The Brief: Top Texas News for Mar 5, 2010

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Pundits and political observers may finally get what they’ve been wanting in Texas — a close race for governor.

In a new Rasmussen poll, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White trails incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry by six points, 43%-49%.  Three percent favor some other candidate, while six percent are not sure.

For all the heat and national coverage generated by the recent Republican primary, save one outlier last September that had her up four points, no poll taken after June 2009 ever had U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison that close to her challenger.

Also yesterday, the non-partisan political prognosticators at The Cook Political Report declared the Texas gubernatorial race a “Toss Up.” It had previously been in the "Lean Republican" category.

Here’s an excerpt of the reasoning behind that decision:

Perry is known for running well-funded, aggressive, no-holds-barred campaigns and this will be no exception. However, this also might end up being the most difficult race of his career. As a result, we are moving the contest from the Lean Republican to the Toss Up column.

Interestingly enough, we might not have made such a move if Hutchison had won the primary since it would have become an open-seat contest where we would give greater weight to the state’s traditional Republican voting patterns. But, in this case, Perry is a known quantity and traditional voting patterns may not matter as much. Stay tuned; this is likely to become one of the more hotly contested gubernatorial races in the country.

Then again, everyone thought Rick v. Kay was going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish — and Perry won that election by over 20 points.

CULLED

• Don’t misunderstand — Gov. Rick Perry ran a tough campaign against U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s record in Washington, but that doesn’t mean he wants her to leave that job. Talking to Dallas radio host Mark Davis, Perry said, “"I think it would be in Texas' best interest for the senator to stay there, to continue to fight the good fight and, you know, finish her term out, frankly."  U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has also expressed his belief that Hutchison should not step down as she has said she intends to do. A Hutchison spokesperson says her plans have not changed.

• Speculation abounds of a future presidential bid by Gov. Rick Perry.  Last night in Austin, at an event featuring Mark  Halperin and John Heileman, the authors of the best-seller Game Change, Halperin said he has a list of four politicians with the potential to beat Pres. Barack Obama in 2012.  He declined to say who was on the list, but he acknowledged one person who wasn’t: Gov. Rick Perry.

• Students at rival schools University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M may not agree on much, but they both voted this week to raise their own school feees by $5 and $3, respectively, to support environmental services on campus. In 2009, state Rep. Elliot Naishtat, D-Austin, passed a bill co-authored by state Rep. Fred Brown, R-College Station, giving approval for such fees — if they were student supported — and providing guidelines on how the money can be spent.  Qualifying services include recycling, green building, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and transportation.

• Be sure to check out Matt Stiles’ latest app, which will provide you with, among other interesting bits of knowledge, the following: “For the amount of money he spent in Tuesday's primary, Farouk Shami could have purchased each of his 87,268 voters, say, haircuts for about six months — or, perhaps, a high-end model CHI, his signature hair straightener. The Houston Democrat and hair-care executive spent $135 per voter, records show, more than any other candidate on Tuesday's primary election ballot — and, by far, the most of any losing candidate.”

“I’ve never gotten up in the middle of the night, you know, just hoping the people in Austin would pass a law to prevent my wife from going off and marrying another woman.” — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White on the pressing need, or lack thereof, for a statewide gay marriage ban.

MUST READ

Waco Democrat Chet Edwards says he'll vote no on health bill againFort Worth Star-Telegram

Public Utility Commission orders tests of smart meters — The Dallas Morning News

Judge declares death penalty unconstitutionalHouston Chronicle

Does Anybody Still Like Karl Rove?The Daily Beast

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