TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of Nov 30, 2009

Houston Mayor Bill White finally made his move this week, getting out of the U.S. Senate race and getting into the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. That prompted Hank Gilbert to get out of the race, and prompted Richard "Kinky" Friedman to say he's reassessing and will have an announcement next week. After he makes a decision. While he's thinking about it, here's the latest installment of Stump Interrupted, a deconstruction of a White stump speech. And there's a civil argument on the subject of his record as mayor, with bloggers David Benzion and Charles Kuffner trading ideas.

Candidates started filing for office this week, most for reelection, some for challenges, some for open seats. Their deadline is January 4. But the fun started early, with Rep. Dan Gattis ending the Thanksgiving weekend with news that he was dropping his Senate bid and wouldn't seek another term in the House. Steve Ogden, who'd given up that Senate seat, decided to run after all.

The season brought out a group of Republicans who are filing against members of their own party in the primaries. These RINO hunters are focused on getting their own incumbents out of office, or at least getting them back into line.

Chuck Hopson, who left the Democrats for the Republicans to try to stay in the Texas House, says he has no regrets because, as he puts it, "East Texas is Really Not Obama Land."

Enough politics? State health officials are talking about a change in rules that would let some hospitals leave emergency rooms unstaffed by doctors, so long as the docs can get there within a half hour.

Some health professionals think medical schools should put some carrots and sticks in place to turn out more family physicians. But that gig doesn't pay as much as specialty medicine, and students coming out of law school, believe it or not, would rather make more money than less.

Specialty medicine isn't just for humans. We took a look — in tandem with KUT News in Austin — at large animal veterinarians and how their business is changing.

Turns out that if you get the locations of payday lenders in the state's big counties and put it on a map that also shows income levels of various parts of those counties, you get some very interesting correlations.

The Texas Education Agency is cutting a deal for electronic learning materials. Some of those same folks are railing at the federal government's consideration of national curriculum standards.

The forecasts for the next state budget are pretty grim, and the education part of the budget could be a particularly difficult patch. Check out our report on how the stimulus money used in the current budget could mean trouble later.

Kay Bailey Hutchison detailed her plans for education if she's elected governor next year. Subject it to some analysis and there's new stuff, old stuff, undetailed stuff, and some fuzzy stuff. And the education officials appointed by the incumbent she is challenging like their versions better.

The number of children removed from abusive homes spiked in September, a trend officials attribute to the economy and a major court ruling.

Gov. Rick Perry has dropped secession talk, but he and other Republicans are working the same material with talk of the importance of the tenth amendment. Not a lawyer? We did a rundown.

Do endorsements matter in politics? It depends.

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