The Brief: Top Texas News for Nov. 28, 2011

The Big Conversation:

A burst of holiday-weekend activity has settled the state's game of political musical chairs. For now.

Candidates running for office next year in Texas may begin filing today, just two days after a federal panel in San Antonio voted 2-1 to approve interim congressional maps that were proposed Wednesday. The panel also voted 2-1 on Wednesday to approve revised state House and Senate maps, which were released two weeks ago.

As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, the maps — which have been redrawn while a separate federal panel, in Washington, decides whether the original Republican-approved plans meet federal voting-rights standards — will stay in place for the 2012 elections, barring intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court. Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose request for a stay of the legislative maps was denied, has hired former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement — the lead lawyer opposing President Barack Obama's federal health care law — to assist the state in a possible appeal to the Supreme Court.

The court action, meanwhile, set off a flurry of electoral shuffling over the weekend. On Friday, Aaron Peña, the Edinburg state representative who became a Republican last year, said he couldn't win re-election under the newly redrawn maps and would retire from the House.

The new congressional maps also averted the much-hyped fight between U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, in Congressional District 35. The new maps moved Doggett out of the district, appearing to clear the way for Castro, but Castro instead declared on Saturday that he'll run to succeed U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, who announced his retirement earlier in the day. For San Antonio, the news signaled a shift in power from one political dynasty to another.

Now, former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, beaten in 2010 by Republican Francisco "Quico" Canseco in CD-23, appears set to announce his candidacy for CD-35.

Culled:

  • Rick Perry drew scrutiny over the weekend for releasing a new campaign video featuring two clips from an ad aired by the pro-Perry Super PAC Make Us Great Again. With campaigns and Super PACS legally prohibited from coordinating, Perry's use of the clips "pushes the concept of independence to new boundaries," an election lawyer tells Politico.
  • NBC News reported Sunday that Joe Arpaio, the controversial Arizona sheriff known for his aggressive stance on illegal immigration, plans to endorse Rick Perry this week. According to NBC, Arpaio will campaign in New Hampshire this week with Perry, who has faced criticism from Republicans for supporting in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants.
  • The newly resurgent Newt Gingrich on Sunday scored the coveted endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper. "Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate. But Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running. In this incredibly important election, that candidate is Newt Gingrich," read the conservative newspaper's endorsement, which made no mention of Mitt Romney, who has led nearly every recent poll of New Hampshire Republicans. Though the endorsement itself falls short of a major game change for Gingrich, the newspaper's nod, as Politico notes, provides the former U.S. House speaker with a major boost at an important moment for his campaign — and as Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight reports, the Union Leader endorsement has historically, on average, provided candidates with an 11-point bump in the state.

"It’s indicative of a mind-set that’s becoming real prevalent, not only in this town, but this state, the whole country. People don’t like to be told what to do."Rob Rea, a bar owner in Gun Barrel City, where a dispute over late-night drinking, as The New York Times reports, has incited an intense political battle

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