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The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 28, 2011

The deck may already be stacked against Tom Leppert.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert talks Texas at the Triblive conversation series at the Austin Club on October 27th, 2010

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Fool's errand or shrewd political move? The deck may already be stacked against Tom Leppert, the exiting mayor of Dallas, who announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Friday.

So says The Dallas Morning News, which notes that no Texas mayor has won a U.S. Senate seat. Leppert, who hadn't served a full four-year term before resigning, also registers low name recognition outside the Dallas area.

"If you’re an urban mayor, and you’re popular at the time, you start out with a big chunk of the population," pollster Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, tells the Morning News. "In Texas, however, you’re still an urban mayor, in a state where the dominant political sensibility is not the sensibility of an urban mayor. You’re in an environment that’s anti-urban in a lot of ways."

Leppert's support for a city-owned convention center hotel and history of marching in a Dallas gay pride parade (though he says he opposes gay marriage) could also cost him with conservative voters in a Republican primary.

But Leppert sees the name ID issue differently. "We’ve got great name awareness and good feelings here in the largest media market anywhere in the state,” he says. Leppert, who will face presumptive front-runner David Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor, also says he'll raise between $7 million and $10 million for the primary and adds that he'll likely bank on a runoff. "When it goes 1-on-1, I’m really comfortable with delivering a message and having people understand that I’m sincere and that I can do something different," he says.

On Leppert's side: time. In the latest UT/Texas Tribune poll (which didn't include Leppert), Dewhurst handily led all other listed candidates among Republican voters, but more than half — 52 percent — were still undecided.

CULLED:

  • The Senate Nominations Committee will today hold confirmation hearings for Gov. Rick Perry's appointees to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which was famously thrust into the spotlight in 2009, after Perry's appointment of John Bradley as chairman stalled an inquiry into whether the state used flawed arson evidence in executing Cameron Todd Willingham.
  • The self-proclaimed Hair King may be off the political stage (for the time being, at least) in Texas, but that's not stopping former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Farouk Shami from going national with his minor celebrity cachet: In May, he'll appear as a guest judge on an episode of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice.

"YouTubes are infallible." — State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, on e-mail and online video clip evidence that, Berman says, proves President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. The Tribune's Thanh Tan spoke with Berman about the "birther" bill he's filed in the House.

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