The Brief: Texas Political News for Oct. 28, 2013

State Sen. Wendy Davis announces her campaign for governor in front of a crowd of supporters in Haltom City on Oct. 3, 2013.
State Sen. Wendy Davis announces her campaign for governor in front of a crowd of supporters in Haltom City on Oct. 3, 2013.

The Big Conversation

Texas' two biggest political celebrities of the moment — Wendy Davis and Ted Cruz — continue to make the biggest waves across the Lone Star State's political scene.

Davis garnered numerous headlines this weekend with the announcement that she had hired a campaign manager for her gubernatorial bid. Karin Johanson is a veteran Democratic strategist who last year managed the campaign of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, reports The Texas Tribune's Jay Root.

“Karin has proven that she can win tough races. She has taken on and beaten a full arsenal of failed leadership, despite millions in negative ads,” said Davis spokesman Bo Delp. “Karin will be an excellent and outstanding addition to this historic and exciting campaign. We are honored that Karin will be joining us as we continue our fight to make the promise of Texas available to all families.”

Meanwhile, Cruz was in Iowa to speak at the Reagan Dinner on Friday, a speech described by Politico as a "stemwinder" at an event "that was part fundraiser and part tea party rally."

Politico's Maggie Haberman noted Cruz's red-meat applause lines, such as, "I’m convinced we’re facing a new paradigm in politics. ... It is the rise of the grass roots. … It has official Washington absolutely terrified." But she also noted that his nontraditional delivery sans podium might have worn a little thin in Iowa.

"Cruz, wearing a body mic, walked back and forth across the dais like a pastor delivering a sermon, similar to how he addressed the crowd at the Value Voters Summit in Washington a few weeks ago," Haberman reported. "Cruz received a good response from the crowd, but he wasn’t cheered wildly. And his speech, lengthy and meandering, began to lose some of the people in the audience as it went on."

Bud Kennedy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, meanwhile, lavished some attention on the race to replace Davis in the Texas Senate, talking with former state Rep. Glenn Lewis, who is considering a run now that Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has opted out.

Lewis would inject controversy should he run for the Democratic nomination in the Senate's only competitive district. Kennedy writes that Lewis was criticized by his fellow Democrats for being "too centrist and independent." Democrats back home in Fort Worth and in Austin might have a different description of him — a "Craddick D" — because he was a chairman under the Republican speaker.

Kennedy, though, writes that Lewis' ability to work across the aisle could present a unique advantage in a general election.

"Now, in a true swing district against whichever Republican emerges from the Tea Party kiln," Kennedy writes, "bipartisanship and his work with both sides as a partner in the Austin-based Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson tax collection law firm might be advantages."

And speaking of mavericks, Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News visited with former GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, who is in the process of trying to decide to which race to bring her Tea Party-approved brand name — comptroller or governor.

Fikac writes that Medina is more committed now to running for comptroller, saying that a run for governor "is not on my radar. ... I can't do both, and I'm really, really focused on running for comptroller. So, there's no room in my future that I see for that."

But Medina acknowledged to Fikac in an earlier interview that a run for governor as an independent might scare the bejeezus out of some in the GOP.

"She said the buzz about the prospect of her independent candidacy stems from the recognition that 'there would be a significant number of people who might vote for me.' That, she said, should make Republicans think about how her candidacy could enhance the ticket," Fikac reported.

"'If there is nothing there for the tea party and Liberty demographic within the Republican voting bloc, then the energy is pretty flat, because that's where the steam comes from,' she said. 'When they look at that Republican ticket, they see John McCain all over again, and that's not appealing.'"

Culled

•    Ethics at Fore of Secret Talks on State’s Laws (The Texas Tribune): "State ethics regulators are weighing complaints sparked by the political campaigning and legislative influence of the conservative gadfly Michael Quinn Sullivan, Empower Texans and related organizations. But you won’t get a chance to watch most of it."

•    Lawmakers looking past regent to governor's office in UT dispute (Houston Chronicle): "Last week, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations began hearings on the possible impeachment of UT Regent Wallace Hall and focused on his voluminous demands for documents from UT-Austin. The drama at the state Capitol, however, masked an ongoing power struggle between Gov. Rick Perry and one of the state's most powerful and revered institutions. While Hall is the ostensible target, lawmakers ultimately hope to ascertain whether Perry is driving Hall to oust Bill Powers because the UT-Austin president has resisted his philosophy on higher education."

•    Growing number of Hispanic students reshapes Texas education (Austin American-Statesman): "Barrington and other schools in the Austin area reflect a demographic shift that is reshaping public education in Texas. Between 2000 and 2010, Austin grew by 28,000 children under the age of 18. Of that increase, 92 percent were Hispanic. And, as Central Texas schools become more ethnically diverse, there has been a corresponding rise in the number of students who are economically disadvantaged."

•    Top Texas CPS official orders more home visits in wake of abuse-related deaths (The Dallas Morning News): "The state’s child welfare chief has ordered more unannounced home visits and other steps to halt a spike of abuse-related deaths among Texas’ foster children. Family and Protective Services Commissioner John Specia said that when suspicious deaths occur, his agency must move more swiftly to scrutinize private child placing agencies. He repeated a call for Child Protective Services and vendors to conduct more thorough background checks of prospective foster parents."

•    One Case Shows How Time Can Affect Pursuit of Justice (TT): "Angel Galvan Rivera was a suspect in the deaths but never tried. Instead, he was convicted of murdering Jewel Haygood, 88, who lived just blocks away from the two women, in a similar fashion. He was sentenced to death in 1986, and Greer and her family were satisfied that the man they believe killed her grandmother and 'granny' would never walk free. Now, Rivera — who has long proclaimed his innocence and who prosecutors agree received ineffective representation — could soon become eligible for parole and potentially walk away from death row. After nearly three decades awaiting execution for a crime he maintains he did not commit, Rivera was faced with a life-or-death choice: He could get a chance to leave prison, but only if he relinquished his claims of wrongful conviction."

Quote to Note“I’m convinced we’re facing a new paradigm in politics. ... This new paradigm has been beta-tested, unlike the Obamacare website. It was beta-tested in 1980 with the Reagan Revolution, and it pulled this country back form the brink.” — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at the Reagan Dinner in Iowa on Friday

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