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Changing the Odds

Signing anti-tax pledges — as both of the leading Republican candidates for governor have now done — warms the hearts of gambling promoters. Not because Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison suddenly become proponents of casino gambling, but because gambling often gets stuck in a threesome with program cuts and tax increases and that setup is what made it legal to bet on bingo, horses, dogs, and the lottery in Texas.

Signing anti-tax pledges — as both of the leading Republican candidates for governor have now done — warms the hearts of gambling promoters. Not because Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison suddenly become proponents of casino gambling, but because gambling often gets stuck in a threesome with program cuts and tax increases and that setup is what made it legal to bet on bingo, horses, dogs, and the lottery in Texas.

Back up a step.

Texas officeholders expect to walk into the next legislative session with budget troubles. The state has a structural deficit, because lawmakers lowered local school taxes a few years ago but didn't raise state taxes enough to cover the swap. They'll have an estimated $9 billion available in the state's so-called Rainy Day Fund when they write the next budget, and that'll help. But the $17 billion in federal stimulus money used to balance the current budget won't be available, and the hole they expect to find is bigger than the plug they expect to have.

That sets up three choices: Cut programs, raise taxes, or find money somewhere else. Last session, lawmakers found federal stimulus money behind Door Number Three. Before that pot of gold appeared, they expected to find casino promoters who want to open resort gambling operations around the state. That would save Texans from having to fly all the way to Nevada to bet, and the vig would potentially turn some of the numbers in the state budget to black from red.

Tax bills aren't popular. No news there. It's difficult to win support for gambling, too, though it's hard to find a modern Texas political race where a gambling vote cost someone an election. Budget cuts aren't easy, either: Large cuts in 2003 cost some of the cutters on Election Day, notably in districts where the Children's Health Insurance Program was more popular than officeholders first thought.

A gambling bill could be pitched as a lesser evil than higher taxes and cuts to programs that are politically or economically popular. And because it requires a constitutional amendment approved by voters, legislators can let themselves off the hook by saying they're just letting voters decide. We're not being cute: That was the pitch on the gaming bills that passed in the 1980s and 1990s.

Perry has a campaign proposal that plugs into the same strategic frame; it would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Lege for any tax bill to become law. It takes two-thirds to pass a gaming bill, too: 100 votes in the House, 21 in the Senate. Two of the alternatives in our three-way tug-of-war would require supermajorities in the Legislature. Budget cuts, on the other hand, could be accomplished with a simple majority.

Too Busy for a Review

By Elise Hu, The Texas Tribune

Just days before it was set to review a case in which the state has been accused of executing an innocent man, Gov. Rick Perry replaced the chairman and two other members of an independent state forensics panel.

The Texas State Forensic Association's new chairman canceled the high-profile hearing upon his appointment. He says he doesn't know if it will be rescheduled.

"I haven't had time to breathe," said Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, the new chair of the panel. "There wasn't going to be enough time for me to learn about the case before the hearing."

The case surrounds Cameron Todd Willingham, a Corsicana man convicted of killing his three young daughters by starting a house fire in 1991. Willingham maintained his innocence until his 2004 execution. He refused offers to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.

Arson experts who have reviewed the case in recent years concluded the fire was accidental and Willingham was innocent. His story was recently detailed in The New Yorker.

The Texas State Forensic Association, under outgoing chairman and Austin attorney Sam Bassett, had invited arson expert Craig Beyler to testify at a hearing this week. The Baltimore-based Beyler was hired by the commission and set to outline his report, which concludes the forensic evidence used to convict Willingham was faulty.

Now, it's unclear when — or if — that hearing will go on.

"This is like the Saturday Night Massacre," said Barry Scheck, co-founder of The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal group that investigates wrongful convictions. "Rather than let this important hearing go forward and the report be heard, the Governor fires the independent Chairman and two other members of this Commission. It's like Nixon firing Archibald Cox to avoid turning over the Watergate tapes."

The governor's office maintains the new appointments were routine, since the terms of the three members on the panel expired at the beginning of this month.

"This is replacing people whose appointments were up," said Perry press secretary Allison Castle.

Bradley says he will "do his homework" before rescheduling the hearing, if it is rescheduled. He says his decision to cancel the hearing has nothing to do with the Willingham case.

"I don't know if it would have mattered what was going on Friday," Bradley said. "I would have had to drop my schedule. I have a full-time schedule."

State technology chief resigns

By Emily Ramshaw, The Texas Tribune

The executive director of the state's data and information technology agency stepped down on Wednesday. Brian Rawson, who spent the last three years overseeing the state's data consolidation and telecommunications efforts for the Department of Information Resources, will run "statewide data initiatives" for the Texas Education Agency.

Gov. Rick Perry's technology adviser, Karen Robinson, will serve as interim director until a replacement is named.

Rawson and officials with the agency could not be reached for comment. But DIR insiders said privately that his departure did not come as a surprise.

Rawson's tenure at the agency has been difficult — largely because of problems implementing the state's $863 million data center consolidation project. Server crashes have threatened major Medicaid fraud cases kept on file in the Texas Attorney General's Office and angered the governor's office.

Earlier this month, auditors held the agency responsible for many of the delays and hitches with the seven-year data consolidation contract with IBM.

Charles Bacarisse, Perry's appointee to chair the DIR board, said in a statement that Rawson has "diligently worked to manage the many services the agency provides, including TexasOnline."

"While the data consolidation is a long way from completion, on behalf of the board I thank him for his efforts," Bacarisse said.

Perry Reversal Irks Business Group

By Brandi Grissom, The Texas Tribune

The leader of Texas' largest business group said Wednesday that Gov. Rick Perry's new election promise to crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers would be unfair and untenable.

"Our view is that this is a federal issue," said Bill Hammond, executive director of the Texas Association of Business, whose members include some of Perry's largest campaign donors.

In an online campaign speech launching his 2010 re-election bid this week, Perry reversed his previous stance on employer sanctions and said he would press lawmakers to enact criminal penalties for businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers.

"Texas jobs should be held by folks who are here legally," Perry said.

During his 2006 campaign, Perry said he opposed using state laws to punish employers who hire undocumented workers. The change was one that Perry's GOP rival, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, was quick to pick up on.

"Texans deserve a governor they can trust won't change their positions on critical issues like illegal immigration to suit an election," said Hutchison campaign spokesman Joe Pounder.

Campaign spokesman Mark Miner said Perry's focus in recent years has been securing the Texas-Mexico border since the federal government hasn't done so.

Perry has long said border security must come before immigration reform. In 2007 and again 2009, lawmakers dedicated about $100 million to border security efforts, at his request.

"Now, at this point, the federal government has fallen down on this issue, so he's taken a stronger stance" on employer sanctions, Miner said.

But Hammond said it would be unfair to go after Texas employers because they have no way to accurately determine whether workers present false documents.

The federal government's e-verify program that is meant to let businesses check on their workers' status isn't always right, he said, and most employers aren't forensic experts who can judge the authenticity of documents workers present.

"Our members, and employers in Texas in general, want to obey the laws. They make every effort to do that," Hammond said.

In 2007, Hammond helped launch the group Texas Employers for Immigration Reform specifically to lobby against state-imposed employer sanctions.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who is not related to Gov. Perry but is one of his top financial supporters, is a member of the employer group. Other large Perry contributors who have joined the group include El Paso developer Woody Hunt and San Antonio health care equipment magnate James Leininger.

The employer group has urged state lawmakers to leave immigration laws to Congress.

But Hammond said the governor's new position on state employer sanctions wouldn't affect the association's support for Perry.

"We will continue to maintain our principles and let him know directly or indirectly exactly how we feel on this issue," Hammond said.

Other states — like Arizona and Oklahoma — have already implemented policies that punish businesses that hire undocumented workers.

Luis Figueroa, legislative attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, said states are creating a hodgepodge of immigration laws that make it tough for businesses to operate.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense in this economy to create more regulations that make it harder for employers to hire people and do business here," he said.

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said Perry's new get-tough rhetoric would likely appeal to the Republican primary voters but probably wouldn't hurt him with his political deep pockets.

"You campaign one way, then when you're governing, the math, the calculus, is different, and everybody knows that," Henson said.

Not Talkin' Texas...

By Elise Hu, The Texas Tribune

Gov. Rick Perry took to the Internet to "Talk Texas" with his supporters and open up his campaign with a bang. But his website wasn't up to it....

The Perry campaign's journey into the world of instant online communication hit a major cyber-roadblock when the governor's much-anticipated web announcement to officially kick off his re-election campaign fell victim to an alleged hacker attack that kept supporters and other curious web-watchers from being able to see the governor at all.

Multiple panicked reloads were powerless against the error: "Unable to connect to server," it read. "Too many connections."

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the campaign's website was hacked from outside to prevent Perry's supporters from logging in.

"Today's 'Talkin' Texas' webcast by Gov. Perry was deliberately interrupted by a denial-of-service attack, preventing countless users from logging in to view the Governor's remarks. This planned and coordinated attack was political sabotage, and we are working to identify those responsible for this illegal activity. Before the attack was initiated, more than 22,000 users were able to log in and view Gov. Perry's complete remarks, which will be distributed shortly."

The troubles delighted his opponents.

"Clearly Rick Perry should have spent less paying off supporters and more on technology," said Joe Pounder, a spokesman for gubernatorial hopeful Kay Bailey Hutchison. He was referring to a report in The Dallas Morning News about Perry's campaign paying workers for recruiting new supporters.

On the social networking site Twitter, 140-character blasts against the failed online effort popped up almost immediately.

Phillip Martin, who directs social media strategy for the Texas Democratic Trust, which raises money for Democratic candidates across Texas, tweeted, "Congrats Governor Perry and the... team for the epic failure [of] their social media campaign."

A politician using non-traditional means to make campaign announcements is nothing new, but novel for Texas, where Governor Perry was expected to be the first statewide candidate to officially announce his candidacy with a streaming webcast. Now it will be a taped video instead. [That's now posted on Perry's web site].

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used a taped video posted to her website to announce she was officially in the 2008 race for president.

Reluctantly Out Front

By Abby Rapoport, The Texas Tribune

Most elected officials greet a chairmanship with some excitement. Gail Lowe, the Lampasas Republican who recently became the chair of the State Board of Education, is approaching her new title with some apprehension.

"I'm not angling to do this any longer than I have to," she said. "I'm sort of the backup."

It's true. Last year, the Texas State Board of Education found itself garnering national attention as its chair, Don McLeroy, led a debate over the role of evolution in textbooks. As controversy gathered, McLeroy, a creationist, found himself without the necessary two-thirds support for confirmation by the state Senate. And suddenly Lowe — with Senate approval — found herself in charge of the board.

Despite attempts during the legislative session to curtail its power, the state board wields significant power over public education. Among their duties, members set the Texas Essential Knowledge Standards in each subject area, determining what must be taught in schools. Partisan elections determine the members and the governor appoints one, with Senate consent, to lead the board.

A strong social conservative, Lowe compares herself to other moms who populate PTA meetings and football games. Warm but shy, she's an unlikely politician.

"I just don't enjoy seeing my name in print," she said. "I would rather be back behind the scenes doing my job than to be upfront being the spokesperson."

This stands in stark contrast to McLeroy, who often courted attention in his efforts to push the SBOE in a more conservative direction.

"As a chairman, I don't push my ideas and my agenda," Lowe said. "I think [my role] is to facilitate other members doing that."

Lowe counts McLeroy as a "visionary" and one of her best friends on the board but acknowledges the difficulties of his approach. "I think he was seen as polarizing because he was very outspoken about his views," Lowe said. "I think some who were looking for a bone of contention used that against him as if he was creating a divide among members because in his role as chairman, perhaps he shouldn't have taken such outspoken positions."

McLeroy now faces a reelection challenge from Republican Thomas Ratliff, a lobbyist whose father, former Sen. and Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, is now outside government pushing education reform.

Her manner may differ from McLeroy's, but Lowe's positions, for the most part, do not. "I would think we share very similar philosophies and outlooks. Except he's a talker and I tend to be more the listener."

And while she hopes to serve as a moderator, she won't be pushing for agreement and conciliation. "I'm not good at crossing the aisle and working with those who hold opposite but also very strong principles," she said. "I recognize that we hold very different opinions and I'm just not very good at the compromise. I'm just not good at forging that and I think other board members are. And I appreciate their role. And it does make it easier for me to say, you're willing to come this far, I'm willing to come that far."

The board has just begun its review of the social studies curriculum, and while the potential for drama might not be as high as it was for biology, that doesn't mean the process will be smooth. Already there have been allegations that the conservative members are pushing out figures like César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall in favor of Republican heroes. While Lowe is adamant that Chávez and Marshall are simply moving from the "citizenship" section to "civil rights," she acknowledges, "some of the bean counting on gender and ethnic background have begun which hold potential for public debate and public disagreement."

For now Lowe will focus on the maintaining the rules on the board. Despite her conservative views, she won't be the revolutionary McLeroy was.

"I'm not the visionary and the thinking outside the box person," she said. "I'm more the nuts and bolts administrative type."

Rat Race

By Emily Ramshaw, The Texas Tribune

A bill lawmakers passed to prevent doctors and attorneys from so-called "ambulance chasing" faces a constitutional challenge from — who else? — a chiropractor and a lawyer.

The bill, which passed last session, prohibits doctors and lawyers from peddling their services to accident victims on the phone or in person within 30 days of the injury. The measure, which went into effect this month, also applies to lawyers who approach people accused of traffic crimes.

Supporters say the measure doesn't prevent accident victims or traffic defendants from seeking out medical care or legal representation.

"We're trying to prohibit conduct that results in economic gain to a few people who are participating in an activity that is offensive to mainstream lawyers and chiropractors," said Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless. "Existing case law makes it clear that these sorts of prohibitions are safe so long as they're limited to some reasonable period of time."

But opponents, including the attorney and chiropractor who filed suit, say it violates their constitutional rights to free speech by limiting their ability to distribute brochures or refer clients. They say the bill goes so far as to criminalize a satisfied patient who recommends a doctor to a friend.

And because the measure doesn't affect billboards or TV and radio ads, they say, it gives an advantage to big legal and medical firms – and could harm small businesses.

The case will be in federal court in Austin next week.

Houston attorney Martyn Hill, who represents the chiropractor and the attorney, said Smith's bill is "extremely over-broad" and "totally misses the target."

"They should prohibit lawyers from accepting cases from medical professionals on a quid pro quo deal, which is what's been going on for a long time," he said. "Let's focus on what the wrong conduct is, rather than stopping things I don't think people intended for them to stop."

Third time's the charm?

By Brandi Grissom, The Texas Tribune

El Paso District Judge Bill Moody said Monday that he plans to make a third run for the Texas Supreme Court. The Democrat said he would announce his candidacy at an El Paso event Oct. 7 and in Austin on Oct. 8.

Moody — father of state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso — ran twice before for the state's highest civil court. He lost in 2002 to now Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.

Despite walking, literally, from one end of the Lone Star state to the other in his 2006 campaign against Justice Don Willett, Moody also lost that race. He was, however, the highest vote getter on the Democrats' statewide ticket that year.

Might the third time be the charm?

"That's what people are telling me," Moody said.

Moody wouldn't say which seat he plans to run for. There are three Supreme Court seats up for election this year: place 5, now held by Justice Paul Green; place 3, now held by Justice Harriet O'Neill; and, place 9, vacated by retired Justice Scott Brister.

Moody said he has another unconventional campaign plan in the works, but he's not saying just yet what he's got in mind. The plan definitely does not include more walking, though, he said. "It's going to be something bigger," Moody said. "It's going to be something that's never been tried again, and I think it ought to be pretty exciting."

Running Shoes

Former Rep. Rick Green, R-Dripping Springs, is looking at the open seat on the Texas Supreme Court. He's filed a treasurer report with the state and has started emailing potential supporters. Justice Harriet O'Neill won't seek reelection next year, and Justice Scott Brister resigned a few weeks ago to go into private law practice. His seat will have an appointee in it, presumably running for a full term, but O'Neill's will be an open shot, with no incumbent on the ballot. Green lost his seat in the House to Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs.

• For your list: Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, says he'll seek a fifth term in the Texas House. That's HD-2.

• Republican Glenn Bass will run for the Texas House seat now held by Democrat Donna Howard of Austin. She's not leaving, so expect a fight. Bass is a banker-turned-investor; Howard's been in the House since 2006, when she won what had been a Republican seat in a special election.

• GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina will be the first one in that race to put commercials on the air, going up for one day this week (Thursday) in one market (Austin) on one cable channel (CNN). One line: "The current elected officials have forgotten about serving Texans. These officials have brought economic ruin to our nation and have imposed government into all aspects of our lives."

Help Wanted

By Matt Stiles, The Texas Tribune

More than two-dozen people have asked Gov. Rick Perry to appoint them to replace former Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister, who resigned recently to return to private practice. At least 27 lawyers and judges from across the state asked to be considered for the state's highest civil appellate court, which pays $150,000 a year, according to records released by Perry's office.

The applicants include:

Wade Birdwell, Lawyer, Wallach & Andrews

Jeff Boyd, lawyer, Thompson & Knight

Harvey Brown, Lawyer, Wright Brown & Close

Jeff Brown, Justice, Texas Court of Appeals, 14th District

Tracy Christopher, Judge, 295th District Court

John Donovan, Director of Judicial and Legal Issues for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett

David Gaultney, Justice, Texas Court of Appeals, 9th District

Tom Gray, Chief Justice, Texas Court of Appeals, 10th District

Eva M. Guzman, Justice, Texas Court of Appeals, 14th District

Martha Hill Jamison, Senior Adviser, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector

Evelyn Keyes, Justice, Texas Court of Appeals, 1st District

Douglas Lang, Texas Court of Appeals, 5th District

Liz Lang-Miers, Texas Court of Appeals, 5th District

Debra Lehrman, Judge, 360th District Court

Renee McElhaney, Lawyer, Cox Smith, Inc.

Robert Pemberton, Texas Court of Appeals, 3rd District

David Schenck, Lawyer, Jones Day

Shawn Stephens, Lawyer, Baker Hostetler

Rebecca Simmons, Justice, Texas Court of Appeals, 4th District

Rick Strange, Justice, Texas Court of Appeals, 11th District

Kent Sullivan, First Assistant Texas Attorney General

Susan Vance, Lawyer, Lawyer, Alexander Dubose

Rose Vela, Justice, Texas Court of Appeals, 13th District

Alan Waldrop, Texas Court of Appeals, 3rd District

Betsy Whitaker, Lawyer

Randy Wilson, Judge, 157th District Court

Dana Womack, Judge, 348th District Court

The eventual appointee would finish Brister's term and presumably face re-election in 2010.

Benkiser Steps Down

Tina Benkiser will join Gov. Rick Perry's reelection campaign, leaving the chairmanship of the Texas Republican Party after six years in that post.

Benkiser, a Houston attorney, will start as a "senior advisor" to the Perry campaign on Monday. She told the State Republican Executive Committee of the change last weekend. And the Perry campaign press release announcing the move included a stinger from the GOP leader directed at Perry's rival for the governorship, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

"I am stepping down as chairman so that I can enthusiastically support the only true conservative in the Texas governor's race, Governor Rick Perry," Benkiser said. "Gov. Perry loves Texas and he cares about Texans. He has shown leadership when Washington has not, and he has shown courage when others have bailed."

No replacement has been named. Early speculation about the posting centered on former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, an idea quickly disavowed by his political consultants. Williams has a conflict: He's running for U.S. Senate if Hutchison steps down to jump into the governor's race. It might actually help someone in his position — waiting for Hutchison — to take the party post and get to know the folks all over the state who'd be needed for a Senate race if that comes to pass. And in the right hands, the chairmanship can be used to generate news, attention, and the kind of name ID that comes in handy in a statewide political race.

Benkiser became chairman in 2003 and presided over the party while it was, on one hand, increasing the number of local-level Republican officeholders and losing elections in the Legislature and in the state's two biggest counties, Dallas and Harris. Dallas, which has flipped on the countywide level from red to blue, is a particular trouble spot for the GOP right now.

"Kay Bailey Hutchison, a lifelong Republican, is committed to growing the party, like Ronald Reagan," said Jennifer Baker, speaking for Hutchison. "She looks forward to working with a new chairman to reinvigorate Texas Republicans and increase our majorities in the Legislature."

States Struggling to Fund Medicaid

By Emily Ramshaw, The Texas Tribune 

States are struggling mightily to fund Medicaid services in one the deepest recessions in recent history, according to a 50-state health care study released by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

States, many of them strapped by budget shortfalls, overwhelmingly reported being saved by the federal stimulus package, and said without it, they would have been forced to make serious cuts in Medicaid eligibility.

"Stimulus funds preserved Medicaid funding for millions of beneficiaries," said study author Vernon Smith, a principal with Health Management Associates.

Still, 38 states reported making rate cuts in the last fiscal year to fund an average 5.4 percent increase in Medicaid enrollees — a surge fueled by rising unemployment.

States like Texas commonly turned to other cost saving measures, such as relying on preferred drug lists, expanding managed care and using electronic medical records.

But many states said they said they fear it will be a long time until the economic recovery curbs their uninsured populations. They expect Medicaid enrollment to grow by an average 6.6 percent this year — the largest hike rate since 2002.

And they worry about the effect a federal health reform bill will have on Medicaid eligibility.

"We know the recession has had a huge impact on state budgets," said Robin Rudowitz, principal policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Demand for services is rising "at a time when states can least afford it."

• It's no secret that a quarter of all Texans have no health insurance. But a new county-by-county comparison of census data, compiled by the state demographer and distributed by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, highlights the state's worst offenders. (Maps are available here.)

The border counties are, unsurprisingly, the hardest hit. Of counties with more than 20,000 residents, Hidalgo County tips the scales with 38 percent of its population uncovered; Webb County has a 36 percent uninsured rate.

Of the state's five largest counties, Dallas has the worst uninsured rate, at 30 percent — despite being flanked by two of the best-insured counties in Texas.

When it comes to uninsured children, the Texas panhandle fares as poorly as the border.

Central Texas has higher rates of insurance than any other region in the state, the result of a high concentration of government jobs. Bell, Brazos and Coryell counties all have more than 85 percent of their residents insured.

Political People and Their Moves

Joey Longley, recently retired head of the Sunset Advisory Commission, is joining the Blackridge lobby firm in Austin. He'll advise clients on how to deal with issues at the Sunset Advisory Commission.

Chris Cutrone is joining Gov. Rick Perry's government press office, moving there from the Office of Public Utility Counsel. He was previously in then-Speaker Tom Craddick's press office.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley of Georgetown and Dr. Norma Farley, chief forensic pathologist for Cameron and Hidalgo counties, to the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Bradley was named chairman and promptly canceled a hearing on a controversial arson case.

Wedding bells rang for state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, this weekend in the tiny old mining town of Shafter, near Big Bend National Park. On Sunday, Shapleigh, 56, married Joyce Feinberg, of El Paso, former executive director of the Sun Bowl, former chief assistant to former El Paso Mayor Ray Caballero, and Shapleigh said, "an absolutely stellar person." It was a small ceremony, attended by six people, including the bride and groom, he said. Shapleigh divorced his first wife, assistant El Paso County attorney Lee Shapleigh, last year.

Quotes of the Week

Jim Guimarin, owner of a shop near the Alamo, quoted in the San Antonio Express-News on the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who watch over the historic site: "They usually get around to doing what needs to be done. You'd have to go to their meetings to know when and how they'll get it done. And of course, no one's been allowed to do that."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, quoted in the Rio Grande Guardian from a speech in South Texas: "We have two wars everyone talks about going on. One is in Iraq and one is in Afghanistan. We've got a third going on and that's the border where we've got billions and billions of dollars worth of dangerous drugs and we've got heavily armed men carrying those drugs across."

McAllen Chamber President and CEO Steve Ahlenius, reacting, in the same publication: "I think that is one of the challenges we have as a region, how to offset some of those images because it does send the wrong message. I think it scares people unnecessarily and those of us that live here in this region know it is very safe."

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, in the Rio Grande Guardian: "We deserve to have at least three congressional districts anchored in the Valley and going north. I will work to that effect next session and I will seriously look at running for one of those seats."

Former Rep. Sherri Greenberg, who now teaches at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs, in The Dallas Morning News: If you are looking for benefits, you don't move to Texas."

Texas Weekly: Volume 26, Issue 37, 5 October 2009. Ross Ramsey, Editor. Copyright 2009 by Printing Production Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. One-year online subscription: $250. For information about your subscription, call (512) 302-5703 or email For news, email, or call (512) 288-6598.

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