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The Brief: Nov. 29, 2011

Election season in Texas may have officially begun Monday, but with maps in flux, the state appears ready to tap the brakes.

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The Big Conversation:

Election season in Texas may have officially begun Monday, but with maps in flux, the state appears ready to tap the brakes.

As the filing period to run in Texas' March 6 primaries opened Monday, Attorney General Greg Abbott asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt elections under newly redrawn redistricting maps that contain fewer Republican districts.

A federal panel in San Antonio has redrawn the original Republican-backed maps, passed earlier this year by the Texas Legislature, while a separate federal panel, in Washington, decides whether the originals meet federal voting-rights standards. Abbott told the Tribune that the San Antonio court should have deferred to the original plans, and lawyers for the state said in a filing that the primaries in races affected by map revisions could be delayed until May 22. (The presidential primary, for instance, would stay in March.)

"The map that we have right now — the one the Legislature drew — has not been held by anyone, anywhere, anyhow, anytime [to be] illegal in any way," he said.

The Supreme Court has given groups until Thursday afternoon to respond to the motion.

Abbott also told the Tribune that approval of the maps by the Washington panel could "largely nullify" those drawn by the San Antonio panel, clearing the way for the state to use the original plans.

And that's what the state may hope for in the end. As Michael Li, an elections lawyer, tells the San Antonio Express-News, the high court may be reluctant to issue such a stay if candidates are already running for office.

“It's harder to put the genie back in the bottle,” Li says.

For now, candidates have until Dec. 15 to file for office. Keep up with the list of candidate filings here.

Culled:

  • The big surprise of Monday, the first day for candidates in Texas to file to run for office next year, came from state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, who became the 24th House member to announce that he won't seek re-election next year. Solomons, who has served in the chamber for nearly 18 years, chaired the House Redistricting Committee.
  • The Texas Supreme Court on Monday upheld the state's primary business tax, ruling that it does not violate the Texas Constitution's ban on personal income taxes without voter approval. The insurance adjustment firm that brought the challenge had claimed that the tax, also called the margins tax, imposed what amounted to an income tax on certain business dealings and was not applied uniformly. 
  • Joe Arpaio, the controversial Arizona sheriff known for his aggressive stance on illegal immigration, will campaign today with Rick Perry in New Hampshire after giving the governor his endorsement. The Perry campaign hopes the backing of Arpaio, who endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, offsets the intense criticism the governor has faced for extending in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants in Texas.

"Sheriff Arpaio is a modern-day Bull Connor, minus the fire hoses and german shepherds. He is a disgrace and a national embarrassment."Fergus Cullen, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, in a New Hampshire Journal column warning Rick Perry about the perils of campaigning with Joe Arpaio, the controversial Arizona sheriff

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