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The Brief: Dec. 3, 2010

Republican dreams of a House supermajority were dashed Thursday night.

State Rep. Donna Howard,  D-Austin,  and her GOP challenger, Dan Neil.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Republican dreams of a House supermajority were dashed Thursday night.

The Austin American-Statesman reports today that, following a recount, state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, has hung on to her District 48 seat by a mere 12 votes, four fewer than the 16 by which she'd been leading in the last count.

Howard's opponent, Republican Dan Neil, who requested the recount, sent out a news release claiming that overseas ballots hadn't been properly counted, but the Travis County clerk denied the charge. Neil — his party's last shot at a coveted 100-member, two-thirds majority — could contest the results again, triggering a rarely used process that would bring in House members to oversee the challenge.

But for now, Howard's apparent victory has scuttled GOP hopes for that supermajority, which would have given Republicans alone enough votes to pass constitutional amendments and tap into the Rainy Day Fund.

Don't cry for the R's just yet, though. As Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, tells the Statesman, the importance of a Republican supermajority might be overstated, given the party's frequent disunity. "Overall, it's probably not that big of a game-changer," he said.

Howard's win also cements her as the lone member of the House's newest endangered minority: the white Democratic female, as the Tribune's Elise Hu writes today. “It’s taken awhile for us to gain momentum, and we’ve taken some steps backward in terms of having a voice," Howard said of her new minority status.

CULLED:

  • You might have already heard all the jokes by now (your Brief writer will refrain), but Chuck Norris, the world's most famous fictional Texas Ranger, received the title of honorary Texas Ranger on Thursday, courtesy of Gov. Rick Perry, who said in a speech in Garland, "People may whisper about his super powers, but the greatest power of Chuck Norris is his integrity and his commitment to training the next generation in self-reliance, hard work and honor."
  • More WikiLeaks documents released Thursday reveal U.S. concerns over Mexico's progress in its war against drug gangs and the internal strife between Mexican security forces. "Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency's success is viewed as another's failure," reads one of the released cables.

"I think calling it a race would be generous." — State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, on the speaker's race, which he says could be better described this year as "speaker drama" in light of a noisy conservative faction's challenge in the House to incumbent Speaker Joe Straus, whose re-election nonetheless appears imminent

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