The Brief: Top Texas News for Aug. 3, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry on May 30th, 2011
Gov. Rick Perry on May 30th, 2011

The Big Conversation:

With his prayer rally just a few days away, Gov. Rick Perry has another potential worry on his hands: turnout.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback — the only governor of the 49 invited who accepted an invitation to the rally — won't confirm his attendance at the prayer event, dubbed The Response, which will be held Saturday at Houston's Reliant Stadium. (Florida Gov. Rick Scott won't appear in person but has said he'll record a video for the event.)

The Texas Independent has also reported that only 8,000 people have RSVP'd to the event, which would leave more than 63,000 of the stadium's seats unfilled. But Eric Bearse, a spokesman for the event, told the Independent that organizers weren't worried about about turnout. “We are not really concerned with the quantity of people that come," he said. "It’s frankly more about the powerful event that will speak to those who do come. It’s never been about the numbers.”

The event has already drawn considerable controversy for some of its sponsors' views on issues like gay rights, putting Perry in an awkward position as he nears a presidential bid that would require him — if he wins the Republican nomination — to eventually move to the center. On Tuesday, more than 50 Houston-area religious and leaders, the Houston Chronicle reports, signed a statement professing "deep concern" about the event.

 

It's still not clear whether Perry himself will speak at the rally, organizers have said.

And though a judge last week threw out a lawsuit challenging Perry's involvement in the event, controversy lingers. For Perry, that could mean taking the blame for any controversial statements uttered during the event. "A candidate who establishes his identity on the fringe, talking about social and religious issues, when the economy is going over a cliff, risks marginalizing himself, becoming unacceptable to independents and unelectable," Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, tells The Associated Press. "That would be the kiss of death."

He adds: "Perry should be trying to establish recognition as the minister of job creation. This leads him to build an identity as just a minister."

Culled:

  • Texas electricity use reached an all-time high Tuesday as temperatures soared past 100 across the state, causing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state's grid operator, to initiate its first round of emergency procedures: drawing power from other grids, including Mexico's. With no relief from the high temperatures in sight, the state, which is urging conservation, may begin to request rolling blackouts if outages persist. 
  • Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on Tuesday fired off what may have been the opening salvo of the 2014 lieutenant governor's race. As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, Staples, a likely candidate for the post, sent Comptroller Susan Combs, who has also expressed interest in the office, a letter asking her to "clarify a few issues" — namely her position on abortion and the data breach at her agency that exposed millions of Texans' personal information. A spokesman for Combs said she was still exploring her options for the future.
  • State Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, appears to have drawn a 2012 Republican primary challenger: Sugar Land Mayor Pro Tem Jacquie Chaumette, who says the district needs more "open-minded" leadership.

"Governor Perry would be a very credible candidate. … He's got a great [record] — he out to stay in Texas and keep building jobs there."Ed Rollins, the campaign manager for presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, to Politico

Must-Read:

 

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