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More Republicans Call on Representative Barton to Resign Over Sexting Scandal: Your Texas Roundup

Plus: Rumors spread of a stronger Democratic challenger entering the race against Governor Greg Abbott, American Airlines needs a Christmas miracle, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission headquarters has a rat problem.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY


“Is this how the United States is supposed to be? Is this the humanity? Is this the freedom?”

—Houri Hedayatifar, of Austin, to KXAN. Hedayatifar’s 88-year-old mother has been on life support in the Intensive Care Unit at a hospital in Austin for two weeks, but her sister, who lives in Iran, has been unable to secure entry into the United States to visit her mother and say goodbye. 


BIG NEWS


Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) answers a question during a town hall meeting at Mansfield City Hall on April 13, 2017 in Mansfield, Texas.

Photograph by Mike Stone/Getty

Sloppy Joe
More key Texas GOP figures are calling for Representative Joe Barton to resign, after the Ennis Republican’s nude sexts that he sent to a woman years ago were made public last week, according to the Dallas Morning News. On Wednesday, Barton was dealt another blow when the Fort Worth Star-Telegram exposed some sexually explicit Facebook messages the veteran congressman had sent another woman while he was still married to his second wife. The messages included questions about whether the woman was “wearing a tank top only.. and no panties.” The target of these messages, Kelly Canon, told the Star-Telegram that Barton “took it a step too far on rare occasions,” and that “he was very fascinated with my attire, to the point of being inappropriate.” Canon is an active member of the Republican party. Barton confirmed to the Star-Telegram that the message exchange took place but did not comment any further, and his consultant told the Star-Telegram that he apologized to Canon, though Canon denied that the apology ever happened. On Wednesday, state Senator Konni Burton, a Republican from Colleyville, became the latest high-profile Republican to call for Barton to discontinue his bid for re-election. “We must hold public officials to a high standard and recent publicized incidents demonstrate those standards were not met,” Burton, an influential tea party leader, said in a statement, according to the Morning News. Burton said Barton should not seek re-election “so that Tarrant County can move forward in making sure we send a strong conservative to Congress.”


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


Candidate Carousel
Will a serious Democratic contender emerge to challenge Governor Greg Abbott in 2018? It looked like that might have happened on Wednesday, when the Dallas Morning News reported that Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez had resigned and was going to file paperwork to run for governor. Valdez, who has made national news as the first openly gay female sheriff in the state, the only Hispanic female sheriff in the country, and through her clashes with Abbott over sanctuary policies, has publicly made known her interest in running against Abbott. But later Wednesday, Valdez denied that she had resigned to run for governor. “As she has stated in the past, the Sheriff is considering the next stage in her career,” Valdez’s spokeswoman, Melinda Urbina, said in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune. “A letter of resignation was not submitted today. The Sheriff will make a formal announcement when her final decision is made.” The Morning News eventually ran a correction to its story, and, as of right now, Abbott still faces no serious challenger.

Christmas Vacation
American Airlines has screwed up. Its faulty employee vacation scheduling system let too many pilots take off over Christmas, jeopardizing about 15,000 flights from December 17 until the end of 2017, according to the New York Times. That’s prime flying time, and now the Fort Worth-based airline is scrambling to find a fix, though there appears to be no immediately clear solution. “We are working diligently to address the issue and expect to avoid cancellations this holiday season,” American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller told Bloomberg. The flights that currently have no scheduled pilots originate from cities including Boston; Charlotte, North Carolina; Washington; Dallas-Fort Worth; New York; Miami; Chicago; and Philadelphia. Gregg Overman, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, told the Times that American Airlines was desperately trying to fill the scheduling hole by offering pilots one and a half times their normal pay. But the union, which represents more than 15,000 pilots, filed a grievance, claiming that the premium pay was not covered by its contract and that the airline couldn’t guarantee payment. “I’m sorry I can’t offer any guidance other than: Stay tuned,” Overman told the Times. “And here’s hoping the folks running the airline come to us and are willing to sit down and work through it, because we don’t have a solution at this point.”

Rat Hole
In an ironic turn, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission headquarters in Austin is apparently infested with rats. The Texas Tribune broke the story on Wednesday, reporting that the agency faces a $60,000 bill to pay private exterminators to trap and kill “several hundred” rodents in the building. Employees had horrific stories about the invasion, telling the Tribune about seeing trapped rat corpses in office hallways, sharing cellphone photos of the vermin’s mangled bodies, and recounting stories of repeated live rat sightings. “This is really unsettling the staff,” Lesley French, an associate commissioner at the agency, wrote in an email on October 20, which she sent to Enrique Marquez and Kelly Garcia, two high-ranking employees. Adding to the absurdity, Marquez was later spotted in an Orkin Man costume at the agency’s Halloween party, according to the Tribune. The agency apparently suspects the rats may be the result of construction and renovation activities, and agency officials have told employees to clean up their desks, especially of food. Employees even received an office-wide email encouraging them to “rat out” their dirty colleagues (all pun credit to the Tribune there) via an anonymous tip line.


WHAT WE’RE READING


Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.

Odessa’s City Attorney Larry Long resigns amid allegations of sexual harassment Odessa American

How Trump, Breitbart, and Texas Republicans spun the death of a border patrol agent until it fit their political messages Texas Observer

Johnny Manziel’s misdemeanor assault charge was dismissed Dallas Morning News

The Air Force fired its commander of the Thunderbirds, who was a Sugar Land native Houston Chronicle

Fishermen in Laredo reeled in a 45-pound catfish Laredo Morning-Times

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