The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan. 24, 2012

The Big Conversation:

Texans again face the possibility of having to vote two separate times this spring in the state's primary elections.

Federal redistricting judges in San Antonio said Monday that they are "giving serious consideration" to splitting the state's April 3 primary into two elections if the parties at odds over the state's interim maps can't come to an agreement by Feb. 6.

The three-judge panel said in an order issued Monday that lawyers should be prepared to discuss a split primary by the end of the week and asked for input on the idea of holding a presidential primary on April 3 and all other elections at a later date.

The panel said it would meet with the parties Friday to hear arguments on how to proceed.

In an increasingly convoluted bout of legal wrangling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the San Antonio panel, tasked with redrawing the state's maps as they awaited federal approval, hadn't given proper consideration to plans passed last year by the Republican-led state Legislature. The San Antonio judges must now redraw those temporary maps as a separate three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., decides whether the original plans meet federal voting rights standards.

The San Antonio court must decide whether it should wait until the Washington court is finished, and the judges in their order made it clear that they would like the D.C. court to rule before they proceed: "With high respect for the importance of that proceeding and the prerogatives of that court, this Court hereby requests both sides in the San Antonio proceedings to request, on behalf of this Court, that the D.C. Court attempt to rule on the Section 5 issues in time for this court to incorporate those decisions into its ultimate decision on the redistricting plans for the 2012 elections for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas Senate, and the U.S. Congress." In other words? Hurry up.

Culled:

  • At an NBC News Republican debate Monday night, Ron Paul again struggled for airtime as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney traded barbs over ethics and electability. Paul reiterated that he had no plans to run as a third-party candidate but could only muster a lighthearted answer when asked whether he could support Gingrich as the party's nominee. "He talks about the Fed and gold," Paul said. "If I can change his mind on foreign policy, we might be able to talk business."
  • Though Ron Paul plans to bypass Florida, a winner-take-all state, as part of his hunt for delegates, a Super PAC supporting Paul called Endorse Liberty plans to spend $1.4 million on radio and TV ads in the state, according to The Washington Post.
  • State Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston, the leader of the House Democrats, sent a letter to the governor's office Monday asking Rick Perry to repay the $2.6 million the state spent on his security detail during his presidential run. The governor's office responded that it was the Department of Public Safety, not Perry, that called for the security detail and that "not a dime" of the governor's travel expenses were paid for by taxpayers. "We’re encouraged to see Rep. Farrar wanting to join the ranks of fiscal conservatives in Texas," a Perry spokeswoman said, "and look forward to her joining our efforts to persuade Congress and President Obama to repeal the fiscally irresponsible mandates of Obamacare."

"I’d rather take a shower with Jerry Sandusky than go through another month of this. This campaign isn’t capable of winning." — A longtime adviser to Rick Perry in December, as quoted in Tribune reporter Jay Root's story on tension within the governor's campaign

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