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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Ramshaw on the state's quiet sharing of infant blood samples with the military and on the things Rick Perry's opponents aren't saying about him, Grissom on Farouk Shami's surprising popularity in El Paso, Philpott on the political advantages of a job creation fund and how Debra Medina's supporters are reacting to her "truther" comments, Hu on Debra Medina in the latest installment of Stump Interrupted, Thevenot on how the kids feel about the federal option of closing bad high schools, Rapoport on the newest mutation of the state's pay-as-you-go transportation philosophy, and our roundup of party primaries in the last week before the election: Rapoport on HD-7, Ramsey on HD-11, Aguilar on HD-36 and HD-43, Philpott on HD-47, Thevenot on HD-52 and SD-5, Kreighbaum on HD-105 and one Supreme Court race, M. Smith on another, and Hamilton on the colorful Democratic candidates for Agriculture Commissioner. The best of our best from February 22 to 26, 2010.

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State officials admitted last year they were storing infant blood samples without parental consent for medical research. But they didn't tell anyone they were also sharing hundreds of samples with the military for a national forensic database, and they tried to limit public knowledge and debate about the practice.

Is Farouk Shami on a fast track to the Governor's Mansion? You'd think so from the signs in El Paso (but not from the polls). The Houston businessman has a stronger presence in the Sun City than he seems to have elsewhere. “I think he understands where people, especially in the border area, are coming from, what they deal with coming into this country without any money,” says one activist.

Start with a state fund set up to promote economic development and job creation. Drop it into the middle of a campaign season when the main issue of importance to voters is the state of the economy, and Viola! — you have a pretty effective campaign tool.

Our latest edition of Stump Interrupted deconstructs a recent stump speech by Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina.

Sometimes, what people don't say is as important as what they do say. Consider the case of Rick Perry's political opponents, who never lifted a finger against him for a number of social service failures on his watch: fight clubs in state institutions for the disabled, a sex abuse scandal at the Texas Youth Commission, and deaths of kids who were supposed to be under the watchful eyes of the state's Child Protective Services. "Those are horrific things,” says Hutchison campaign manager Terry Sullivan. “But what we’re really trying to focus on are the issues that affect everyday Texans: eminent domain, land grabs, cronyism.”

Grab a well-intentioned idea from the federal government — failing schools ought to be restarted with new staffs to get them back on track — and show it to the kids in the school. At one Austin high school, that proved to be a hard sell

Texas Transportation Commissioners decided to help the North Texas Tollway Authority with borrowing for roads in Tarrant and Dallas Counties. And they added some conditions at the last minute that temporarily made the deal unattractive to the NTTA. But by the end of the week, the NTTA wanted the money more than it disliked the conditions, so they'll be taking the state's offer in an effort to get the Southwest Parkway and State Highway 161 built and hoping none of the penalties come back to bite them.

From our final week of pre-election coverage from the campaign trail:

As state Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, was stirring things at one end of the table, his challenger in the March 2 primary, David Simpson, appeared at the other end. That sent the regulars into orbit as they rushed to explain the differences between the candidates. “It’s nomad versus no-brain!”

The only reason Steve Ogden re-entered the race at all, he now says, is because he couldn’t stomach the thought of Ben Bius stepping into his shoes. “There was only one announced candidate in December, and he’s not qualified to be senator,” Ogden says. “I felt some sense of obligation to my constituency. They had no choice in the election.”

The implications of the HD-105 race could be huge for Democrats’ dreams of taking back the House. Just three seats shy, Democrats would have to win this and a handful of other targets to get a majority, and two candidates — Kim Limberg and Loretta Haldenwang — are vying for the right to run against Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving.

A used sedan turns slowly into a crowded lot that serves several Hidalgo County offices. “Vote for Sergio!” yells a woman in Spanish, eliciting a brief but loud blare from the car’s horn. “Vote for Sandra!” shouts a man in response, perhaps a tad late. The months-long battle to replace state Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, in House District 36 is coming to an end.

HD-47 in southwest Travis County includes some of the area's most affluent suburbs but has also been home to some headline-making white-collar job cutbacks. State Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin, first won here in 2006 and was narrowly re-elected in 2008.

State Rep. Chuck Hopson, of Jacksonville, got everything he hoped for when he switched parties to seek reelection as a Republican, with two exceptions. One is named Michael Banks. The other is named Allan Cain.

The four Republican candidates in HD-52 are vying for the chance to carry the conservative flag into the general election against incumbent Diana Maldonado, D-Round Rock, a freshman Democrat in a district that has historically leaned Republican. She won in a year when her party was energized by Barack Obama's campaign; without him on the ballot, it’s among the districts the GOP has the best shot at reclaiming.

Don’t let the pleasant demeanor of the Democratic candidates for South Texas' HD-43 fool you. In private, the race between them is nothing less than a bare-knuckled throw-down, and at stake is party purity.

The incumbent agriculture commissioner sizes up the opposition this way: “The Democrats may be in a quandary with their candidates,” he says. “One makes a living telling jokes, and the other one is someone who thinks our laws are a joke.”

Two Supreme Court seats are on the ballot. One's an open seat, with six Republicans trying to get the nomination to face a Democrat and a Libertarian in November. In the other, Rose Vela, who sought Gov. Rick Perry's appointment to the Texas Supreme Court, is challenging Eva Guzman, who got the nod to replace Scott Brister and is now defending that seat in her first statewide election.

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