The Brief: Top Texas News for May 22, 2012

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs at a TribLive event at the Austin Club on Oct. 20, 2011.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs at a TribLive event at the Austin Club on Oct. 20, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

The dynamics of the 2014 lieutenant governor's race may already be taking shape, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Though the race is still two years away, the contest has attracted interest from several state officeholders. Of the group, Comptroller Susan Combs leads, with 28 percent, followed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, with 23 percent; Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, with 11 percent; and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, with 9 percent.

"It's early," Jim Henson, who co-directs the poll and teaches government at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Tribune. "We're polling in a race with no declared candidates. Still, you see the marks of a fight between people in the establishment and those who have problems with the establishment."

In both of the crowded primary races for seats on the Railroad Commission, no single candidate claims 50 percent of the vote, which candidates need to avoid a runoff. In one race, Christi Craddick leads state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, 30 percent to 19 percent. In the other, Comal County Commissioner Greg Parker claims 33 percent, ahead of current Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, with 26 percent, and Elizabeth Murray-Kolb, with 25 percent.

 

"Voters just don't know much about these candidates," said Daron Shaw, who co-directs the poll with Henson.

The poll also surveyed job approval for the state's top officeholders. Gov. Rick Perry stands at 38 percent favorable, 47 percent unfavorable, while Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is at 30 percent favorable, 25 percent unfavorable.

Culled:

  • Steve Mostyn, the Houston trial lawyer who became the largest political donor to Texas Democrats in 2010, has stayed relatively quiet this election cycle. But as the Tribune's Jay Root reports, he's still in the game, taking aim at candidate Larry Taylor in the Republican primary for Senate District 11. Mostyn, who has clashed with Taylor over hurricane-related lawsuits, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Taylor's opponent, Dave Norman, and to groups supporting Norman.
  • With a week to go until Election Day, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz have turned to two of their best-known supporters in hopes of getting voters to the polls. In a new ad released Monday, Gov. Rick Perry says of Dehwurst, "Our country needs him, and so does Texas." And in a new automated call — which inadvertently went out to some Kansans — former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin urges Republicans to vote for Cruz.
  • The Catholic diocese of Dallas and Fort Worth have joined a lawsuit filed Monday challenging the Obama administration over a provision of federal health care reform mandating that employers cover contraceptives for workers. Suits on behalf of dioceses, schools and health agencies were filed in eight states, including Texas.

“We're headed to a runoff."Ted Cruz at a U.S. Senate candidates forum on Monday

Must-Read:

 

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