Austinites are welcoming the news that Oscar winner, erstwhile bongo player and minority Austin FC owner Matthew McConaughey is reportedly considering a run for Texas governor.
McConaughey's supporters say he offers a centrist alternative to Gov. Greg Abbott and is demonstrably popular. In a recent Austonia poll, 56% of the 255 respondents said they would give a McConaughey bid the "Greenlights."
His opponents mostly agree with this assessment. But they worry that a McConaughey campaign could divert voters away from a more progressive candidate, like Beto O'Rourke, who is also reportedly mulling a bid, and strengthen Abbott's foothold among Republicans.
They are in the minority, however. A recent poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Ryan Glanzer, 38, has lived in Austin for the last decade and recently tweeted that he would do whatever is needed to support a McConaughey administration, despite the actor's vagueness about his political beliefs. "I don't really know much of anything about his position on any of the matters that I'm most concerned about, including things like climate change and gun control, but I know that he couldn't be worse than Abbott," he told Austonia.
Glanzer, who described himself as left of center and voted for Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic primary, compared McConaughey to Joe Biden, a popular centrist who prevailed against an entrenched Republican incumbent. "This is like the presidential election all over again, honestly, because there's a big name and broader, more centrist appeal," he said. "I just feel like McConaughey's going to have a better chance of winning."
Glanzer's not alone in this assessment. His wife, Lauren, supports a McConaughey administration. So too would Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, who recently told Politico he would welcome him on the ticket. "He's young, good-looking, smart and has a little wildness—but this is Texas. We like that stuff," he told the news site.
matthew mcconaughey running for Governor would be wild. I honestly think he could win it too.— Steezy D (@DJSteezyD) March 11, 2021
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, thinks the Texas political establishment is overestimating the importance of political experience and underestimating McConaughey's popular appeal, which has been built over decades, from the 1993 film "Dazed and Confused" to his involvement with the University of Texas and Austin FC to his philanthropic efforts. "He just has the cool factor," he said. "And that counts for a lot in our culture."
Splitting the vote
Although some Austinites see a McConaughey run as a surefire strategy to elect a more centrist governor, others, including seventh-generation liberal Austinite Henry Hudson, 26, think it is a bad idea. "He's unqualified to have a career in government, and after having a celebrity president for four years, I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to elect actors to public office," he said.
If Matthew McConaughey is going to run for governor, Beto will lose and we will end up with Abbott again. McConaughey is extremely problematic and he needs to stay in his lane and GTFO.
— 💛Henry Hudson🏳️🌈 (@bleakboss) April 18, 2021
Hudson has other concerns about McConaughey, whom he thinks should run for a local office, such as city council member or county commissioner, before setting his sights on the Governor's Mansion. This could also help illuminate McConaughey's political beliefs. "I have no idea what his ideology is," he said.
McConaughey, who has described himself as "aggressively centrist," may benefit from this confusion. A big, generic, future-looking campaign could serve him better than taking stances on divisive issues such as permitless carry, abortion and Medicaid expansion, Steinhauser said.
Whether McConaughey will announce a run remains uncertain. But the chatter may only strengthen his profile among Texas voters. "Buzz is a good thing," Steinhauser said. "It's good for Matt McConaughey Inc."
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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