Political pace picks up 8 days after terrorist attack with major announcement

AUSTIN ‘ The nation remains in crisis, but state and local politics finally began to stir a week and a day after the East Coast terrorist attacks. The biggest development by week’s end was the announcement by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Marty Akins that he was dropping out of the primary race. That puts Laredo oilman Tony Sanchez in the proverbial catbird seat, setting up a race with un-elected Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Perry. As for Akins, he has set his political sights on the state comptroller’s office now occupied by Republican Carole Keeton Rylander. Though state politics is slowly returning to normal, most Texans still have their minds and hearts tied up with what happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. In announcing that Akins was switching horses in mid-trail drive, his campaign staff decided not to call a press conference “in light of recent national tragedies.” In a written statement, Akins said he had telephoned Sanchez with news of his decision to drop out of the governor’s race. “He supports my candidacy for comptroller 100 percent, as I do his candidacy for governor,” Akins said. The announcement is good news for Texas Democrats, who can now focus their efforts on unseating Perry and not have to worry about an intra-party contest that would be costly and derisive. Akins’ departure from the race was the second Big Political Rumor to come true in the last few weeks. The first was Republican U.S. Senator Phil Gramm’s announcement he would not seek another term, an action rumored and denied before finally admitted. Problems on Padre In normal times, what happened last week at Padre Island would have been huge news. Even considering the events of Sept. 11, the collapse of a portion of the causeway connecting Port Isabel with South Padre Island is having a tremendous impact in the Rio Grande Valley. Five people died when vehicles plunged into the Laguna Madre after a barge struck the bridge on Saturday and three others still were missing late last week. Since the causeway is the only connection between the sandy island and the mainland, Padre Island and Port Isabel are back to where they were before 1952, when the only way to reach the island was by boat. The Texas Department of Transportation moved a ferry down coast from Port Aransas, but it only will be used for local traffic. Tourists, the economic lifeblood of the island, will have to get over by boat and leave their vehicles on the mainland. For island hotels, restaurants and shops, the bridge accident is almost as bad as a hurricane. TxDOT estimates it may take four months to repair the bridge. Attorney General John Cornyn already has filed suit against the owner of the tugboat involved in the bridge accident. Mold recommendations The problem of insurance coverage for mold damage moved a step closer to resolution last week with a staff proposal by the Texas Department of Insurance. Agency staff recommended to Insurance Commissioner Jose Monte-mayor that insurers be required to maintain current coverage, but with a basic coverage cap of $5,000. Policyholders could buy additional coverage as well. The commissioner will act on the recommendation after conducting a public hearing Oct. 16.

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