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The Brief: November 3, 2009

It's Election Day - and it’s not too late to exceed expectations.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Expectations for voter turnout today are decidedly low.

Despite high stakes (Houston Comptroller Annise Parker is within reach of being the city’s first openly gay mayor) early voting in Houston ended down about 15 percent from 2003, the last time they held a mayoral election without an incumbent on the ballot.  The rest of the state is performing even worse.  The Bexar County elections chief expects a mere 1 in 20 registered voters to participate.

Turning our attention to future elections that promise active voter turnout, the initial results of the inaugural University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll were released this morning.  To answer everyone’s first question: the Republican gubernatorial primary race score is 42-30, with Gov. Rick Perry’s 12-point lead over U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison falling outside the poll's margin of error. At seven percent, Debra Medina was a very distant third.

The results indicate that the Perry campaign may be onto something with its anti-Washington theme.  Texans hate — really, really hate — Washington.  Only 2 percent registered strong approval of their federal government.  

But, before the Perry camp breaks out the champagne, they should note that Hutchison has higher favorability ratings and fares better against a hypothetical Democratic candidate in a general election matchup.

There’s just no good way to sugarcoat the news for the Democrats running for governor.  Not only do they all trail far behind “Undecided” — as soon as any of the current candidates are specified in the general election poll, support for the ticket drops.

Voters seem less interested in the election in front of them.

Sure, approximately 98 percent of Texans declined to vote early, and headlines across the state predict that trend to continue, but today is Election Day. There’s still time to weigh in on which of the 11 proposed amendments make it into the Texas Constitution.

For what it’s worth, in recent days, two amendments have been dominating the headlines. Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison have both strongly backed Prop. 11, which restricts the use of eminent domain. There is widespread bipartisan support behind Prop. 4, which puts money into developing more tier one universities.

And, in Houston, there's that chance to name a new mayor — or, at the very least, winnow the options down before a run-off next month.

CULLED:

• Gov. Rick Perry is opting to remain non-committal on accepting federal healthcare incentives. Perry derided a plan to include a state “opt out” option in the federal overhaul of healthcare as a “classic Washington bait and switch,” since Texas would have to pay for the new program even it didn’t participate. However, Perry says that Texas’ options are open until the Democratic plan takes its final shape.

• Who will accept the Hank Gilbert Challenge? The Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s primary opponents aren’t exactly rushing to agree to the ten debates proposed by the gubernatorial candidate.  Gilbert spokesperson Vince Leibowitz said he’d expect those serious about running for governor to “step up,” but he had yet to receive a positive — or any — direct response by Monday evening. Candidate Tom Schieffer, for one, while lukewarm on the proposal, is not unwilling to engage. “Tom has participated in several forums with other candidates and will continue to do so,” said Schieffer spokesperson Clay Robison.

• It’s official — Democrat Mark Thompson will not be the next Governor of Texas.  As the race filled with “just too many people running,” the Garland therapist realized he had been squeezed out.  Out of the running, Thompson has endorsed Hank Gilbert.  Also pulling his hat out of the political ring is Joey Seeber.  The former Tyler mayor’s attentions turned toward the seat of State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, when it looked like Berman might run for governor.  Now that Berman is running for reelection, Seeber will seek opportunities elsewhere.

“I'm going to be retiring soon, if anybody has a pest problem…” – 32-year-old San Antonio Spurs player Manu Ginobili, who swatted a live bat out of the air in the middle of Saturday’s game.

MUST READS:

Perry leads KBH by 12The Texas Tribune

The City of Too Much Medicine Makes News AgainNewsweek

Stimulus saves or creates nearly 4,000 Texas education jobsHouston Chronicle

Thousands of kids await adoption in Texas –Amarillo Globe-News

Please know a little something about Texas before you write about TexasOff the Kuff

Tempers Flare Over Texas Wind Farm Plan – Dealbook Blog

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