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The Brief: Nov. 24, 2010

Expecting a slowdown in political drama this week? Not so fast.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Expecting a slowdown in political drama this week? Not so fast.

Things escalated yet again in the speaker's race after state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, was revealed on Tuesday as the alleged source of threats suggesting that incumbent Speaker Joe Straus will use the redistricting process to punish those who oppose his re-election to the House's top post.

During the House committee hearing arranged to investigate the matter, Mineola Republican Bryan Hughes, who recently alleged the threats and subsequently withdrew his support for Straus, named Phillips, who also serves as the vice chairman the same committee. Hughes had been keeping Phillips' name private.

Hughes and Phillips, who recused himself from the committee, met in a closed session with the panel. Later, each publicly testified about the phone conversation from which the allegations stemmed, with Hughes saying Phillips' actions were "clear" and "unequivocal" and Phillips calling Hughes' allegations of the threat "unequivocally false."

Yet amid the drama, the board took no action, saying that it couldn't rule without a recording of the conversation.

Got all that? Find a more complete rundown of the story here and here, and if you're still behind on the race itself, check out our handy flowchart, which has all the background info you'd ever need in colorful, interactive form.

CULLED:

  • The jury deliberating the fate of Tom DeLay got a bit of a talking-to on Tuesday, with Judge Pat Priest warning members that the questions they've been asking him have gotten a little off-topic. "I'm afraid you may be getting away from the decisions you must make," Priest told the jury, whose deliberate pace both sides are spinning to their advantage. Meanwhile, reporters sitting in on the trial have, like Priest, been finding ways to entertain themselves while waiting for a verdict. From the Austin American-Statesman: "Priest sat behind the bench, listening to a recording of bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, a noted opera and concert singer, perform Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes. When it was pointed out that reporters had blogged about the musical selection, the judge noted that reporters have to write something when nothing is happening. He then turned up the volume so the reporters could get 'the full effect.'"
  • Republican Dan Neil has requested a recount in his District 48 House race against incumbent Democrat Donna Howard, who appeared to have eked out a razor-thin victory on Nov. 2 by 16 votes.

"Stand sovereign for Texas. Tell them no. And then get Texas out of health care." — Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, who, with a number of other conservative activists, attended a Senate panel meeting Tuesday to press state lawmakers to vote to void the federal health care law

MUST-READ:

Happy Thanksgiving! The Brief will return Friday.

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