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The Brief: November 12, 2010

Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.

Representative Ken Paxton


Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.

So the saying goes, and it’s being put to the test in the Texas House. There are now three candidates officially vying for Speaker.  Yesterday, state Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, threw his hat into the ring where state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, were already battling it out.

Team Paxton quickly picked up at least one member. State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, withdrew her support of Straus and publicly endorsed her fellow Collin County representative. “Ken and I came to the Texas House together back in 2003 and since that time he has become one of my closest friends,” she said in a statement. “Ken is one of the most admired, respected, and hardworking legislators in Austin. His commitment to conservative principles is unquestionable, and his integrity is indisputable.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, has taken up the case of state Rep. Bryan Hughes and the Secret Strong-Armer.  The Mineola Republican pulled his support from Team Straus after some alleged redistricting-themed strong-arming by a member of Straus’ leadership team that Hughes has declined to name publicly.  However, according to a press release he sent out yesterday, he’s tried every which way to get that name to the Speaker.

“I tried to reach the Speaker this morning and could not,” Hughes wrote. “I left a message on his cell phone and sent him a text message, requesting a brief telephone conversation … Since I was unable to reach the Speaker by phone, I sent him an email with the name of the member involved.”

Straus turned the information over to Hopson, of course, because Hopson is the chairman of the General Investigating and Ethics Committee.  Hopson told Quorum Report that a hearing will be scheduled for November 22 or 23.

Mark your calendars.


•  Did Texas execute an innocent man? Up until his execution on December 7, 2000, Claude Jones claimed that he was not the man who shot an East Texas liquor storeowner in 1989.  His conviction was supported up by a single strand of hair found at the scene that prosecutors said belonged to Jones.  As reported by Dave Mann of The Texas Observer, tests now show that the hair was not Jones’ after all — it belonged to the victim.  Mann writes: “Because the DNA testing doesn’t implicate another shooter, the results don’t prove Jones’ innocence. But the hair was the only piece of evidence that placed Jones at the crime scene. So while the results don’t exonerate him, they raise serious doubts about his guilt. As with the now-infamous Cameron Todd Willingham arson case, the key forensic evidence in a Texas death penalty case has now been debunked.”

• The Speaker’s race isn’t the only game in town. In his race to assume to seat of his late father, state Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, John Kuempel has drawn a challenger. Schertz Attorney Gary Inmon, a fellow Republican, announced his intention to join the fray. The special election is set for December 14.

• In other news, Texas State University and University of Texas at San Antonio have both announced a move to the Western Athletic Conference, effective July 2012. As John Maher writes in the Austin American-Statesman, “UT System Regent R. Steven Hicks said it was amazing that UT-San Antonio — a school that hasn't yet played a single football game — would be invited to join a Bowl Championship Series-eligible conference.”

Bush is not likely to blow him any kisses." — University of Texas political scientist Bruce Buchanan on the relationship between President George W. Bush and Gov. Rick Perry. The latter is not mentioned in the former’s new book.


The Opt-Out Option — The Texas Tribune

Activists who fueled big GOP wins want voices heard in speaker raceAustin American-Statesman

Let There Be RightTexas Monthly  

DNA Tests Undermine Evidence in Texas ExecutionThe Texas Observer

University of Houston practiced deception, cooked up 'cover story' as it closed deal to acquire Rice University's KTRU radio stationTexas Watchdog  

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Courts Criminal justice State government Death penalty Joe Straus Ken Paxton State agencies Texas death row