The Brief: Top Texas News for March 2, 2012

Voting signs in Austin during the 2010 election cycle.
Voting signs in Austin during the 2010 election cycle.

The Big Conversation:

With May 29 primaries in place, the political jockeying has begun.

A three-judge panel in San Antonio, which earlier this week issued final interim legislative and congressional maps, ordered the May elections on Thursday. Runoffs will be held July 31.

Candidates have until March 9 to file for races. Candidates who already filed can drop out, remain in their respective races or switch to another.

Though many candidates had already started campaigning and raising money, the redistricting disarray had left some without districts and had held up fundraising efforts for many. But with maps ready and dates set, the race is on — officially.

 

In San Antonio, for instance, state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, on Thursday urged former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, to stay out of the Democratic primary in the race to unseat Republican Francisco "Quico" Canseco in Congressional District 23.

"Ciro is going to have to decide what is best for Ciro," Lonny Paris, Gallego's campaign manager, told the San Antonio Express-News. "It would be unfortunate if there is a costly and drawn-out primary."

Rodriguez has filed as a candidate for the U.S. House but has yet to announce which seat he will seek.

The official primary date has also set off a round of speculation about who stands to benefit from the late May elections and the late July runoffs.

The later dates may give lesser-known candidates more time to build name recognition. In the U.S. Senate race, Ted Cruz, who in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll looked likeliest to face off with front-running Dewhurst in a runoff, could also benefit from the later elections, in which lower turnout may help candidates with more impassioned, grassroots supporters.

As Politico notes, the late runoff could also make it difficult for some U.S. House candidates to recover from fierce primary battles and turn to the general election.

Culled:

  • Rick Perry on Thursday jumped into the roiling controversy surrounding the likely demise of Texas' Women's Health Program, penning an editorial that accuses the Obama administration of putting abortion politics ahead of health care for women. Abortion rights activists have said the same of Republicans, who banned Planned Parenthood clinics from the program, prompting the federal government to deny its renewal. "The administration’s stated intention to reject the Texas program reflects nothing more than its pro-abortion agenda, and is a blatant pander to the president’s liberal base, which has made Planned Parenthood’s abortion services a celebrated cause," Perry wrote. Earlier in the day, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs, in an uncharacteristically forceful letter, slammed the Obama administration over its decision.
     
  • Despite some increased rainfall, the state's drought has kept rice farmers from getting their annual supply of water from the Lower Colorado River Authority and increased the profile of state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. It has also changed the migration patterns of Texas birds. Whooping cranes, who usually winter along the gulf coast, flew in from Canada, and after a short time, flew back. Some ducks kept flying straight to South America. There was a rare sighting of a snowy owl near Dallas. The disruption has biologists wondering if the birds storing up enough energy to be able to breed in the spring.
     
  • The Texas Supreme Court is considering the validity of a psychological test used to diagnose pedophilia in the accused after an inmate serving out a 20 year sentence challenged its findings as "junk science." Michael Arena's case — the 29 year old was convicted of molesting his two young cousins, who have since recanted, when he was in 8th grade — could affect future attempts to challenge faulty scientific evidence in the future.
     

"Pretty soon people quit listening to what perpetual candidates have to say." — Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina to the Austin American-Statesman on Thursday. Medina said she is weighing a run for comptroller, and possibly another run governor, in 2014 .

 

Must-Read:

Beren Academy, Jewish Academy in Houston, Is Allowed to Play in ReversalThe New York Times

The Deadliest Place In Mexico, The Texas Observer

Edna Milton Chadwell, madam of Texas’s ‘Best Little Whorehouse,’ dies at 84, The Washington Post

UTEP Seeks Success Beyond Graduation Rate, The Texas Tribune

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Austin Bureau: RIP, The Texas Tribune

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