Week of March 12-18, 2018

More Texans than usual cast ballots in primary elections
AUSTIN — In early voting, Texans participated in greater numbers in the state Democratic primary than the Republican primary, but on Election Day, March 6, the Republican turnout exceeded the Democratic turnout by half a million votes.
Primaries historically have been light-turnout affairs. This time, about 10 percent of the state’s 15 million registered voters cast ballots in the Republican primary and about 7 percent in the Democratic primary. In contrast, in March 2014, 7 percent of the state’s 13 million registered voters cast ballots in the GOP primary and 3 percent cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
Republican voters expressed satisfaction with top incumbents: 90 percent marked their ballots for Gov. Greg Abbott and 76 percent for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. GOP incumbents Attorney General Ken Paxton and Comptroller Glenn Hegar ran unopposed. Land Commissioner George P. Bush got 58 percent of the vote and his closest challenger, former state senator and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, got 29 percent of the vote. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller received 55 percent of the vote, while challengers Jim Hogan and Trey Blocker received about 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick received 76 percent of the vote to challenger Weston Martinez’s 24 percent.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz received 85 percent of the vote, while none of his four challengers received more than 7 percent.
Advancing to a May 22 runoff in the Democratic primary are the party’s top two vote-getters in the race for governor, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez with 43 percent and Andrew White, son of late former Texas Gov. Mark White, with 27 percent.
Mike Collier, with 52 percent of the vote to Michael Cooper’s 48 percent, will face Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the Nov. 6 election. Also, Justin Nelson will face Attorney General Paxton; Joi Chevalier will face Comptroller Hegar; Miguel Suazo will face Land Commissioner Bush; Kim Olson, who ran opposed, will face Agriculture Commissioner Miller; and Roman McAllen will face Railroad Commissioner Craddick.
U.S. Rep. “Beto” O’Rourke, D-El Paso, received nearly 62 percent of the vote, winning the right to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the Nov. 6 election.
Sales rebates increase
State Comptroller Glenn Hegar on March 7 announced he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts some $671 million in local sales tax allocations for March.
The amount is 8.3 percent more than allocated in March 2017. Allocations are based on sales made in January by businesses that report tax monthly.
Of the overall amount, cities received $431 million; counties, $42 million; transit systems, $150.5 million; and special purpose taxing districts, $47 million.
More details can be found on the comptroller's website under Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports. 
Assistance is extended
Gov. Abbott on March 6 announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted his request to extend until April 23 the deadline for transitional sheltering assistance for victims of Hurricane Harvey, which struck Aug. 25-31.
The assistance helps those unable to return to their homes pay for short-term shelter in hotels or other temporary housing. Some 5,500 households meet the criteria for eligibility.
Abbott said Texans with questions regarding their eligibility or status may contact the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362.
In other news, Abbott met with U.S. Small Business Administration Chief Linda McMahon on March 9 in Austin. Abbott thanked McMahon for the federal agency’s work in assisting small business owners affected by Hurricane Harvey and for the SBA’s monitoring of the storm as it made landfall, enabling the agency to mobilize and prepare staff quickly to address the needs of the victims. 
Abbott said 41,412 SBA low-interest disaster loans totaling more than $3 billion have been granted for Texans impacted by Harvey. 
Unemployment stays low
The Texas Workforce Commission on March 9 reported that the Lone Star State's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.0 percent the month of January, just below the U.S. unemployment rate of 4.1 percent. 
The Texas economy added 16,000 jobs in January. Industries adding jobs that month included Mining and Logging, 3,300 jobs; Education and Health Services, 2,800 jobs; and Manufacturing, 2,400 positions.
The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded the month of January’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.4 percent. It was followed by the Amarillo MSA with a rate of 2.8 percent and Austin-Round Rock MSA with the third-lowest rate of 3.0 percent.