Notably, Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio state senator and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, notched endorsements from daily newspapers, such as the Austin American-Statesman, Beaumont Enterprise, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Dallas Morning News, El Paso Times, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston Chronicle, Longview News-Journal, San Antonio Express-News and Wichita Falls Times Record News, and groups such as the AFL-CIO, Emily’s List, Annie’s List and Texas PharmPAC; and by actress Eva Longoria.

Also notably, Van de Putte’s opponent, fellow state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has been endorsed by political action groups such as the Tea Party, National Rifle Association, Home School PAC, Concerned Women for America, National Federation of Independent Business, Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas Association of Business, Texas Association of Realtors, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Cattle Feeders Association and Texas Medical Association.

As of Oct. 24, the midpoint in early voting, the Secretary of State’s Elections Division had posted daily and cumulative figures for Texas’ 15 largest population counties. The figures show that of the nearly 9 million registered voters in those counties, more than 726,000 (or 8 percent) cast a ballot in the first five days of early voting. 

Group declared Ebola-free

Texas Department of State Health Services on Oct. 20 announced “A group of 43 people in Texas who had contact with the state’s first Ebola patient have been cleared from twice-daily monitoring after reaching the 21-day mark, the longest incubation period for the disease.”

The group, the state health agency said, “is a mix of health care workers, household contacts and community members whose last possible contact with the state’s first patient was Sept. 28.”

The first patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, was exposed to the disease in Liberia before traveling to Texas and being diagnosed. The second and third patients are both nurses who cared for Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas: Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson. Pham was declared free of Ebola on Oct. 24 at a Maryland hospital where she was being treated. Vinson, at Emory University Hospital in Georgia, reportedly is improving.

Treatment facility planned

Gov. Rick Perry on Oct. 21 announced the creation of an Ebola treatment and infectious disease biological containment facility in North Texas. The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response recommended the creation of such a facility “to better protect health care workers and the public from the spread of pandemic diseases.”

Three Dallas-area-based health care providers, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Methodist Hospital System and Parkland Hospital System, will partner to set up and operate the North Texas facility, Perry said. 

Earlier in October, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was designated an Ebola treatment and infectious disease bio containment facility.

Task force holds meeting

And, on Oct. 23, the governor’s office announced the new Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response held its first public hearing at the Capitol. Preparedness for initial identification and isolation of patients was discussed, and invited testimony was heard from witnesses representing professions and institutions involved in disease identification and response.

Dr. Brett P. Giroir, chief executive of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Task Force, said, “We are committed to gathering the information needed to develop a plan that insures Texas is fully prepared for future infectious disease threats of all kinds.”

Safe Schools Week marked

During Texas Safe Schools Week, Oct. 19-25, the Texas Education Agency reminded school districts and charters of the state’s fingerprinting law requiring fingerprint-based criminal background reviews.

Education Commissioner Michael Williams said, “Through this safety precaution, parents can be assured their district or charter places an emphasis on protecting children every day.”

Fingerprints are submitted to the Texas Department of Public Safety Clearinghouse.

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