The Brief: Top Texas News for June 4, 2012

The Big Conversation:

As the dust from last week's primary elections settles, it's time for candidates to gear up and buckle down for the business ahead.

For many, that means finishing up their primary bid. There are 37 runoff battles still to be waged. That includes everything from high-profile contests such as the one between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz,the Republicans gunning to be the nominee to the state's open U.S. Senate seat, to what have — at least, up to this point — been decidedly lower-profile competitions, like the race between Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough, the Democrats vying for the same post.

The runoffs will occupy much of the political coverage over the next eight weeks. But, this week will largely be focused on  another order of business: the state conventions of the various political parties.

First up: the Republican Party of Texas. Their convention will attempt to bring together the party's various factions, which have been sniping at each other in the wake of last week's election results. In his latest column, the Trib's Ross Ramsey highlights one such battle: Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, after easily winning re-election, taking on one of his loudest critics, Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans, who successfully helped take out some of Straus' allies.

“He was spectacularly unsuccessful,” Straus said of Sullivan's influence on the elections. “And frankly, I don’t consider him much of a factor. His biggest problem with me is that I keep succeeding. We’ve got a conservative House here, and he’s not part of it.”

Expect this sort of conversation to continue at the convention in Fort Worth from Thursday through Saturday. 

At the same time, the Texas Democratic Party will be convening in Houston, where they will be searching for a way to reverse course. After some embarrassing outcomes in last week's primary races, the party is looking for a new direction. And with state party chairman Boyd Richie having already announced that he will not be seeking a fourth term, they have an opportunity to choose a new leader to chart a new course.

Currently, the perceived frontrunner is Brownsville lawyer Gilberto Hinojosa, who has the backing of Richie and a number of other prominent Democrats. He will definitely be facing challenges from Fidel Acevedo of Austin and Rachel Barrios-Van Os of San Antonio, though it's possible that more could be nominated.

There are a number of facts and figures that could be cited to illustrate the serious rebuilding ahead for whoever wins the post. Here's one noted by the Associated Press over the weekend" "More than 11 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the Republican primary last week, but only 4.5 percent voted for Democrats. That's less than 600,000 people out of a voting-age population of 18.7 million."

The Libertarian Party of Texas will also be meeting this week near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport from Friday through Sunday. The Green Party of Texas will be in San Antonio over the weekend.

Culled:

  • Texas candidates spent more than $90 million to try to secure victories in the May 29 primaries. But according to an analysis by the Tribune, a high-dollar payout does not guarantee a promising election effort. For example, in his failed bid for the 33rd Congressional District, Dr. David Alameel, a dental center mogul, spent more than $2.6 million — almost all of which came from his own pocket. That turned out to be about $1,276.78 spent per vote received. You can look at all the numbers in a new interactive database.
  • Texas voter registration rates are among the lowest in the nation. But, even if you are one of the few voting Texans, it might be a good time to make sure your voter registration hasn't been canceled by the state.  The Houston Chronicle took a look at the numbers and found that one out of every 10 Texas voters' registration is currently suspended. And that number is even worse among young voters. For those under 30, it's about one in five.

"We are damn well not all equal." — Dr. Alfred Gilman, the top scientific officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, in an email to Jerry Cobbs, CPRIT's chief commercialization officer, criticizing the agency's application process. Gilman announced his upcoming retirement last month.

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