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The Brief: Oct. 4, 2010

A now-familiar Rick Perry-shaped absence hung over the fall's first gubernatorial debate.

Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

A now-familiar Rick Perry-shaped absence hung over the fall's first gubernatorial debate.

The League of Women Voters-sponsored event, held Sunday night in Houston, drew Democrat Bill White, Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Deb Shafto. Talk largely centered on education, but White didn't miss an opportunity to jab at Perry, who has refused to debate White until he releases tax returns dating back to his time in the Clinton administration.

"I appreciate the other candidates being here. I think each of us views appearances in public forums as an obligation of a candidate to be accountable to you," White said in his opening statement, according to the Houston Chronicle. "Now there may be career politicians who think it can be done in 30-second sound bites that do not want to answer the tough questions about the state's budget or why we're number 49 out of 50 states of the percentage of adults with a high-school diploma."

Discussion then turned to standardized testing and education programs, where the three candidates found common ground. Shafto even found herself praising White a number of times: "That's a hard act to follow," she said of him at one point.

But Glass brandished her conservative credentials, touting her promise to cut the state budget by 15 percent.

White saved his sharpest critiques of Perry until his closing statement, in which he hit the governor for a Sunday Dallas Morning News story reporting that millions of dollars from a state technology fund have gone to companies with ties to Perry donors. "I certainly don't think that we ought to have politicians using taxpayer funds to decide which individual businesses they're going to subsidize," White said. "Something is wrong with that picture."

Perry has said such contributions have no bearing on his decision-making. "Whether they contribute to my campaign or not has nothing to do with [the fund]," Perry told the Morning News.

CULLED:

  • If the nastiness of governor's race (among others) is getting you down, look no further than the race for land commissioner, in which the two candidates, Democrat Hector Uribe and Republican Jerry Patterson, are actually playing nice — and appear to be actual friends. "You reach a point in your life when you've got nothing to prove by denigrating somebody else," Patterson tells the Express-News, where you'll find, as further evidence of their mushy relationship, a photo of the two not only posing together, but posing together with props (awww). Your quote of the day, from Patterson to Uribe: "You're as funny as a fart in the front pew."
  • Besides sending the city scrambling and stirring accusations of voter disenfranchisement, the fire that destroyed Houston's voting machines has pushed the race for Harris County clerk into the spotlight.
  • The impending struggle to finance Texas' highway fund has revived talk of a gas tax, which legislators might look to push with the help of some clever wrangling.
  • Politics, demographics and guns converge in the Tribune's latest collaboration, in which the Trib's Brandi Grissom and Matt Stiles and the Express-News' John Tedesco find some surprising trends.

MUST-READ:

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