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The Brief: April 13, 2012

For many Texans, the state's U.S. Senate race starts tonight.

Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, right, at a U.S. Senate candidate debate on Jan. 12, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

For many Texans, the state's U.S. Senate race starts tonight.

Ted Cruz, David Dewhurst, Craig James and Tom Leppert, the race's four major Republican candidates, will debate tonight in Dallas.

Though the candidates started campaigning months ago, redistricting-induced uncertainty over the state's primary schedule and an unsettled presidential race have distracted from the contest. Tonight's forum — the only major televised debate of the race — and the media coverage sure to follow will provide many voters with their first look at the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

“In some ways, Friday night is a little bit of a public reset of the campaign,” Jim Henson, who directs polling for the Tribune and teaches government at the University of Texas, told The Dallas Morning News, which will host tonight's debate with Belo Corp. As Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University told the Austin American-Statesman, coverage of the debate will serve as a "lightning strike to alert voters that there is a Senate primary."

Though the race has remained relatively muted, a small commotion between James and Cruz erupted Wednesday after James received a text message from Cruz suggesting a question to ask front-runner Dewhurst during a portion of the debate in which candidates will be able to address one another. James accused Cruz of trying to rig the debate.

Watch for whether that crops up tonight.

The debate will air live at 7 p.m. on Belo stations in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.


  • The Texas Medical Board is posed to vote today on controversial guidelines for the adult stem cell industry, the Tribune's Minjae Park reports. Though critics say the board — spurred by Gov. Rick Perry, who was injected with his own stem cells in July — is moving ahead of adult stem cell therapy science, supporters say it is giving patients access to potentially life-saving procedures.
  • Ron Paul wrapped up his three-day swing through his home state with a rally at Main Plaza in San Antonio on Thursday. Paul said earlier this week that while he remains friendly with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, now virtually guaranteed the nomination after Rick Santorum's exit from the race, he won't endorse him anytime soon.
  • State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, on Thursday strongly objected to Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples' assertion that violence near the Texas-Mexico border has scared away farmers, threatening the U.S. food supply, The Associated Press reports. At a Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee hearing on Thursday at which Staples presented a report with testimony from terrorized farmers, Rodríguez said such characterizations create a "climate of fear" that mars the entire region. "None of us can deny that there are incidents occurring on our side of the border," Rodríguez said. "It's just the broad brush that is used to declare that we are in a war zone."

“Of course Republicans have embraced women. We have women governors and women senators and the issues women care about, education and jobs, are the issues that we are trying to address. I think we should be talking about those issues rather than throwing out rhetoric and slogans that are clearly political in nature.” — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on accusations that Republicans have waged a "war on women"


17 days left to register to vote. 31 days until early voting starts. 46 days until Election Day.

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