The Brief: Top Texas News for Dec. 11, 2012

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, delivers a personal privilege speech at the end of the House session on June 29, 2011.
State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, delivers a personal privilege speech at the end of the House session on June 29, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

State Rep. David Simpson shook up the speaker's race on Monday, but has he shifted it at all?

Simpson, R-Longview, released a letter Monday morning saying he had filed to run for House speaker. Simpson, one of the most conservative members of the Legislature, said last week that he was considering joining the race.

"I respect Speaker Straus as a fellow legislator who loves Texas and her people," Simpson wrote on Monday. "However, we differ on the way the House should be led. And I am not alone in that opinion."

Shortly after Simpson's announcement, state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said he was dropping his bid for the position and endorsing Simpson. 

"David is uniquely qualified to lead the House at this pivotal time in our history," Hughes said in a statement. "David Simpson has earned his reputation as an eminently fair, highly principled, and hardworking legislator."

Whether Simpson's entry will significantly alter the dynamics of the race, though, remains unclear. Straus has drawn the ire of conservative activists who view him as too moderate, but observers say he still likely commands enough Republican and Democratic support to cruise to re-election.

"Speaker Straus enjoys support from a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the House," Straus spokeswoman Erin Daly said in a statement. "And rather than campaigning for the position, he is focused on leading the House as we prepare for session."

The Tribune's Ross Ramsey has a look today at Simpson's path to 76 votes, and whether the new contender's potential appeal to Democrats unhappy with Straus could hurt Simpson among Republicans.

Culled:

  • The conservative blog RedState last month accused House Speaker Joe Straus' office of showing hostility toward conservative activists and lawmakers during the 2011 redistricting process. Now, the site — which over the years has made no secret of its distaste for Straus — is accusing Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the state's biggest tort reform group, of playing a key role in the redistricting controversy. "Grassroots conservatives from across Texas should demand answers about precisely what role TLR had in drawing and passing redistricting maps during the last legislative session," Mark McCaig writes. "Texas voters also deserve to know why a special interest lobby group such as TLR was allowed to have the level of influence they exercised during the redistricting process."
  • Rick Noriega, a Houston Democrat who ran for U.S. Senate in 2008, won't join the race to replace the late Mario Gallegos in the Texas Senate, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday. Noriega, a former state representative, was said to be considering entering the race, which already includes Democrats Carol Alvarado, a state representative, and Sylvia Garcia, a former Harris County commissioner. Gallegos died in October but posthumously won re-election in November.
  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office will investigate an $11 million grant that the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas awarded in 2010 without proper review. News of the improperly approved grant broke two weeks ago, adding to the pressure the cancer-fighting agency has faced over whether politics have tained its grant-awarding process.

"It behooves you to be skeptical and critical of anybody running for the speaker's office. If we're good enough to get you to the dance, we're good enough to take part in the policy, too." — State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, on Democrats' support for Joe Straus

Must-Read:

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