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The Brief: June 2, 2011

Hypothetically speaking, of course, what does a special session mean for Rick Perry's presidential hopes?

Gov. Rick Perry answers a reporter's question about his presidential aspirations during a bill signing on May 27, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Hypothetically speaking, of course, what does a special session mean for Rick Perry's presidential hopes?

Many observers have said in recent weeks that Perry, with his strong conservative credentials and potential electoral strength in the South, could race to the top of the GOP pack if he jumped into the race soon.

And with lawmakers today set to take up the school finance measure that — as the Tribune's Morgan Smith has demystified — forced the summer overtime, the spotlight hasn't left the governor, who made headlines last week after saying he'd "think about" running for the Republican nomination. (But "I think about a lot of things," he added.)

The most obvious concern for Perry: It'd be hard for him to run, or at least begin to assemble a campaign infrastructure, while he's expending political capital in Austin.

"It would have been better for any future political aspirations if everything had ended as expected, without that Democratic filibuster," Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas, tells The Associated Press, referring to state Sen. Wendy Davis' successful Sunday night effort that killed the school finance measure. "It ties him up a little bit, makes him look like he didn't land the airplane smoothly."

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said a special session could draw attention to the stark budget cuts Perry has pushed. Among a Republican electorate, that's gold. And as the Tribune's Jay Root wrote Wednesday, a special session lets Perry continue to send signals to his conservative base — reviving a derailed "sanctuary cities" bill, for instance — without confirming or denying any ambitions.

But Jillson agrees that if Perry's looking to get things rolling, lawmakers need to finish quickly. "If it becomes messy and Republicans, with their very big majority, can't close things out smoothly, then it's a negative."

Either way, speculation's still swirling. On Wednesday, The New York Times looked at another Texas problem Perry could face: Bush fatigue. "Presidential candidates tend to embody either futurism or nostalgia, the next American era or the last," Matt Bai writes. "The problem for Rick Perry, if he’s serious about running, may be that he won’t get to decide which one he represents."

Culled:

  • The Washington Post reported Wednesday that former Democratic U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez will attempt to retake his seat in Congress from Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, the San Antonio Republican to whom Rodriguez lost in 2010. Rodriguez, though, may first have to fend off several Hispanic Democratic state legislators who have expressed interest in the seat.
  • Attorney General Greg Abbott will back a San Antonio-area school district's appeal of a federal judge's recent ruling prohibiting public prayer at a graduation ceremony set to take place Saturday. Earlier this week, the judge issued an order banning students from asking audience members to join them in prayer but allowing for individual religious expression. Abbott, according to the San Antonio Express-News, called the suit an attempt by "atheists and agnostics to use courts to eliminate from the public landscape any and all reference to God whatsoever."
  • A third of the bills filed for the special session so far relate to health care, the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reported Wednesday. And they're not without controversy: One, from Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs.

"If they understand it better, will they like it better or will they like it less? I'm not ready to answer that question yet." — State Rep. Jimme Don Aycock, R-Killeen, on how the public will respond to the school finance measure receiving extra scrutiny during the special session

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