The Brief: Texas Political News for Dec. 23, 2013

Steve Munisteri campaigning for Texas GOP chairman.
Steve Munisteri campaigning for Texas GOP chairman.

The Big Conversation

Dreams of Texas playing a pivotal role in choosing the next GOP presidential nominee are running through state Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri's head.

He tells the Austin American-Statesman's Jonathan Tilove that key to all this is the national party keeping rules in place that only allow the four traditional states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada from selecting their preferred candidates before March 1, 2016.

Texas is scheduled to hold primary elections on March 1. That means the Lone Star State is positioned to have a meaningful impact on the nomination process for the first time in decades. And that comes at a time when many potential candidates have Texas ties, from those with direct connections — like Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz — to those with more indirect connections, such as native son but Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

“I think what you would have is some real big early winners and some real big early losers if everything falls into place the way I hope it falls into place,” Munisteri told Tilove. The fly in the ointment, though, is the inconvenient fact there are already rules in place to prevent states from jumping in line. In 2012, a couple of key states simply ignored the rules.

 

Munisteri said that he thought the party would work to stiffen sanctions against scofflaw states. Others aren't so sure the party will be cracking the whip anytime soon. A supermajority of 75 percent would be required to make changes to the rules. “'This a group of folks who know the rules and think there’s a good chance their recommendations will go through,'" delegate selection expert and Davidson College Professor Josh Putnam told Tilove about Munisteri and his allies, "'but I don’t know that will necessarily be the case.' Gaining approval of three-quarters of the 168 RNC members needed to approve the new rules is 'a high bar,' he said."

One quick note for our readers in closing. The Brief will take a much-needed break for the holidays. Thanks so much for lending your time and your eyes to this space this year. We will be back on Jan. 2.

Culled

•    Perry, Straus Reach Out to Appointees Amid Hall Inquiry (The Texas Tribune): "In the last month, both Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, have reached out to gubernatorial appointees to share their thoughts on government oversight, which has become a touchy subject in light of an investigation of a University of Texas System regent."

•    Investment bonuses coming at Texas pensions for teachers, state workers (Austin American-Statesman): "Solid gains over the past year at Texas’ two largest public pension funds yielded sizable bonuses for investment officials, newly released information shows. The $23 billion Employees Retirement System of Texas earned a 10.1 percent return and will give bonuses of $2.7 million, which is paid out over three years."

•    Deal with St. David’s helped Central Health quell dissent over Prop. 1 (Austin American-Statesman): "But after Travis County voters approved Proposition 1, [St. David's HealthCare CEO David] Huffstutler’s public opposition evaporated. Over the next six months, documents recently obtained by the Statesman show, he negotiated a deal with Central Health that would reimburse St. David’s more for its charitable work in health care. In exchange, Central Health would require St. David’s to no longer oppose Central Health’s plans to transform care as leader of a six-county region — and as a Seton partner."

•    Houston doctor cleared of late-term abortion claims (Houston Chronicle): "A Harris County grand jury on Friday declined to indict a Houston doctor accused by an anti-abortion group earlier this year of performing late-term abortions. The decision effectively clears Dr. Douglas Karpen of any wrongdoing after a months-long investigation by Harris County authorities and the Texas Department of State Health Services."

•    Fracturing's thirst deepens in South Texas (Houston Chronicle): "A widely cited University of Texas study, funded by the oil and gas industry, had predicted hydraulic fracturing in the Eagle Ford would use a maximum of around 35,000 acre feet of water annually. But the San Antonio Express-News looked at more than 23,000 Texas wells drilled from 2011 to 2013, including more than 6,100 in the Eagle Ford, and found that the oil field is already swallowing more water."

•    Davis campaign's best hit comes when she keeps it simple (San Antonio Express-News): "Her answer about vetoing the cuts was simple and politically smart: It drew a plain line between the candidates. It gave him almost nowhere to go. And it was a reminder that she opposed the cuts made by the GOP-dominated Legislature in 2011. She forced a special session that year with a filibuster against the reduction."

Quote to Note: “Stockman came out of nowhere. Rarely made personal appearances, and when he did they were awful — like he wanted to be a comedian. No one thought he had a shot.” — Conservative blogger David Jennings, on U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman's improbably successful 2012 campaign for Congress

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