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The Brief: Sept. 15, 2010

The great debate debate, like all good (and great) things, must come to an end.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The great debate debate, like all good (and great) things, must come to an end.

And tonight, it will likely end as it began, with Gov. Rick Perry refusing to debate because challenger Bill White hasn't released three years of tax returns from the 1990s.

Perry, who insists that White must be hiding something in those documents, gave White until midnight tonight to disclose his returns. "I'm pretty much set on doing what I said I would do," Perry in Dallas on Tuesday, according to The Dallas Morning News. "He needs to come clean with the people of this state. There's obviously something in those tax returns, or he would have released them by now."

White, who has stood his ground on rejecting conditions to debate, said Tuesday that he wouldn't be meeting Perry's deadline. "He's a career politician who thinks that giving your opponent an opportunity to debate is a favor to the other campaign that should be withheld or bestowed on your terms," White said. "That's the wrong principle. Public debate is a principle of accountability that is owed to the public."

It will likely be the first time Texas has missed a gubernatorial debate since 1990, in the similarly acrimonious race between Republican Clayton Williams and Democrat Ann Richards.

As for the political ramifications of no debate? The governor likely has everything to lose by debating, the thinking goes, especially with recent polls showing White making ground on Perry. But as Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson tells the Houston Chronicle, the political cost for Perry may be minimal. "Voters do expect it. Some will be disappointed if it doesn't happen. Few will vote [based] on the issue," Jillson says.

CULLED:

  • A fuming Craig Watkins, Dallas County's district attorney, failed Tuesday in trying to save three jobs in his office from the swing of the budget ax — but not before aggressively laying into members of the Commissioners Court over old disputes. "Do you even have a law degree?" Watkins, at times shouting during the meeting, asked one commissioner. And the line of the day, uttered by Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield in the direction of Watkins: "You're about the sorriest public official I've ever been associated with."
  • The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows that Texans largely support spending reductions over revenue increases, but that a majority also want to protect the two biggest programs in the state budget — public education and health services — from budget cuts. One wrinkle in the story: Only 2 percent of respondents cited the budget as a top concern.

MUST-READ:

Candidates for governor cannot ignore 'Tractor Country', Houston Chronicle

Ballot initiative to repeal partner benefits could end up in court, El Paso Times

Sarah Palin speaks at Care Net banquet in Waco, Waco Tribune-Herald

Families Lose Guardianship in Secret Hearings, The Texas Tribune

UT Enrolls First Majority-Minority Class, The Texas Tribune

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