The Brief: Top Texas News for July 13, 2012

Ted Cruz greets a delegate outside the state Republican convention on June 7, 2012.
Ted Cruz greets a delegate outside the state Republican convention on June 7, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

New polling, new ads and a new ethics controversy shook up the already lively U.S. Senate race on Thursday.

In a boon for Ted Cruz, two new polls showed him pulling ahead of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in their heated runoff battle. One, from Public Policy Polling, showed Cruz with 49 percent of the vote to Dewhurst's 44 percent, just outside the margin of error. The other, from the Citizens United Political Victory Fund, put Cruz ahead by 10 points, 48 percent to 38 percent.

The polling resembled internal data the Cruz campaign released last week showing him 9 points ahead of Dewhurst. The lieutenant governor's campaign, though, released its own internal polling this week showing him 8 points ahead of Cruz.

"This race is one of the most stark examples of the Tea Party movement propelling a candidate that we've seen to date," said Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen, referring to the conservative grassroots support Cruz has harnessed.

Cruz got another boost Thursday from the conservative Club for Growth, which unveiled two new pro-Cruz ads depicting Dewhurst as an insider and profligate spender. The group, which has already poured millions of dollars into the primary, said it would spend $1.5 million to air the ads.

It wasn't all good news for Cruz, though. As the Tribune's Jay Root reported Thursday, Cruz revealed on his latest ethics disclosures that he had continued to perform civil legal work for Robert Mericle, a Pennsylvania developer who played a central role in the infamous "kids for cash" corruption scandal, in which illegal kickbacks were paid to two state judges who sent juveniles to Mericle's private detention facilities.

The Dewhurst campaign quickly lashed out at Cruz over the revelations.

"Ted Cruz should be ashamed of the choice he made to represent Robert Mericle, an exploiter of children for profit," Dewhurst spokesman Matt Hirsch said in a statement on Thursday. "It brings into question the integrity and judgment of Ted Cruz, who’s running to represent the interest of Texans in the U.S. Senate."

The Cruz campaign dismissed the attacks as an attempt to distract from the campaign and Dewhurst's own run-in with controversy this week.

Culled:

  • The state's voter ID case in Washington neared its conclusion Thursday as final witnesses — including state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth — were called to testify on the contentious law. Closing arguments are scheduled for today.
  • ABC News reports that Gov. Rick Perry today in Nevada will make his first public appearance on behalf of Mitt Romney. Perry will attend the opening of a Romney campaign field office in the town of Elko.
  • As the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports, a little-watched but fiery GOP runoff race for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court has pitted eight-term incumbent David Medina against John Devine, a former district court judge, anti-abortion activist and frequent political candidate known for his fight to keep the Ten Commandments displayed in his Houston courtroom. And the race could heat up even more after a conservative website this week posted an interview with a judge who claimed Devine said he was running against Medina because he could "beat someone with a Mexican name."
  • Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs said Thursday that implementing federal health care reform in Texas would cost $11 billion less over 10 years than originally estimated. Citing new data, Suehs told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the state would pay about $15 billion over the next decade, not the $27 billion previously projected. Suehs said he still agreed with Rick Perry, though, that the state shouldn't expand its Medicaid rolls, as the federal overhaul calls for. Billy Millwee, the state's outgoing Medicaid chief, said the same at a panel discussion Thursday. "Medicaid is crowding out other programs," Millwee said. "In my mind, it is starting to enable poverty."

Must-Read:

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.