The Brief: Top Texas News For Oct. 15, 2012

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, debates state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, in the matchup for Senate District 10.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, debates state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, in the matchup for Senate District 10.

The Big Conversation:

For Texas' debate enthusiasts chomping at the bit to see two politicians go head to head for the second time, there's no need to wait for Tuesday night's showdown between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The second of four planned debates between state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and challenger, state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, aired on Sunday on WFAA's Inside Texas Politics.

The 20-minute exchange, moderated by WFAA's Brad Watson and Bud Kennedy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was generally cordial (unlike the recent back-and-forth between U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler in the same studio) but showcased clear differences between the candidates.

Topics covered included transportation funding, use of the state's "Rainy Day Fund," both candidates' aggressive attack ads, and the teaching of creationism in schools. The full video can be viewed here:

 

 

The race between Davis and Shelton is perhaps the most watched in the Texas Senate as Election Day approaches.

The outcome will likely mean the difference between a Senate made up of 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats or a breakdown of 19 and 12. Since the typical number of votes needed to bring up a bill under the Senate's traditional "two-thirds" rule in 21, that slim margin could prove significant.

The Senate is already expected to be significantly more conservative than in previous sessions. In the most recent issue of Texas Weekly, political scientist Mark Jones of Rice University, compared the votes of four voluntarily retiring Republican senators — Steve Ogden, Florence Shapiro, Chris Harris, and Mike Jackson — and the four soon-to-be-former House members that are set to replace them — Charles Schwertner, Ken Paxton, Kelly Hancock, and Larry Taylor.

After scoring their votes, Jones found that "among the four pairs of arriving and departing senators who all served in the 2011 Legislature, each incoming senator has a more conservative score than the senator he is replacing."

Though she does not yet have a record to prove it, it is also widely believed that, assuming she survives the general election, newcomer Donna Campbell will be a more conservative presence than state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, who she defeated in a tough primary.

Of course, the outcome of the presidential election could also have a significant influence of the tone in the state's upcoming legislative session (You heard it here first!). The second debate in that race — if the 20-minute clash between Davis and Shelton merely whetted your appetite — will be held tomorrow night.

Culled:

· The University of Texas System Board of Regents is expected to approve a new systemwide partnership on Monday with edX, a high profile provider of free online courses. EdX, a non-profit which began in early 2012 as a joint venture between Harvard University and MIT, now also includes the University of California-Berkeley. The UT System, with its nine academic campuses and six health institutions, will be the first university system to get on board.

· Over the weekend, state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, was reported to be in "grave condition" in Houston's Methodist Hospital. According to KTRK-TV in Houston, as of Sunday evening, Gallegos is still in the hospital, resting peacefully after visits from friends and colleagues.

"No matter what, somebody is going to sue you." — Tom Brandt, a Dallas lawyer who has represented schools in First Amendment cases for two decades, including a recent dispute about religious signage at football games in Kountze.

Must Read:

Democrats look to gaine state House seats, but Republicans will remain firmly in control, The Dallas Morning News

7 More Cancer Scientists Quit Texas Institute Over Grants, Associated Press

Cruz's life defies simplification, Houston Chronicle

Craft brewers try new tactic in pitch to change state alcohol laws, Austin American-Statesman

Despite Party Politics, HD-134 Foes Share Many Traits, The Texas Tribune

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