AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott and Lupe Valdez on Sept. 28 appeared together on television for 60 minutes in the only scheduled gubernatorial debate, a forum hosted by the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum on the University of Texas campus.

A Republican and former Texas attorney general, Abbott is seeking a second four-year term as the state’s chief executive. His challenger, Guadalupe “Lupe” Valdez, a San Antonio-born Democrat, held elected office as Dallas County sheriff from 2005 to 2017 and previously served as a senior agent and investigator for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, earlier as an agent for other federal agencies, and as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.  

Abbott and Valdez voiced their positions on topics including education, property taxes, health care, immigration, border security, gun control, school campus security and disaster management related to Hurricane Harvey. Abbott touted his record on each topic and asked voters to stay the course and support him. Valdez said she would use the state’s $12 billion “rainy day fund” to speed up assistance to hurricane-stricken Texans. Valdez also said she would fund public education and health care programs at a much higher level, rather than devote state dollars to militarizing the Texas-Mexico border. Also, she said that as governor she would sign a “red flag law” to help keep firearms out of the hands of ill-intentioned individuals. 

Both candidates said they would support legislation that increases access to medical marijuana and decreases the criminal penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana for non-medical use.

Robert Hadlock of KXAN, the Austin NBC-TV affiliate, moderated the forum in which the candidates answered questions from a panel of four journalists from Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio broadcast stations.

Registration hits new high

As of last week, Texas had 15,624,871 registered voters, a new record, the state’s chief elections officer announced.

On Sept. 25 — National Voter Registration Day — Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos pushed for even more participation, inviting all eligible residents to ensure they are registered to vote ahead of the Oct. 9 voter registration deadline. 

It was Pablos’ final call to action to voters, community leaders and elected officials to encourage fellow Texans to register and prepare to vote in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. He suggested that Texans check their registration status on the Texas Secretary of State’s “Am I Registered?” web page, and that those who have moved to a new address within the same county or have changed their name can update their information online.

Early voting will begin on Oct. 22 and end on Nov. 2. Voters with questions about how to cast a ballot in upcoming elections can call 1-800-252-VOTE.

Abbott announces grant

Gov. Abbott on Sept. 24 announced a $2 million grant to the Austin Community College District in partnership with The University of Texas and the U.S. Army.

The funds, Abbott said, are for the build-out of communication facilities supporting the new U.S. Army Futures Command in Austin.

The $2 million comes through the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance grant program administered by the Texas Military Preparedness Commission, a part of the governor’s office that advises Abbott and the Texas Legislature on defense and military issues.

Abbott noted that he announced more than $50 million in grant awards to military installations across Texas over the last two state budget cycles.

Jobs increase in August

The Texas economy added 32,000 seasonally adjusted non-farm jobs during the month of August, the Texas Workforce Commission announced in September.

Private-sector employers added 32,800 positions in August and Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent, down slightly from 4.0 in July.

Also, the Workforce Commission stated, the increase marked 26 consecutive months of employment growth. Over the course of the year Texas added 394,500 jobs, for an annual employment growth rate of 3.2 percent. 

The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a not-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.2 percent, followed by the Amarillo and Odessa MSAs with rates of 2.8 and 2.9 percent, respectively. The Austin-Round Rock MSA recorded the fourth-lowest rate of 3.0 percent for August.