TribWeek: Top Texas News for the Week of 10/4/10

Ramsey on whether Bill White at the top of the ballot helps Houston-area candidates, Aaronson and Stiles present a treemap of Texas political ads, Stiles and Ramsey on the latest campaign finance filings, Aguilar on the Laredo mayor's race, Hamilton on anonymous tweeters who make mischief, Ramshaw interviews a disability rights activist with a thing for iPads and bibles, Hu on the accidental release of Rick Perry's "secret" schedule, M. Smith on the bitter back-and-forth over a voter registration effort in Harris County, Philpott's micro-debate on education between two House candidates, Grissom on this week's twist in the Cameron Todd Willingham investigation and, in our latest collaboration with a big-city Texas newspaper, Stiles, Grissom and John Tedesco of the San-Antonio Express News on what kind of Texans, exactly, are applying to carry concealed handguns: The best of our best from Oct. 4 to 9, 2010.

Bill White, the Democratic nominee for governor, was a popular mayor of Houston who was twice returned to office by wide margins. So having him at the top of the ballot this November should help Houston-area Democrats win their races, right? "I can't think that it would do anything but help," says Democratic state Rep. Kristi Thibaut, who's in a tough contest for re-election against former Republican lawmaker Jim Murphy. But Harris County GOP Judge Ed Emmett insists White will have little impact on his own bid for re-election — and won't matter in legislative races either.

With a month to go before Election Day, challengers in 15 House races outraised incumbents during the most recent reporting period, according to the most recent filings with the Texas Ethics Commission. In eight of those races, the challengers led in combined spending and saving, a rough measure of each campaign's financial strength.

Former FBI agent Raul Salinas hopes to win a second term as mayor of this border city, whose reputation has suffered the ill effects of cartel violence just across the Rio Grande. He says he's "friendly" and "accessible." His four challengers portray him as more concerned with photo ops than solving image problems that hamper economic development.

Since The Texas Tribune launched in November 2009, the Ads Infinitum blog has collected and posted political advertisements — more than 70 in all — from candidates in both parties running for various offices during the primary and general election campaigns. We recently went back and collected data on all the ads we've posted and created a treemap data visualization so readers could sort them across categories. Transcripts of the ads and the videos themselves are also available via an interactive table. We've also posted a video tutorial on how to use the treemap.

From the governor's race to the bubbling battle for speaker of the Texas House, political campaigns and their staffs increasingly have to fend off social media attacks by unnamed tweeters who can’t be held accountable.

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Clay Boatright, the new president of the Arc of Texas, talked to the Tribune recently about why the disability community’s rallying cry to close state-supported living centers has become trite and ineffective, why the movement's messaging should be upgraded (employing everything from the iPad to the Bible) and why businesses and faith-based groups should be mobilized to fill the gaping holes in government services.

Gov. Rick Perry apparently keeps a separate schedule from the one his office has previously released to the public. In what might have been a mistake, a more detailed version came out in response to an open records request from Bill White’s campaign.

The lawyer behind a massive voter registration drive in Harris County has filed a defamation suit against a Tea Party group, the King Street Patriots, that sought to link the as-yet-unsuccessful effort to turn out more than 100,000 new voters to the New Black Panthers.

In House District 48 — which is entirely within the boundaries of Travis County — incumbent Democrat Donna Howard is battling Republican challenger Dan Neil. Where do the candidates stand on the crucial issue of education and how the coming budget shortfall will impact it?

Fifteen years ago, Judge Charlie Baird was one of the justices on the state’s highest criminal court who reaffirmed Cameron Todd Willingham’s death sentence. On Wednesday, Baird began a process that could determine whether that conviction and Willingham’s execution were wrong. And the prosecution objects.

When the state's concealed handgun statute was approved 15 years ago, lawmakers argued it would help citizens defend themselves — but residents of low-income, largely Democratic neighborhoods aren't applying for gun permits as often as those in wealthier, more-conservative areas, according to a Texas Tribune/San Antonio Express-News analysis.

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