The State of Texas: Texans Sid Miller And Susan Combs Square Off For Ag Secretary
Plus: Greg Abbott gets sued over a nativity scene, a Texan was injured during a terrorist attack in Berlin, and a Houston doctor’s in-flight experience prompts a policy change.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“If they start causing damage to the properties here, we’ll make them into tamales.”
—Napoleon Garza, of Granjeno, to KRGV. Apparently Granjeno residents are dealing with an influx of javelinas in their neighborhood, and residents like Garza are concerned that the animals will damage fences and lawns. It may be in the javelinas’s best interests to stay far, far away from Garza’s house.
Ag Battle—President-elect Donald Trump has already added two Texans to his cabinet—Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and Rick Perry as energy secretary—and it now appears he has his heart set on pulling from the Lone Star State’s talent pool yet again to fill one of the last remaining open cabinet spots: agriculture secretary. According to the Texas Tribune, Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller and former Ag Commissioner and state comptroller Susan Combs are both being considered for the gig. Miller has long been thought to be a favorite to land a spot in Trump’s closest circle, but Combs is a bit of a “dark horse candidate,” according to Politico. Combs, who served as ag commissioner from 1998 to 2007 and comptroller from 2007 until 2015, reportedly met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, and picked up a key endorsement from Texas House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, who told Politico that Combs is a “stunningly capable woman” who is a
“proven commodity in Texas.” Miller, meanwhile, is set to meet with Trump’s transition team at Trump Tower sometime next week, his spokesman told the Tribune on Wednesday. While they both certainly have ag experience, both Miller and Combs also have some skeletons in their respective closets. Miller’s Twitter account recently retweeted a post that referred to Hillary Clinton by the c-word, and his reported use of taxpayer dollars for seemingly personal trips (including one to receive a pseudoscientific “Jesus Shot” and another to go to a rodeo) have raised ethical questions. Combs, meanwhile, oversaw Texas’s largest-ever data breach, when, as comptroller, her office inadvertently publicly disclosed personal information on 3.5 million Texans, and she also once authored a, um, spicy romance novel (one passage from the book: “Their mouths had fused hotly, desperately, a feverish urgency in his touch.”). A member of the Trump transition team told reporters that he doesn’t know when Trump might make a final decision on the open cabinet spot.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS . . .
Nativity Fight—A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that a Wisconsin-based organization that advocates for separation of church and state can sue Governor Greg Abbott over his order to remove a satirically secular nativity scene from the rotunda of the Texas Capitol last year, according to the Texas Tribune. The display, described by the Freedom From Religion Foundation as a “Winter Solstice” nativity scene, featured three of the founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty in a mock manger scene, surrounding the Bill of Rights in place of baby Jesus. Abbott, however, was not amused, referring to the display as a “juvenile parody” and claiming it was offensive to Christians in a letter he wrote last year ordering the state Preservation Board to kick the exhibit to the curb. In his ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks didn’t go so far as requiring Abbott to reinstate the display, but he did write that the lawsuit was good to go on the basis that Abbott may have ordered the nativity to be taken down simply because he disagreed with its message.
Injured Abroad—A man who lived in Austin for 40 years was injured during a terrorist attack in Berlin earlier this week, the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday. Russell Schulz-Widmar was “sipping mulled wine with friends” at a market in the German city on Monday when, suddenly, he heard screams, and a truck came barreling through the area where he was sitting. “I thought I was going to die because all this stuff was being forced over my body and past me,” Schulz-Widmar told the Statesman. “I was under the rubble when I came to and realized I had survived.” Miraculously, Schulz-Widmar emerged with only minor injuries to his hands, probably from pushing debris out of the way. Twelve people were killed and dozens more wounded during the attack, according to the New York Times. Schulz-Widmar moved to Berlin in 2011 after retiring from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, where he taught music for 36 years. This isn’t the first time an Austinite has fallen victim to a terrorist attack overseas: in July, a father and son from Austin were killed in an eerily similar incident in Nice, France, when a man drove a truck through a crowd gathered to celebrate Bastille Day.
Sky Doctor—A Houston doctor’s story of racial bias went viral two months ago, and now her experience has brought changes to an airline’s policies, according to the Houston Chronicle. In October, Dr. Tamika Cross was on a Delta flight traveling back to Houston from Detroit when a fellow passenger passed out. A fourth-year resident at UT Health’s McGovern Medical School at the time, Cross got up to help, but she was told to sit back down by a flight attendant. Cross, who is black, said the flight attendant told her, “Oh no sweetie… We are looking for actual physicians,” and then she watched as the attendant escorted a white passenger who, like Cross, also said he was a doctor. Neither Cross nor the white guy were asked for their credentials until later. Cross took to social media to share her story, and this week Delta apologized and announced a policy change, so attendants won’t be required to ask for medical credentials during an in-flight emergency anymore. The airline is also requiring all employees to participate in inclusion training.
WHAT WE’RE READING
West Texas’s abandoned oil wells are environmental disasters waiting to happen. Texas Tribune
The women of the Dallas County Jail put on a Christmas pageant. Dallas Morning News
A San Antonian Army vet posthumously received five military service medals. San Antonio Express-News
A Fort Worth teen accused of sexually assaulting a mentally disabled football teammate in Idaho will avoid jail time. Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The final episode of an Austin ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s seven-day run aired Wednesday night, weeks after she died of cancer. KXAN