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The Daily Beast, “How Beto O’Rourke (D) Is Building a Digital Fundraising Army”

December 17, 2017: Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting at the Columbus RV Park and Campground in Columbus, TX. John Glaser/CSM. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

The Texas U.S. Senate race between incumbent U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R. TX) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) has gained a lot of press coverage due to Beto’s impressive fundraising capabilities. Today, The New York Times released its piece about how Cruz better watch out for Beto’s campaign:

Cruz is a rare and precious gift. He’s so loathed that any passable Democrat with a picayune chance of toppling him was bound to draw more attention and inspire more hope than the political dynamics warranted. While President Trump’s unpopularity endangers his party’s incumbents far and wide and Texas may indeed be getting bluer, the state has been very red for very long. The last time a Democrat won statewide office was 24 years ago.

But Beto is more than passable. Many of his campaign events are mobbed. People line up for selfies and then insist on hugs.

He’s raising money like mad. Last week he disclosed that in the first quarter of 2018 he took in $6.7 million, bringing his total haul to $13.2 million, which handily outpaces Cruz and is more than any Texas Democrat running for the Senate ever amassed. All of that cash came from individuals. He has sworn off money from PACs.

“Even the most skeptical person has to acknowledge that there’s something going on here,” Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “But is it something that can overcome the deep hole that any Democratic candidate in this state is in?”

Beto’s answer to those odds is an oddball campaign. This has freed him to be freewheeling. He has no speechwriter, because he never speaks from a fixed script. He has no pollster, because he’s not going by polls.

“No political consultant worth their salt would allow us to go to college campuses, because young people don’t vote,” he told a group of Latino leaders during a meeting on Thursday that I accompanied him to. “That’s why we don’t have a political consultant.”

Rolling Stone released their piece yesterday taking note of Beto’s fundraising and relentless campaigning on the campaign trail:

Sen. Cruz’s campaign has not released its first quarter fundraising numbers yet. (According to the most recent figures available, Cruz has raised $7.3 million since the start of 2017.) O’Rourke may have outpaced Cruz in fundraising, but the sitting Senator earned far more votes in last month’s Texas primary: 1.3 million in the Republican primary to O’Rourke’s 641,000 in the Democratic.

“We were in Paris, Texas, not too long ago, and at the end of that town hall, a number of people came forward and said, ‘I vote in the Republican primary, because in our county, that’s the only way I can choose my county commissioner, my justice of the peace, my county judge, but in November, I will be voting for you.’ And that is characteristic of so many people and so many counties across Texas.”

At a campaign stop Tuesday, Cruz acknowledged that his campaign won’t come close to matching O’Rourke’s haul this quarter. "That’s a whole lotta money,” Cruz said. “There’s no doubt about that. And it has been clear for some time that the hard left is energized and they’re mobilized and they’re angry at the president. And we are seeing all across the country… and it underscores that Republicans cannot take November for granted."

While Cruz might have more money in the bank thanks to Super PACs and lobbyists, Beto’s grassroots efforts have him running scared:

O’Rourke pledged, at the beginning of the campaign, not to accept donations from corporate political action committees. The funds he’s raised, since the year began, came from some 141,000 individual donors, who chipped in an average of $40 each. That’s a measure of enthusiasm for his candidacy, and one his opponent, Ted Cruz, should be taking seriously.

But Cruz — who won the Senate seat in 2012, after pulling off his own upset for that year’s Republican nomination — deserves some credit for this surprisingly competitive landscape, too.

Publicly, Cruz has expressed confidence in his ability to deal with the threat that O’Rourke represents. But Monday, at his campaign kickoff party at the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, he debuted an ad warning Texas Republicans against being complacent about it.

“DEMOCRATS TAKE CONTROL,” blares the front page of a mock edition of the Houston Chronicle, sitting on his coffee table. A television news anchor explains that Nancy Pelosi, being accordingly emboldened, has announced her plan to divert all border wall funding to Planned Parenthood.

A noise outside catches the young man’s attention. He opens the front door to see an apocalyptic landscape. And then, much to the man’s relief, he wakes up from this nightmare.

It’s a funny ad, but a revealing one. As Texas Southern University’s Jay Kumar Aiyer pointed out, while he and I were chatting this week, it suggests that Cruz would like to turn this race into a referendum on the national parties.

That was an astute observation, and it would be a shrewd move on Cruz’s part. If the race is framed that way, he would be able to dodge the question of whether he or O’Rourke is best equipped to represent Texas in an era when the figure who dominates the political landscape is Donald Trump.

The president is a Republican, of course, and in 2016 he was the alternative to Hillary Clinton. Many Texans voted for him on that basis; he carried the state’s electoral votes by nine points.

But Clinton isn’t on the ballot this year. And Texans who vote in this year’s general election may have some objections to decisions that have been made in Washington lately, even if they continue to approve of Trump.

But The Daily Beast notes that Beto’s strongest weapon has been his ability to run a successful digital campaign to help fuel his campaign:

At the heart of the operation is a basic idea: that flooding the zone is fundamentally a good thing. Voters can see O’Rourke all the time, in emails, videos and tweets that the campaign posts every day. He broadcasts from settings that politicians normally shun or find so incredibly mundane that they don’t think there is any particular advantage in advertising. He did a Facebook Live post while in line for Whataburger, and during his wait to get a haircut, and while he got gas, and as his son climbed a tree, and as he picked up donuts, and while he drove across the country with Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). He’s live streamed his jogs, only to be joined by other joggers who have live streamed his live stream.

Those close to O’Rourke insist that he is making the decisions about when and where to post—something he’s done since his first run for Congress in El Paso in 2012—and that he genuinely wants to be seen as much as possible since he can’t knock on every door in Texas. The goal is to give voters the sensation that they’re actually playing a role in his David and Goliath campaign. And while the cumulative effect has been a smashing success, even close associates concede that they’re still not sure which particular post will work best.

“Did we pick up a lot of donors because they saw him getting a haircut on livestream? I have no idea,” a source directly familiar with the campaign told The Daily Beast.

O’Rourke’s fundraising and work ethic are unquestioned. O’Rourke spoke to The Washington Post during a 1,600-mile week-long drive across Texas that began Tuesday in Waco and ends Monday in Lubbock.

He recently held a rally in Roanoke, a northwest suburb of Dallas in a heavily Republican County. A thousand people showed up. “Something is happening right now,” he said.

However, in last month’s primaries, Cruz received twice as many votes as O’Rourke received in the Democratic primary.

Those results proved that, despite a boost in Democratic turnout in the primary, O’Rourke needs more than a “blue wave” to defeat Cruz.

“There just aren’t enough Democratic votes. If he is going to make any progress, he’s going to need a lion’s share of the independent vote, and he has to cut into the GOP base. That’s pretty tough,” said Jennifer Duffy, the Senate analyst for the Cook Political Report.

But well-fueled and engaged grassroots campaigns can pull off an upset victory. Cruz will always have more money but he’s incredibly hated and represents everything that’s wrong with Washington, D.C. Beto has his work cut out for him but he knows that and he’s letting nothing slow him down. He has proven to me and I’m sure to many of you that he is serious about pulling this off. We need to be by his side to not only energize the bast but also win over voters who hate Cruz but normally don’t vote Democrat and he gives people who don’t vote a reason to vote. Click here to donate and get involved with Beto’s campaign.

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More Americans Moving to Texas

Texas continues to be the nation’s fastest growing state, according to data from the U.S. government Census Bureau.

“From July 1, 2016, to July 1, 2017, six of the top 10 largest-gaining counties were in Texas,” the bureau wrote in a news release.

The fastest growing area in the country was the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area, which gained 146,000 residents last year.

“Historically, the Dallas metro area attracts large numbers from both international and domestic migration. Many of the other largest metro areas in the country rely mostly on international migration and natural population increase for growth,” said Molly Cromwell, a demographer at the Census Bureau.

The biggest boost in population among all the fastest growing areas was “net domestic migration, the bureau noted.

“The most likely reasons people relocate to Texas are its resilient economy and relatively affordable housing,” said Lloyd Potter, Texas state demographer at the University of Texas San Antonio, in a statement. “Oil and gas production continues to be a major component in the state’s economy, but other sectors such as information technology, manufacturing and biomedicine are important sources of job growth.”

In addition to jobs and affordable housing, Texas is one of seven states that do not have a state income tax.

Demographers expect Texas to see continued growth, though perhaps at a slower pace.

“The most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate a continuation of recent trends,” Potter said. “These trends will lead to increasing population concentration in the state’s major metropolitan areas.”

While domestic migration is a major reason for Texas’ growth, recent international immigration is also up and coming from “a greater variety of nations than in the past,” Potter added.

“We have observed a greater share of the state’s immigrants originating from Asian countries and a decreasing share from Latin American countries, especially Mexico,” Potter said. “With this, migration will not only increase the size of the state’s metro areas but also will lead to greater population diversity in these areas.”

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Dallas Foreclosure Filings: See Year-Over-Year Increase

DALLAS, TX — Foreclosure activity in Dallas for February 2018 saw a 5.19 percent year-over-year increase from February 2017 but saw a 12.68 percent decrease from January 2018, according to ATTOM data.

According to ATTOM, there were 142 foreclosure filings in Dallas in February 2018. Based on census bureau estimates, there are 569,253 housing units in Dallas so one in every 265 properties in Dallas had a foreclosure filing.

Foreclosure activity had an overall year-over-year decrease in the U.S. for Feb. 2018, reaching an all-time low for as far back as ATTOM has data available, which dates back to April 2005. Texas overall had a year-over-year decrease of 12.84 percent in foreclosure filings.

In all, Texas had the sixth highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to ATTOM. In February 2018, there were 3,402 foreclosure filings in the state or one in every 30 properties had a foreclosure filing.

Image via Shutterstock

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JV Breaks Ground on Charleston Apartments

Madison Capital Group and Chaucer Creek Capital, along with capital advisor Patterson Real Estate Advisory Group, have broken ground on Sweetgrass at Bees Ferry, a 192-unit apartment community in Charleston’s West Ashley submarket. The property is across from a proposed Harris Teeter grocery store.

Sweetgrass at Bees Ferry will be on 11.5 acres west of the Charleston Peninsula in West Ashley, bordered by the Ashley River and the Intracoastal Waterway. The property is within a mixed-use development that also includes a Walmart.

Patterson arranged a construction loan through Dallas-based Bank of Texas on behalf of the developers. The first units are expected to deliver in summer 2019.

Walkability

According to the developers, Sweetgrass at Bees Ferry will deliver a walkable urban experience within an otherwise suburban West Ashley submarket.

“Based on our current ownership of the Avenues at Verdier Pointe, we saw the opportunity to build on the success of the Bees Ferry corridor and deliver a product that isn’t available today,” said Ryan Hanks of Madison Capital Group. “Sweetgrass combines the green space and amenity base typical in a suburban property with a walkable neighborhood.”

West Ashley is one of the fastest-growing submarkets within the Charleston MSA, and recently adopted The West Ashley Area Plan. The plan sets five benchmarks for the city to consider when reviewing ordinances or plans for the area: community design and land use, transportation, infrastructure and sustainability, housing, and economic development.

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The Latest: Escobar wins primary to succeed Beto O’Rourke

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Latest on primary day in Texas (all times CST):

10 p.m.

Former county judge Veronica Escobar has won a crowded Democratic primary to succeed U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke in El Paso.

Escobar beat five other hopefuls Tuesday and immediately becomes the favorite in November’s general election.

O’Rourke is giving up his seat as he mounts a longshot campaign against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Texas has never elected a Hispanic woman to Congress but that’s poised to change. In addition to Escobar, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia is the heavy favorite to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Green in Houston.

Escobar was among the best-known and top-funded of the primary candidates — though she drew some criticism because her husband is federal immigration judge Michael Pleters, who was confirmed last August by the Trump administration.

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9:50 p.m.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush has won the Republican nomination to keep his post, topping a primary challenger from the right.

Bush, whose grandfather and uncle were president and whose father was Florida’s governor, beat his predecessor as land commissioner, Jerry Patterson, Tuesday. The 41-year-old Bush immediately becomes the overwhelming favorite for re-election in November.

Bush began the year with $3.4 million in campaign funds compared to Patterson’s roughly $100,000. He won despite campaigning lightly, spending much of his time visiting parts of Texas hit by Hurricane Harvey after his agency was tapped to lead the state’s housing recovery efforts.

Patterson criticized Bush for bungling the post-Harvey rebuild and a makeover of the Alamo in San Antonio. Bush was endorsed by President Donald Trump and his son, Donald Jr.

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9:35 p.m.

The first Hispanic female sheriff in Texas is headed to a Democratic runoff against the son of a former governor in their longshot bid to unseat Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston investor Andrew White advanced Tuesday from a field of nine largely unknown Democratic primary candidates. The runoff election is May 22.

Texas Democrats haven’t won a statewide race since 1994. The party’s rising stars in Texas all passed on running for governor after Democrat Wendy Davis lost by 20 points in 2014.

White is the son of former Texas Gov. Mark White, who served one term in the 1980s and died last year. Andrew White is a self-described "conservative Democrat" who has alienated progressives over his personal opposition to abortion.

Valdez would be the first Hispanic and openly gay governor in Texas history.

9:10 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s newest ad targeting his Democratic challenger is a country jingle that warns, "If you’re going to run in Texas, you can’t be liberal, man."

Cruz tweeted the 60-second radio ad Tuesday night, shortly after he and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke advanced to a closely watched November matchup.

The ad says O’Rourke "wants to take our guns" and calls him "liberal Robert," referring to his given first name, and says he "changed his name to Beto."

Cruz also uses a nickname for his given name, Rafael Edward Cruz.

O’Rourke is raising more money than Cruz so far but remains very unlikely to win in November. Texas has not elected a Democrat statewide since 1994.

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9:05 p.m.

Texas state Sen. Van Taylor has won the Republican nomination to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson.

The 45-year-old Taylor has been a state lawmaker since 2010. The businessman is a former Marine and Iraq War veteran who was first elected to the state House and has been in the state Senate since 2015.

Taylor has been endorsed for Congress by Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Johnson is one of eight Texas congressmen not seeking re-election this year. He had held the seat since 1991 in the solidly Republican Dallas-area district..

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8:55 p.m.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is striking a cautious tone despite sailing to victory against little-known challengers in Texas’ first-in-the-nation primary.

Abbott easily clinched his party’s nomination Tuesday and has a campaign war chest worth around $43 million, more than any gubernatorial candidate nationwide.

It’s not yet clear who Texas’ Democratic nominee will be, but Abbott is nonetheless heavily favored in November.

Still, Democrats more than doubled their early voter participation in the primary when compared to the Texas’ last midterm election in 2014. They are optimistic despite not winning a Texas statewide office since 1994.

In a statement, Abbott declared "We cannot afford to take Texas for granted," adding "This is a fight for our future and it begins now."

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8:15 p.m.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has clinched his party’s nomination for re-election despite being indicted on felony securities fraud charges.

Paxton was unopposed in Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation Texas primary. He is the overwhelming favorite in November since a Democrat hasn’t won statewide office in Texas since 1994, the country’s longest political losing streak.

Paxton is facing a much-delayed trial for allegedly defrauding wealthy investors in a technology startup. The accusations cover actions before Paxton took office in 2015.

Despite that negative attention, Paxton wasn’t challenged in the Republican primary — even as other top members of his party were.

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8 p.m.

A closely watched matchup is set between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Cruz and O’Rourke clinched their parties’ nominations Tuesday. O’Rourke is raising more money than Cruz so far but remains very unlikely to win in November.

Gov. Greg Abbott also clinched the Republican nomination for governor and enters the general election as a heavy favorite against whoever emerges from the Democratic primary.

Polling places in El Paso and far West Texas closed at 8 p.m. CST, an hour later than the rest of the state.

No Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas since 1994.

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7 p.m.

The polls have closed in almost all of Texas for the nation’s first primaries of 2018.

Only polling places in El Paso and far West Texas will remain open for another hour, until 8 p.m. CST. People in line at the 7 p.m. CST closing time will still be able to vote.

Democrats hope to break a losing streak in statewide races that dates back to 1994. Many Republicans say they want to show their steadfast support for President Donald Trump.

Long lines were reported in Texas’ major cities and at the University of Texas in Austin, where hundreds of students waited to vote at a campus library.

Civil rights groups said they received reports of problems at eight polling places in Harris County, which encompasses Houston and some of its suburbs.

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5:45 p.m.

A line stretching three quarters of the way around a campus library is waiting to cast last-minute ballots at the University of Texas.

Hundreds of students with books and backpacks, some eating and others with laptops open, waited Tuesday evening to cast their ballots in the nation’s first primary election in 2018. Polls in most of Texas will close at 7 p.m., though polling places are required to accommodate anyone in line at that time.

Democrats saw participation in their primary surge in early voting, but turnout for the election as a whole remains to be seen.

Democrats are optimistic that backlash against President Donald Trump will lift their candidates, though the party hasn’t won statewide office in Texas since 1994.

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4 p.m.

The Texas secretary of state says the Democratic and Republican parties pay for polling locations during the state’s primary elections, meaning that ballots for both don’t necessarily have to be offered at all locations.

There were reports during Texas’ first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday that two polling sites in Houston didn’t have Democratic ballots.

Secretary of State spokesman Sam Taylor says parties sometimes opt to consolidate precincts or otherwise forgo having joint polling stations with their counterparts. That can mean that voters wanting to cast ballots for the other party in certain areas have to head to another location.

Texas has a semi-open primary, meaning voters can choose whether to vote Democratic or Republican. The problem doesn’t apply to the general election since no party choice is made.

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1:15 p.m.

A congressman who has launched a longshot bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is generating excitement for Democrats voting in the Texas primary election.

Voting Tuesday morning in Dallas, 64-year-old Bonnie Kobilansky said she thinks Beto O’Rourke is "a good guy" and was excited to cast her vote for him.

She says she wants to see change in the government, adding "that starts at the local level, the state level."

Twenty-seven-year-old Katie Newsome, a United Methodist pastor, says she’s excited for the "freshness" and "vision" O’Rourke brings. She says she wants to see change both in the U.S. and in Texas, too.

She says she’d love to see Texas "turn blue." She says, "I don’t know if that will happen but that would be exciting."

O’Rourke has generated national buzz in his challenge to Cruz. Neither faces serious primary challengers but O’Rourke recently has outraised Cruz and the senator has warned conservatives against complacency.

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12:30 p.m.

Some Republicans voting in the Texas Republican primary say they’re concerned about proposals calling for restrictions on firearms sales.

Jynelle Mikula, who voted in the GOP primary Tuesday at a Houston elementary school, says assault-style weapons and bump stocks shouldn’t be sold to the public. But she’s concerned the debate in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at a Florida high school could lead to the confiscation of weapons from law-abiding citizens such as herself.

Robert Coghlan, voting at the same school Tuesday, says the ongoing gun debate nationally also has him concerned. He says "we’re kind of on the road to ban all guns."

Another Republican voter, Rosa Magaña, says the answer to gun violence should be educational outreach and not weapons bans.

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11:45 a.m.

Some Houston-area voters say they’ve encountered problems at the polls that include one site opening more than an hour late, prompting some people to leave.

Teneshia Hudspeth with the elections division of the Harris County clerk’s office said Tuesday that a last-minute change in staffing led to a delay in opening a Katy polling site.

She says local Democratic officials made a late change to the party’s election judge who monitors that site.

Hudspeth says she wasn’t aware of claims that two sites didn’t have ballots for Democratic voters. She says some polling sites may only be for one party to vote, so a voter enrolled in an opposing party may appear expecting to vote only to be told they must go elsewhere.

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11:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot in the Texas primary, but he’s on the minds of voters.

One woman voting in Dallas says she’s a "strong" Republican who supports Trump’s agenda. Sixty-year-old Laura Smith said Tuesday that she backs Trump because he has "guts," isn’t afraid and is a strong leader.

Smith, who works in a dentist’s office, approves of the president’s handling of immigration, job creation and tough approach to North Korea. She adds that she’s open to new restrictions on people seeking to purchase firearms.

But Democrat Bonnie Kobilansky says she’s alarmed by Trump’s actions.

Kobilansky, a nurse practitioner, wants "to see a complete change in the top of the government."

She adds that she’s heartened by the number of women running for office, explaining that political leaders need "common sense and practical knowledge — women have that."

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8 a.m.

Early turnout has been light at some polling stations in Texas, which is holding the country’s first midterm primary.

Texas’ primary on Tuesday follows a relatively busy early-voting period.

Democratic early voting across Texas’ 15 most-populous counties, the only figures available, more than doubled that of the last non-presidential cycle in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of Republican early ballots cast increased only slightly.

Total Democratic early votes exceeded Republican ones roughly 465,000 to 420,000, though those figures combined accounted for less than 9 percent of the state’s total registered voters.

Polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday, except for some far West Texas locations, such as El Paso, where they close at 8 p.m. Central Standard Time.

___

11:10 p.m.

Texas Democrats have turned out in force ahead of their state’s first-in-the-nation primary election Tuesday, even though their party remains a longshot to win much.

Democratic early voting across Texas’ most-populous counties was more than double that of the last non-presidential cycle in 2014.

But Democrats haven’t won a statewide office in Texas since 1994, and that losing streak should continue this year.

A record six Texas Republicans and two Democrats are leaving Congress. Many of the open seats feature so many candidates from both parties that most primary races won’t have anyone winning a majority of Tuesday’s votes, ensuring a second round of voting May 22.

Democrats also hope to flip three other Republican congressional districts, but those races may need runoffs to decide who the party’s nominee will be.

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Neighbors say they’d smelled gas before fatal explosion in northwest Dallas

Staff Photographer

The Texas agency that regulates pipelines has joined federal investigators to look into an explosion that killed a girl in a northwest Dallas neighborhood where residents said they’d smelled gas earlier this month.

Officials haven’t said whether they believe the gas explosion Friday is related to a leak at a nearby apartment complex Sunday or to a pair of house fires in a neighboring street that injured two people last week.

The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees pipeline operators, said it had sent two inspectors to Dallas to work closely with local and federal investigators.

"The RRC will determine if there were any violations of our rules," spokeswoman Ramona Nye said in an email.

Linda Rogers, the 12-year-old girl who died Friday in a gas explosion, was a two-year member of the Falcons Elite Cheer team. It performed in a competition Friday night in her memory.

Linda Rogers, a 12-year-old known as Michellita, died Friday after an explosion blew her home on Espanola Drive off its foundation and collapsed the roof.

The blast prompted a mandatory evacuation that included residents and about 700 students at nearby Foster Elementary School, which reopened Monday after Atmos Energy officials cleared it.

Two house fires earlier in the week on Durango Drive already had neighbors on edge. One was tied to a gas heater, and the other to a stove flare-up. Dallas Fire-Rescue investigators said both were accidents.

Jonathan Gonzalez, whose father suffered burns after he tried to turn up the heat, said his family had called Atmos twice to report the smell of natural gas on Durango Drive earlier this month, KXAS-TV (NBC5) reported.

Then on Sunday, 90 units at the Chapel Creek Apartments on Hidalgo Drive had to be evacuated after a leak was reported. Dallas police continued to block off a section of Webb Chapel Extension near the apartments Monday.

Another incident in the area that alarmed neighbors — a house fire Sunday on Eaton Drive — was caused by a boy who accidentally set a bed on fire while burning sage, authorities said.

Two people who live on Durango Drive said that residents had smelled gas outside their homes for months before the fires and explosion but that they hadn’t reported the odor. Another resident said his cousin had complained to Atmos about a skyrocketing gas bill.

Atmos didn’t return messages seeking comment Monday. The company said earlier that it would replace 2.5 miles of pipe through the area, including natural gas mains and service lines, over the next few days.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are focusing on the house explosion on Espanola Drive but also checked the two houses on Durango Drive where fires had occurred, said Keith Holloway, a spokesman for the agency. The apartment complex is not part of the agency’s investigation at this time, he said.

That investigation could take six months to a year and half if it’s a complex case, according to the agency.

A spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission said it had received no incident notifications for the block of Durango Drive where the two fires happened. The agency couldn’t confirm late Monday whether it had received a report about the apartment gas leak.

A gas explosion rocked this house Friday, sending five people to the hospital in the 3500 block of Espanola Drive in Dallas.

Dallas City Council member Adam Medrano, who represents the neighborhood where the blast occurred, said Monday that he had toured the area and talked to Atmos officials who told him the place was safe for residents because the gas is off. But because there is no gas, Atmos is paying for people to stay in hotels while crews put in new gas lines — a process that could take 10 days, Medrano said.

"They’re confident that once they repair the lines it will be safe," he said.

He added that Atmos has declined to answer questions because of the federal investigation.

"How does this happen? Were the fires related? Were they already working on the lines?" Medrano said. "I’ve asked the same questions. This is being investigated."

Council member Omar Narvaez, who represents the district where the apartments are, could not be reached for comment.

Atmos workers have swarmed the area and excavators dot the working-class neighborhood around the affected homes and apartments.

Firefighters responded to a fire in the 3500 block of Durango Drive on Thursday. Another house in the same block was damaged in a fire a day earlier.

Maria Vielma and Yolanda Gonzalez, who live across from each other on Durango Drive, swapped information Monday afternoon. Neither one of them feels comfortable returning home for good yet — partly because of the inconvenience of being without gas, and partly because they’re scared.

Gonzalez said she had come back for a little bit to feed her dogs while Vielma said she was keeping an eye on her property.

"When they tell me that I’m safe, I will come back," Vielma said.

The women said they had smelled gas outside their homes for months, though they didn’t report it. They said their gas bills weren’t higher than usual.

But down the road, Luis Gilberto Martínez said his cousin had complained to Atmos around November when their gas bill soared from about $75 to $200. Martínez said company workers came to the house a few days later and said things looked good.

The gas bill went down the following month but jumped again in January, Martínez said.

Martínez’s partner, Jose Guadalupe Marin, echoed other neighbors who said they had detected the smell of gas outside their homes.

The Dallas Morning News couldn’t confirm the account about the gas bill with Atmos, and it’s unclear if residents other than Jonathan Gonzalez’s family reported gas odors to the company.

Next door, Griselda Portillo examined the damage at her home, where her husband was burned while cooking on a stove. The white clapboard house looked charred inside and out. Her neighbors said they heard what sounded like an explosion the morning of the fire.

Portillo said her husband is recuperating. She has heard her neighbors’ reports about odors and strange gas bills, but she said she hadn’t had problems.

Martínez said he, his partner and his cousin have packed emergency bags in case they need to leave the neighborhood again.

"What happened to that house could have happened to mine," he said.

Staff writers Jeff Mosier and Dana Branham contributed to this report.

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NFL draft preview: Is No. 19 a prime spot for the Cowboys to find one the best CBs in this class?

Editor’s note: Dane Brugler — senior NFL draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com — will break down all positions of the upcoming draft. A full series schedule can be seen at the conclusion of this post.

NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: CORNERBACKS

Position strength: 8/10

Cornerback is one of the positions on an NFL depth chart that is never complete as teams are always looking to upgrade at a demanding, difficult position. That is part of why cornerback is generally one of the most drafted positions each year, and that won’t be any different this April.

The 2018 crop of cornerbacks is loaded from top to bottom, with blue-chippers in the top 10 (Minkah Fitzpatrick and Denzel Ward), quality depth on Day 2 and intriguing prospects on Day 3. The safe bet is at least five cornerbacks will be drafted in the first round and 15 to 18 will come off the board in the top 100 picks.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Mike Hughes, Central Florida

America loves a redemption story. And Hughes is on the path from disgraced cornerback to potential first-round pick.

After a prolific high school career, Hughes passed on offers from Ohio State and Clemson to stay close to home in North Carolina, where he made an immediate impact as a true freshman for the Tar Heels. However, he was involved in a 3 a.m. fight at a fraternity house that left a victim unconscious with a broken nose. Hughes left UNC after the 2015 season and resurfaced at Garden City Community College, where he earned All-American honors as a do-everything athlete.

Hoping to return to the FBS level, Hughes enrolled at UCF last August and enjoyed a productive five months in Orlando. Despite joining the program just two weeks before the season opener, he quickly found the field and developed into one of the best cornerbacks in the country, posting 15 passes defended and four interceptions. Hughes also shined on special teams as the first player in school history to return a punt, kickoff and interception for a touchdown in a season.

The Cowboys invested premium draft picks in the cornerback position last season, but there is a realistic scenario where Hughes might be the best player on the draft board at pick No. 19. And although he does his best work in press coverage, Hughes has the mentality and athleticism to mirror receivers and be a lock-down corner in zone or man, making him tough to pass up for the Cowboys.

THE BEST

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Similar to Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State in the 2016 draft, the debate surrounding Fitzpatrick will be his position fit in the NFL. And while scouts appear split whether he is a safety, cornerback or hybrid of both, there is no wrong answer, just like with Ramsey.

The linchpin of the Alabama defense, Fitzpatrick didn’t have gaudy stats in 2017. He had one interception, but his impact is clear on tape as offenses opted to throw away from him. While he has the requisite athleticism to play the position at a high level, his football intelligence and awareness are his two best traits, serving as an extension of Nick Saban on the field.

Playing primarily as a nickel corner in the Tide’s scheme, teams will need to make a projection to play him at outside cornerback, but he has the size/speed combination to mix-and-match receivers anywhere on the field. Fitzpatrick is a top-five player in the 2018 draft class.

SLEEPER

Rashaan Gaulden, Tennessee

For whatever reason, there currently isn’t much buzz on Gaulden, but that will soon change. A Swiss Army knife in the Volunteers’ secondary, he was the starting nickel defender at Tennessee, playing an inside cornerback role.

Gaulden is dripping with natural talent, displaying the athletic twitch and coordination to match wide receivers. Although his emotions get the best of him at times, his fearless, infectious energy is received well among his teammates. He needs to improve his discipline, but his playing speed, toughness and heart belong in the NFL, providing pro coaches a foundation worth developing.

BEST OF TEXAS

Josh Jackson, Iowa

A three-sport star at Lake Dallas, Jackson didn’t have many options out of high school and went overlooked by most Texas programs. He signed with Iowa and was buried on the depth chart for a few seasons before blossoming at cornerback in 2017, leading the FBS in passes defended (26) and interceptions (eight).

For a cornerback, it is a fine line between reading the eyes of the quarterback and maintaining spacing, but Jackson is outstanding at this balancing act. Although tackling tends to be optional for him on tape, he has outstanding football intelligence and ball skills for an outside cornerback, and his desire to make plays is his best trait.

Brugler’s top 10
Rk., player School Ht. Wt. 40 Notable 1. Minkah Fitzpatrick Alabama 6-0 201 4.52 Cornerback? Safety? Nickel? He can do it all. 2. Denzel Ward Ohio State 5-10 191 4.38 Undersized, but twitchy cover skills with plus speed. 3. Mike Hughes UCF 5-10 194 4.42 Physical press corner with dangerous return skills. 4. Jaire Alexander Louisville 5-11 192 4.45 Gives off Joe Haden vibe with his toughness. 5. Josh Jackson Iowa 6-0 193 4.48 Spotty run defender but great ball skills as a zone corner. 6. Isaiah Oliver Colorado 6-0 190 4.56 Classic press-man corner with his physical traits. 7. Carlton Davis Auburn 6-1 203 4.52 Unrefined, but NFL loves his height, length and speed. 8. Rashaan Gaulden Tennessee 6-1 195 4.53 Playing speed and toughness are on an NFL level. 9. Donte Jackson LSU 5-11 174 4.35 Rare speed and athletic burst help mask other flaws. 10. Anthony Averett Alabama 6-0 185 4.49 Read/react athleticism to play sticky coverage.

Safeties
Cornerbacks
Feb. 25: Linebackers
March 4: Defensive tackles
March 11: Edge rushers
March 18: Quarterbacks
March 25: Running backs
April 1: Tight ends
April 8: Offensive linemen
April 15: Wide receivers

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Home Depot to hire 1,900 new employees in Dallas-Fort Worth

DALLAS – The Home Depot has announced it will hire 1,900 associates in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as part of a push to hire thousands of employees nationwide for the spring season.

Both full-time, part-time and seasonal positions will be available across different departments in the company at more than 20 DFW locations.

Spring is Home Depot’s busiest sales season, the company said in a press release.

Prospective employees can attend any of seven hiring events across the area on Thursday, Feb. 8 and Thursday, Feb. 15 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.:

• 2110 N. Galloway Ave., Ste. 116
Mesquite, TX 75150

• 217 N. 10th St.
Garland, TX 75040

• 5955 Alpha Rd.
Dallas, TX 75240

• 1601 S. Malcolm X Blvd., Ste. 201
Dallas, TX 75226

• 801 South State Highway 161, 5th Floor
Grand Prairie, TX 75051

• 2520 W. Irving Blvd., Ste. 100
Irving, TX 75061

• 7330 S. Westmoreland Rd., Ste. 200
Dallas, TX 75237

Jobseekers can apply on Home Depot’s website, or by texting HOMEDEPOT to 52270 to receive a link to apply for hourly positions nearby.

A hiring “heat map” that tracks job openings across the country can be found here.

The Home Depot has 2,284 stores, and the company employs more than 400,000 people.

© 2018 WFAA-TV

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Texas bullet train developers unveil renderings for Dallas station – Dallas Business Journal

Developers of the Texas bullet train released renderings and maps on Monday morning showing where the proposed Dallas terminal will be.

The passenger station will be built on a largely vacant 60-acre plot south of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in the revitalized Cedars neighborhood, according to Texas Central, the company spearheading the $15 billion high-speed train project attempting to link Dallas and Houston.

The site is near the I-30 and I-35 interchange, in an area that’s undergoing a transition from mostly light industrial and manufacturing facilities to a walkable neighborhood with repurposed and newly-constructed mixed-use developments.

The announcement comes a month after federal regulators overseeing the project said in an environment analysis that the 200-mile-per-hour train “is needed to accommodate growing demand.”

From the Dallas station, passengers will have a 90-minute connection to Houston, along with a midway stop in the Bryan-College Station area. Renderings of the Brazos Valley station, in the Grimes County town of Roans Prairie, were released earlier this month.

Plans call for connecting the Dallas station to multimodal transportation networks, including Dallas Area Rapid Transit services.

The introduction of the bullet train to the Cedars neighborhood will accelerate and enhance economic growth in the southern edge of downtown, bringing in offices, retail, entertainment, restaurants, hotels, apartments and condominiums, Texas Central said in a news release.

Texas Central released renderings – final designs are pending – that show a multi-level station between South Riverfront Boulevard and Austin Street, with connections to DART’s light-rail system, buses and other transit systems.

The project will attract new residents to the area, encourage denser development of the Cedars neighborhood and aid the region’s highway congestion relief efforts, Texas Central leaders said.

“This station will be a magnet for economic activity in an area ripe for development,” Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar added.

Aguilar said the high-speed rail project also is a draw for Amazon’s proposed new headquarters, putting highly-ranked research facilities a train ride away.

"This creates a super economy,” he said. “It’s an amazing way to accelerate transit-oriented development that sets Texas apart from any other state, and provides businesses with unparalleled access to workers, suppliers and other critical needs.”

The development would be comparable to the recent transition of the Uptown area of Dallas, the Federal Railroad Administration said in its Draft Environmental Impact Survey.

The bullet train would bridge Texas’ two largest cities, which together make up half of the state’s population. Last month, the FRA identified the train’s preferred route — a 240-mile path mostly following transmission lines in a utility corridor between North Texas and Houston.

Construction on the rail line is expected to start next year and finish by 2024.

In the environmental report, federal regulators cited the Dallas station’s economic benefits, including increased property values within a half-mile radius of the terminal as a result of the train project. The document also said the station and its support facilities would generate more revenue for property-taxing entities, and station ticket sales would produce more in local sales taxes.

The bullet train could create as many as 10,000 jobs during each year of construction and about 1,500 full-time jobs when operations start.

Texas Central, an investor-owned project, is not taking federal or state grants for construction or the bullet train’s operations.

The company has reached an agreement with developer Jack Matthews, who owns the site picked for the proposed terminal, Texas Central said, but terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Phillip Robinson, president of the Cedars Neighborhood Association, said the area “is ideal for the bullet train station and the many benefits it will bring.”

“Location is everything, and the southern sector of Dallas continues to be one of the hottest spots for the city’s growth,” Robinson said. “The station is sure to help local establishments, continue our organic growth and support our cultural amenities.”

The Cedars neighborhood already is undergoing significant new construction and conversion projects, including Southside on Lamar; Dallas’ police headquarters; restoration of historic industrial buildings to mixed-use facilities; and the opening of a movie theater, Alamo Drafthouse Cedars, and boutique hotel, NYLO Dallas South Side.

The Dallas station concourses would consist of public areas, such as restaurants, bars, seating areas, fast food, concessions, newsstands and rental car counters. Enclosed, elevated pedestrian bridges would connect it to new parking facilities.

Improvements also would be planned for Riverfront Boulevard at Cadiz Street, Riverfront Boulevard at Corinth Street, Belleview Street at South Akard Street, and Hotel Street north of I-30, along with an extension south along the station area. These would be designed in part to alleviate current congestion and improve traffic flow.

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama To Speak In Dallas

DALLAS, TX — Michelle Obama is coming to Dallas in March, and you could have a chance to hear her speak. Her appearance comes as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s #HearHere series, which boasts an impressive lineup of names

Among the personalities speaking at the engagement, which runs from early March to late July, are Steve Wozniak, Rita Moreno, Rob Lowe, Bill Murray & Friends, Former First Lady Michelle Obama and Ira Glass.

Even Neil deGrasse Tyson is slated to make an appearance. Unfortunately for fans, his show has already sold out.

To see Mrs. Obama’s presentation, or that of Ira Glass, attendees must first buy a subscription to #HearHere. Subscriptions start at $186, but a night with either of the personalities comes as an add-on, which cost extra.

You can view details on the #HearHere series on AT&T Performing Arts Center’s website.

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Getty Images file photo: Former United States first lady Michelle Obama smiles during a conversation at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 on April 27, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. Michelle Obama is scheduled to speak at AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas on March 8, 2018. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

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