The Brief: Texas Political Headlines for Sept. 16, 2013

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro after a debate on the future of Texas politics with Ted Cruz at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 22, 2012.
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro after a debate on the future of Texas politics with Ted Cruz at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 22, 2012.

The Big Conversation

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro introduced himself over the weekend to one of the most coveted voting blocs in American politics: Iowans.

Castro, who in Texas has long been rumored as a future statewide candidate, spoke on Sunday in Indianola, Iowa, at U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry, a storied Democratic fundraising event prone to stoking presidential speculation in the early caucus state.

In a well-received address, Castro echoed his keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, crediting Democratic initiatives for expanding economic opportunity, as the San Antonio Express-News reports.

"I invested in myself, but fundamentally, I reached my dream because you invested in me, because the American people invested in me," he said, citing federal grants and loans he used to attend Stanford University and Harvard Law School. "That is America. That's what's great about this nation. That is the blueprint for success in this 21st century."

 

Presidential speculation at this year's steak fry centered on Vice President Joe Biden, who headlined the event (and generated much coverage, thanks largely to many Democrats' unwillingness to fully embrace him as Hillary Clinton contemplates a run). 

But Harkin, who is retiring from the Senate next year, said Castro represents the future of the party.

"Mayor Castro is young, charismatic — one of our bright stars with new ideas, new energy, broadening the constituency of our party," Harkin told the crowd, according to the Express-News.

Added Biden in his speech: "I know the mayor will find this as a shock, but it's amazing that when you come to speak at the steak fry, people take notice. You've attracted the entire national press corps here.”

As for speculation about his own political future, Castro — who says he won't run for governor in 2014 — denied any White House ambitions.

"I’m not running for president," he told a local TV station. "Probably never will."

Culled

•    Wendy Davis Close To Announcing Political Plans (KERA News): "Political advisors to State Senator Wendy Davis say the Fort Worth Democrat could announce whether she’ll run for governor as early as this week."

 

•    Evolution at center of new Texas education board debate over science textbooks and e-books (The Dallas Morning News): "More than two decades after Texas ended a virtual ban on coverage of evolution in science textbooks, the debate over how evolution should be taught to high school students goes on — and on. State Board of Education members will hold a public hearing Tuesday on proposed high school biology textbooks and e-books that will be used in schools for eight years beginning next fall."

•    Van de Putte not yet set on lieutenant governor race (San Antonio Express-News): "Leticia Van de Putte did not announce her candidacy for lieutenant governor when she addressed the Bexar County Young Democrats on Wednesday night. But it was the way Van de Putte didn't announce it that provided encouragement to the 35 party activists in the Weston Centre conference room and fed the growing buzz that San Antonio's veteran state senator might have her name on a statewide ballot next year. This is what we know: Van de Putte is more amenable to a lite-guv campaign this time around than she was four years ago, when Democratic leaders urged her to enter the fray and she turned them down."

•    UT impeachment inquiry shaping up as battle of lawyers (Austin American-Statesman): "The broad outlines of a legislative investigation that could lead to the impeachment of a University of Texas System regent are expected to come into focus Monday when the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations meets. But this much is already clear: The investigation is shaping up as a battle of lawyers, and it could cost taxpayers and the UT System a considerable sum of money."

•    Rights groups seeking millions in redistricting fees (San Antonio Express-News): "Attorney General Greg Abbott's defense of a now-defunct 2011 redistricting plan could leave the state on the hook for a roughly $6 million legal tab to pay civil rights groups that sued to block the maps. … Civil rights groups are now contending that because the 2011 maps were never used and ultimately were altered by a court, they are entitled to be reimbursed for money spent fighting Abbott in the case. They've asked a federal judge to make the state pay $6.2 million for lawyers, outside experts and travel."

•    In State Records, Little Evidence to Back Stricter Abortion Regulations (The Texas Tribune): "In their successful push this summer for new regulations, abortion opponents said they were needed because conditions at existing facilities were unsafe. But a Texas Tribune review of state inspection records from the year preceding the lawmakers’ vote turned up little evidence to suggest the facilities were putting patients in imminent danger."

Quote to Note: "Over the summer, we've endured visits by Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Gov. 'Oops' Perry is on his way. All I can say, folks, is the clown car is filling up pretty rapidly early in the season." — U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, at his annual steak fry over the weekend

Must-Read

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