The Brief: Texas Political News for Sept. 18, 2013

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Sen. Wendy Davis, and Sen. Royce West cheer at the Stand with Texas Women Rally at the Capitol.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Sen. Wendy Davis, and Sen. Royce West cheer at the Stand with Texas Women Rally at the Capitol.

The Big Conversation

A pre-announcement announcement has fueled speculation that state Sen. Wendy Davis is preparing to run for governor.

As the Tribune's Jay Root reports, Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat who shot to stardom after filibustering an abortion bill this summer, has announced in an email release that she'll reveal her political plans on Oct. 3.

"There’s one question I’ve gotten quite often in the past few months," Davis says in the email. "I’ve heard it online, while I’m traveling around the state, from the media and in my Fort Worth neighborhood: What’s next?"

On its face, the announcement contained little news: Davis had already said she would reveal in the next few weeks whether she was running for governor or for re-election to her Senate seat. 

But the tone of the email, as well as a new page on Davis' website asking supporters to sign up so they can be the "first to know" what she decides, appears to hint at a major announcement.

"It’s hard to look at something like this and think she’s not going to run," said Jim Henson, a Tribune pollster and the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. "Certainly all the signs up to this point suggest she’s going to run. All the incentives have now lined up in a way that it really wouldn’t make sense if she didn’t."

And Democratic activists, who for months have been urging her to run, aren't the only ones counting on a Davis gubernatorial bid. A few other potential Democratic candidates eyeing down-ballot races — most notably state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, the party's top pick to run for lieutenant governor — are also said to be waiting for Davis before making any decisions. 

Van de Putte told the San Antonio Express-News that she would meet with Davis this week — and that she wouldn't run if Davis didn't.

"It has to be the right combination and a synergy," Van de Putte said. "It's got to be a cumulative strength."

Culled

•    Perry Directs Insurance Department to Regulate Federal Navigator Program (The Texas Tribune): "Gov. Rick Perry has directed the Texas Department of Insurance to establish strict rules to regulate so-called navigators trained to help Texans purchase health coverage under Obamacare. While the governor says the extra regulations will ensure that people handling Texans’ private financial and health information are properly trained and qualified, the rules could present a significant roadblock to organizations helping to implement the federal Affordable Care Act."

•    Evolution, Textbook Review Focus of SBOE Hearing (TT): "A past Texas State Board of Education chairman and outspoken creationist urged his former colleagues on Tuesday to approve high school biology textbooks he said would 'strike a final blow to the teaching of evolution.' Appearing at a board hearing on new instructional materials, Don McLeroy, a Bryan dentist who lost his seat on the SBOE in the 2010 Republican primary, told board members that the science textbooks currently under consideration contained many 'hidden gems just waiting to be mined by inquisitive students' that proved there was no evidence for evolution."

•    A Third Legal Challenge to Texas Voter ID Law (TT): "Two groups representing minority voters and officeholders have sued to block the state’s new voter ID law, which will be used for the first time in a statewide Texas election this November — barring intervention by a court."

•    GOP leaders revise strategy on funding (The Associated Press): "House GOP leaders are looking to reverse course and agree to tea party demands to try to use a vote this week on a must-pass temporary government funding bill to block implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law. A GOP aide says the latest strategy, to be offered to rank-and-file Republicans at a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, would be to link a 'defund Obamacare' provision to the stopgap funding bill and send it to the Senate."

•    Appeals court to hear arguments in UT admissions case (Austin American-Statesman): "Lawyers for the University of Texas and a woman challenging its use of affirmative action in admissions will argue before a federal appeals court in Austin on Nov. 13. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-1 ruling, sent the case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June for an exhaustive review of whether the university’s undergraduate admissions program needs to consider a student’s race and ethnicity to achieve diversity. The appeals court upheld the program in 2011, but the high court said that review fell short of the 'strict scrutiny' required."

Quote to Note: "You can imagine my great shock when I read the newspaper this morning and learned that you dismissed the work of the VAMI committee. … I can only hope that your comments were taken out of context." — Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, in a letter responding to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's suggestion at a debate on Monday that none of the Senate committees chaired by Democrats were "critical"

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