The Brief: Top Texas News for May 21, 2012

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaking to the press about budget and education matters on May 17, 2011.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaking to the press about budget and education matters on May 17, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

With just over a week until Election Day, the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll may spell trouble for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

According to the poll, Dewhurst, long the race's front-runner, leads rival Ted Cruz by 9 points, outside the survey's margin of error. But Dewhurst, with 40 percent of the vote to Cruz's 31 percent, doesn't break 50 percent, which he would need to avoid a runoff.

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is at 17 percent, and former ESPN analyst Craig James is at 4 percent.

Cruz, a former state solicitor general, has waged a fierce campaign to the right of Dewhurst, at times with the help of the Club for Growth, a national conservative group that has spent $2 million on ads targeting the lieutenant governor.

 

"If they're in a runoff, Dewhurst is in trouble," Daron Shaw, a UT-Austin government professor and co-director of the poll, told the Tribune. Cruz's more mobilized base of supporters may be likelier to show up at the polls for a runoff, observers say.

But Dewhurst, as well as a Super PAC working on his behalf, have countered with their own round of tough ads attacking Cruz within the past couple of weeks. Dewhurst's campaign also revealed on Friday that the lieutenant governor recently invested another $6 million in his campaign.

On the Democratic side, a runoff also looks likely. In a race that has struggled to rouse much interest, former state Rep. Paul Sadler has 29 percent of the vote, but Sean Hubbard trails by only 4 points, within the margin of error. Two lesser-known candidates, Addie Dainell Allen and Grady Yarbrough, score 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively, reflecting the difficulty the party has faced in fielding a candidate with the ability to break through.

In the presidential race, Mitt Romney appears to have finally won over GOP voters in Texas, scoring 63 percent of the vote among the Republicans on the ballot; Ron Paul follows with 14 percent. In a general election matchup, Romney bests President Obama handily, 55 percent to 35 percent.

Culled:

  • Controversy involving the work history of state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, erupted in the race for House District 19 on Friday. As the Tribune reported, state Rep. Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, the Lumberton Republican challenging White in the race, on Friday released documents — obtained under the state's open-records laws — showing that White left his job as a teacher in the Livingston Independent School District after repeated complaints of sexual discussions in class. "The behavior resulted in repeated investigations, reprimands and public apologies," Hamilton said in a press release. White accused Hamilton of spreading "malicious, untrue gossip" and said he left his position to take another teaching job closer to home. He also explained that the complaint that led to the investigation stemmed from a discussion involving Texas' anti-sodomy law.
  • As expected, former Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, now running in the Republican primary for Senate District 25, filed a counterclaim on Friday against opponent Jeff Wentworth, who last week sued Jones for libel and slander over an ad claiming that Wentworth billed both his campaign and the state for campaign expenses. The counterclaim urged the court to require Wentworth to pay the legal fees Jones incurs responding to the suit.
  • The Department of Justice confirmed Friday that a federal district court in Washington, D.C., will hear the state's voter ID case starting July 9, reviving chances that the controversial law could be in effect in time for the November elections. The decision came a week after the D.C. court accused the state of stalling in turning over information the Justice Department had deemed necessary for the case to proceed on time.

"You are blessed to have him as your leader." — Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers during Gates' commencement speech at the university on Saturday

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