McNeely: Democrats not far behind in statewide races, poll suggests

Justin Nelson? Who’s Justin Nelson?

No, he’s not Willie’s son, or grandson. But he does have the distinction of being the Democratic nominee for statewide office this year who a recent poll showed just 1 percentage point behind the Republican incumbent he’s challenging – Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton.

Nelson, an Austin lawyer with the Susman Godfrey firm and adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law, was the only person who stepped up to seek the Democratic nomination.

He likes to introduce himself to audiences as “the candidate for attorney general who’s not under indictment.”

That’s a not-so-subtle way of calling attention to the fact that Paxton is under indictment – for criminal securities fraud, allegedly committed back when he was still in the state Legislature, before his election as attorney general in 2014.

In the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll of 1,200 registered voters, conducted from June 8 to June 17, Paxton got 32 percent, while Nelson got 31 percent. That difference is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.83 percent.

Libertarian Michael Ray Harris got 6 percent, “someone else” got 4 percent, and 26 percent said they hadn’t formed an opinion.

Paxton’s trial has been delayed for months by wrangling over whether the $300 hourly rate for the Houston lawyers who had been appointed as prosecutors was justified.

It now looks like the trial is unlikely to take place before the November election.

Nelson’s poll showing wasn’t far off from Democrats seeking other offices.

U.S. Senate: Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, 41 percent; Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, 36 percent; Libertarian Neal Dikeman, 2 percent; someone else, 3 percent; no opinion, 17 percent.

Governor: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, 44 percent; Democrat Lupe Valdez, 32 percent; Libertarian Mark Tippetts, 4 percent; someone else, 4 percent; and no opinion, 16 percent.

Lieutenant governor: Republican incumbent Dan Patrick, 37 percent; Democrat Mike Collier, 31 percent; Libertarian Kerry McKennon, 4 percent; someone else, 5 percent; and no opinion, 23 percent.

This poll did not include races further down the ballot – comptroller, agriculture commissioner, land commissioner or railroad commissioner.

27th Congressional District special election: Republican Michael Cloud got 55 percent against eight other candidates in a special election Saturday to replace Republican Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, who did not seek re-election this year, then abruptly resigned in April.

The runner-up in the district, which stretches from the lower Gulf Coast to Bastrop County near Austin, was Democrat Eric Holguin, with 32 percent. Holguin and Cloud, who won their respective primaries this spring, will face off in November for a full term to begin in 2019.

None of the other candidates in the special election – two Republicans, two Democrats, two independents, and a Libertarian – got more than 5 percent.

The district, not incidentally, was cleared by the U.S. Supreme Court from a lower-court ruling that said it was racially gerrymandered against Hispanics.

Former Sen. Uresti sentenced … Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, a member of the Texas House and Senate for 21 years, drew a 12-year federal prison sentence June 26 for his part in defrauding investors in an oilfield services company.

Uresti, 54, also was ordered to pay $6.3 million in restitution to those defrauded. He was implicated on a variety of charges linked to seeking investors in a company to buy and sell oilfield fracking sand, which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme.

Uresti apologized to his victims in the federal court sentencing hearing in San Antonio.

“I truly feel remorseful, ashamed, disappointed, disgraced, angry at myself and sad,” he said. “Your honor, you are correct. I should have known. I should have asked more questions. I should have stepped up.”

Uresti said he had wrongly tried to blame everyone but himself for what happened.

“There’s no one to blame but me,” Uresti said. “All my life I had direction and purpose. I lost that direction and purpose. Instead I followed opportunity.”

He had been convicted by a jury on 11 counts in February. Under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans, he resigned June 21 from representing the sprawling District 19, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso.

Among the eight candidates seeking to replace him in the July 31 special election are his brother Tomas, a San Antonio freshman state representative who lost his Democratic primary re-election this spring; former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine, who served 22 years in the Texas House and two in Congress; and 10-year state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio.

This article provided by NewsEdge.