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The Brief: Nov. 23, 2010

Speaker's race got you a little lost? We're here to help.

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Speaker's race got you a little lost? We're here to help.

Coming at you with our latest interactive feature on the same day a key ethics hearing is set to take place: a colorful, clickable flowchart aiming to untangle the web of drama otherwise known as the speaker's race, which has already taken several ugly turns.

But today's events — and some additional drama that came to light Monday — center on state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who recently withdrew his support for the sitting speaker, Joe Straus, after he said he'd gotten word that Straus' leadership team had threatened to punish opponents during the redistricting process. Straus has denied the claims.

A meeting of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee was soon scheduled to investigate the matter, but on Monday, questions of impartiality arose after Texas Watchdog reported that the committee's chairman, Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, has received $42,000 this year in campaign donations from Straus.

Straus' spokeswoman, Tracy Young, told the Watchdog that the speaker's contributions shouldn't color the committee's deliberations. "It is the responsibility of Chairman Hopson and all members of the committee to look at this matter, and Speaker Straus has confidence they will handle it in a fair and impartial way," she said.

Hughes said he wouldn't comment on the possible conflict of interest before the hearing, which will be held in closed session.

The committee will meet at 9 a.m.

And to add to the growing web of connections, in the latest pledge news, Reps.-elect Charles Perry, R-Lubbock; Jim Landtroop, R-Plainview; and Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, will back Ken Paxton, the McKinney Republican who, along with Pampa Republican Warren Chisum, is challenging moderate Straus from the right.

No surprise there, says Texas Monthly's Paul Burka, but "the next move by the Resisitance to Straus could be for Chisum to leave the race and throw his support to Paxton," he writes.


  • Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz has conceded his Congressional District 27 seat to Republican Blake Farenthold, who kept his lead over Ortiz after a recount.
  • Deliberations have begun in the trial against Tom DeLay. One good sign for the former U.S. House majority leader: On Monday, jurors forwarded notes to the judge asking questions indicating that they may be doubting the allegations of money laundering. "It's a very good sign," said DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin.
  • In the fight between state Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and major Democratic donor Steve Mostyn over the release of details concerning a Hurricane Ike-related lawsuit, the state's attorney general has sided with Taylor.

"Everybody likes to do rankings of cities, and when we like the results of the rankings, we put them on our websites and when we don't like the results, we critique them." — Houston Mayor Annise Parker, criticizing a study released Monday calling Houston one of the most dangerous big cities in the U.S.


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