The Brief: February 16, 2010

Early voting begins, state agencies scramble to cut spending and a Clinton antagonist moves back to Texas.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Gov. Rick Perry.  Bob Daemmrich

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Texans get to flex their civic muscles a bit as early voting commences today and kicks off a two-week campaign blitz by candidates hoping to make the next round of this year’s elections tournament. Some can relax until November — they face no challengers in their respective primaries — while others face the battles of their political careers. Most of the attention has been on Texas’ senior U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and her quest to unseat Gov. Rick Perry. What no one could have foretold, however, is how former long-shot and Tea Party poster child Debra Medina would affect what was supposed to be a two-way battle for the GOP nomination.

The forecast is a bit clearer on the left side of the ticket, as former Houston Mayor Bill White holds a commanding lead over businessman Farouk Shami. The field was wider a few months back, before Hank Gilbert and Kinky Friedman decided to pull out of the race and run for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, a race that has also hosted its share of Texas-sized drama. The winner will face incumbent Commissioner Todd Staples in November.

Of course, there are several other areas of interest in non-statewide contests, including a handful of House races that could bolster the GOP’s strength in the lower chamber or tilt the balance of power over to the Democrats. The Texas Tribune has a breakdown of who is running for what and whether they have to keep fighting until late fall here.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The Tribune also puts the spotlight today on some of the most colorful races in its latest installment of the Primary Color series, and The Dallas Morning News has a nice take on the five leading candidates for governor.

Need more input? No problem. The Texas Secretary of State’s office has all the information you need on early voting here.

CULLED

  • With last week’s announcement that sales-tax collections were down yet again came the reminder of the looming budget deficit the state will face next session. State leaders have already called for 5 percent cuts to the current budget to soften the blow, and Gov. Rick Perry volunteered to slash his own budget in what The Dallas Morning News explained was his attempt to lead by example. The San Antonio Express-News is reporting that TxDOT has also announced its plans to trim down, while other leaders are warning against slashing the state’s corrections budget.
  • The official word came down from Waco yesterday that Kenneth Starr will officially take the helm as Baylor University’s next president. The former prosecutor behind the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal will begin in June.

MUST READ

Master Stroke: Why did Gov. Perry's insurance regulators sign their own lobbyist's pay checks?The Texas Observer

Missions differ for Texas governor hopefulsThe Dallas Morning News

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Texas agencies, universities propose cuts to deal with projected $10 billion budget gapFort Worth Star-Telegram 

$1.7M to prosecute crime along borderEl Paso Times

Primary Color: Five to WatchTexas Tribune 

 

 

 

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.