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The Brief: March 10, 2010

It may not have been heavy artillery, but it's safe to say the gubernatorial battle has begun.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION

It may not have been heavy artillery, but it's safe to say the gubernatorial battle has begun.

At yesterday’s TribLive event, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White took the offensive against opponent Gov. Rick Perry — and the aggressive tone from both campaigns afterwards isn’t likely to calm down any time soon.

During the event, White slammed Perry for everything from transportation to education.  He argued that while he had solved a variety of Houston’s problems, Perry had focused on issues out of the governor’s control, and that Perry shouldn't claim credit for the state's economic good fortunes.

White pointed to the transportation debt that's to be paid back using money that would otherwise go to maintenance and operations of roads. "I don't know what you call that, but it's not conservative," White said.

Perry campaign advisor Dave Carney had already made a few jabs at White in an email, but White shrugged them off. "Where does he live?" White asked. "He's from… New England?"

But White refused to take any position on taxes, saying, "Until you look under the hood… you shouldn't be making that decision." Maybe, but that left wide space for an attack from Perry people.

It only took the Perry campaign a short while to pounce on the statement. “Bill White has a tax problem — he won’t rule out raising taxes for Texans and refuses to release his own tax returns," said Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner in a press release. Miner also criticized White for not releasing his tax returns, saying it raised the issue of “how he may have profited during his six years as Houston’s mayor.”

White probably wasn’t surprised. When asked if he was worried he’d given the Perry campaign ammunition, he told the Quorum Report, “They’ll mislead people anyway."

Seems like a good preview — I'll be bringing popcorn.

CULLED

• Better than Avatar. The State Board of Education, that lovely stage for political theater, begins full board meetings today. On the agenda: the social studies curriculum that caused so much excitement a few months ago. At their last meeting, board members debated everything from American exceptionalism to which historical figures to include — and it seemed everyone offered an amendment. To help wade through it all, the Tribune's Brian Thevenot and Niran Babalola offer an annotated guide to the curriculum, complete with the various various amendments you can expect to see.

• Oops! It seems Texas didn't do job creation quite as well as we thought, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. While officials touted that the state gained 30,000 new jobs in January, it actually only gained about half of that, the Texas Workforce Commission said yesterday. Apparently the fault lies with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which sent TWC data with technical problems. In other bad news, TWC and BlS announced Texas lost 78,000 more jobs in 2009 than previously thought.

• Is that called a do-over? The Houston judge who made waves last week for ruling the death penalty unconstitutional has now taken back the ruling. Defense lawyers for murder suspect John Green argued the death penatly violated his right to due process because innocent people have been sent to death row and then been exonerated. State District Judge Kevin Fine initially ruled in Green's favor but has now reconsidered. He asked both prosecution and defense to submit their motions on due process by April 12 and then there will be a new hearing on whether the state has executed innocent people. Fine has already said he believes the state has executed innocent people.

"[I]t's the beginning of the end of the death penalty in Texas." —Defense attorney Casey Keirnan, who's representing alleged murderer John Green in a case questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty, about the upcoming hearing on whether Texas has executed innocent people.

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