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By Ross Ramsey
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn leads Democratic challenger MJ Hegar by 8 percentage points in his reelection bid, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
The poll found 50% of likely voters in Texas prefer the Republican incumbent, while 42% favor Hegar. Kerry Douglas McKennon, a Libertarian, attracted the support of 3%.
In the state's presidential race, where President Donald Trump is leading former Vice President Joe Biden 50%-45%, there is a marked gender gap: Men favor Trump by 16 percentage points, while women favor Biden by 5 percentage points. Taken together, that amounts to a 21-point difference in support. In the Senate race, however, the gap barely exists: Men favor Cornyn by 8 percentage points, and women favor Cornyn by 4 percentage points.
And in a generic race for Congress — voters were asked whether they'd favor an unnamed Republican or an unnamed Democrat in a race for their own congressional district — Republicans had a 7-percentage-point advantage.
"It's not like Cornyn is blowing out Hegar, but the Cornyn race and then the generic battle for Congress really look more like party [affiliation] is reasserting itself," said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. He called the presidential race a referendum on the president, with different results than might be expected for a typical contest based on party.
Hegar, who hasn't held public office, isn't as well known as Cornyn, who was first elected to statewide office in 1990 and was elected to the Senate in 2002. More Texas voters viewed her positively than negatively — 33% said they have a favorable opinion of her, while 24% had an unfavorable one — and 43% registered no opinion at all.
Cornyn was rated positively by 38% of voters, and negatively by the same percentage. What's more, 24% of Texas voters, even after the years of seeing his name on the ballot, don't report having any real impression of him.
Voters aren't as well acquainted with Hegar as with her opponent, said James Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin.
"Her fate, even more than others, is going to be pretty tied to the presidential race. She's right there under the race," he said. "She does have 50% of independents, but 88% of Trump voters are with Cornyn, and 82% of Biden voters are with Hegar."
Compare Cornyn's job approval ratings with Ted Cruz, the state's junior U.S. senator and a former presidential candidate. Only 12% of Texas voters said either that they have a neutral or no opinion about Cruz, while 46% reported a favorable opinion and 42% said they had an unfavorable opinion.
Texans gave both senators higher marks than the institution where they serve. A majority — 60% — have a negative opinion of Congress, while only 20% said they approve of the job Congress is doing.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 25 to Oct. 4 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points. The margin of error for results from 908 likely voters is +/- 3.25 percentage points. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100% because of rounding.
More on the election:
Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a record-setting second quarter during an earnings call broadcasted from the Giga Texas construction site in Southeast Travis County on Monday.
The electric carmaker reported more than $1 billion in quarterly net income and the production of more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time despite challenges such as a global semiconductor shortage.
"It … seems that public sentiment towards electric vehicles is at an inflection point, and at this point, I think, almost everyone agrees electric vehicles are the only way forward," Musk said.
Exterior shots taken just a while ago of Giga Texas (while @elonmusk is reportedly at the Gigafactory!) during today's earnings call!
Hope @peterdog15 got to catch the technoking in his video! #fastestinhistory #Tesla pic.twitter.com/WqeDlb5wU3
— Austin Tesla Club (@AustinTeslaClub) July 26, 2021
Despite rising consumer demand and adequate factory capacity, Tesla faces what Musk described as a "quite serious" global semiconductor shortage, which will determine the company's growth rate for the rest of the year.
With increased revenue and production, Tesla is investing in new factories, Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn said. These include Giga Texas, the $1.1 billion manufacturing plant that broke ground last summer and is slated to open later this year.
The Giga Texas factory in Southeast Travis County has rapidly increased in size since ground broke last August. (Tesla)
Musk commended the construction team for "incredible progress," transforming what was basically a vacant site into "a mostly complete large factory a year later."
I was at Giga Texas yesterday. Team is making excellent progress. Building will be almost a mile long when complete.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2021
Giga Texas will produce the highly anticipated Cybertruck, along with other models, but Musk said scaling its production will be difficult, especially given the supply chain delays caused by the pandemic. "It's going to move as fast as the slowest of its up to 10,000 unique parts," he said.
In other news, Musk said Monday's earnings call would likely be his last regular appearance, only jumping on future quarterly calls when big announcements warrant it.
Tesla Solar recently made news when it announced plans to build the nation's most sustainable residential community in Southeast Austin earlier this month. The newly built homes will feature Tesla solar roof tiles and Powerwall battery storage as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
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The city of Austin released a shortlist of seven candidates for the police chief position left vacant when Brian Manley retired in March.
City Manager Spencer Cronk hopes to announce an appointment by the end of August, which will require City Council approval.
The finalists, chosen from a field of 46 applicants, include:
- APD Interim Chief Joseph Chacon, who previously served as an assistant chief in the department for almost five years
- Anne Kirkpatrick, former police chief in Oakland, California, who was fired last year after a federal monitor criticized her handling of a fatal 2018 police shooting of a homeless man
- Dallas Police Department Assistant Chief Avery L. Moore, who is a 30-year veteran of the department
- Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Celeste Murphy, who manages the department's community services division
- Dekalb County Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos, who previously served as division chief in the Miami-Dade Police Department
- Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is a former president of the Minnesota Police Chief's Association as well as one of the first police chiefs of a major U.S. City to call George Floyd's death a murder, as reported by the Wichita Eagle
- Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Emada E. Tingirides, who is also commanding officer of the department's newly formed Community Safety Partnership Bureau, which serves L.A.'s underserved communities
City staff will interview the finalists in the coming weeks, with several community input opportunities to come, according to a Monday press release.
The city conducted a public survey in March and hosted community input meetings in April to learn more about what residents are looking for in their next police chief, which helped shape the selection criteria for the position.
"They want to see the Chief be reform-minded and transparent and have a track record of fostering community involvement and accountability," Cronk said in the release. "The candidates selected show these characteristics in various ways."
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Days after Austin began once again recommending masks in public spaces, Austin ISD announced Monday that kindergarten through sixth-grade classes will have virtual options this fall.
The district will discuss the move in a special board meeting Monday evening starting at 5 p.m., while full details will be released Friday.
Teachers will not have to fret about the new option—no educators will have to juggle both virtual and in-person learning. Instead, certain teachers will specialize in virtual education, according to a press release.
The news comes after a recent spike in COVID cases in Travis County and across the nation. Children typically suffer fewer symptoms of COVID when contracted, but they are now catching the virus more often than their older counterparts without a vaccine available to them and as the more contagious Delta variant is quickly being spread.
While local health officials are recommending everyone wear masks, public school districts are unable to mandate masks due to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
Parents have expressed concern about classrooms with masks unenforceable and children under the age of 12 ineligible for a vaccine. Some have even said they would look for alternative schooling if AISD did not offer a virtual option for students.
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