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The Brief: May 4, 2012

The U.S. Senate race cooled briefly at a candidate forum Thursday night.

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The Big Conversation:

The U.S. Senate race cooled briefly at a candidate forum Thursday night.

As the Tribune's Aman Batheja reports, the six candidates — the four major Republicans and two of the four Democrats — vying for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat remained mostly civil at the forum, which featured individual interviews in which the candidates were asked to refrain from attacking their opponents.

The candidates mostly abided by the request, answering questions about topics like the state's fight with the Obama administration over Planned Parenthood funding and the economy.

All three Republicans expressed support for the state's dealings with Planned Parenthood, but the two Democrats — former state Rep. Paul Sadler and 31-year-old Sean Hubbard — called the state's position "ridiculous" and "embarrassing." Hubbard noted that his wife had visited Planned Parenthood clinics for a time while she didn’t have health insurance. “She wasn’t going there for abortions," he said. "She was going there for cancer screenings."

Asked what they would do in Congress to improve the economy, the Republicans largely focused on regulation. “We’re seeing an avalanche of job-killing regulation” from the Obama administration, said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the race's front-runner. Former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert agreed. “You don’t eliminate all regulation, but at least you get it to be reasonable,” he said. Craig James, the former ESPN analyst and NFL player, cited his background as evidence of his qualifications. "I would use those skills that I learned as a teammate to be successful in the halls of Congress," he said.

The only fireworks of the night came when Republican Ted Cruz was asked to address recent ads from the Dewhurst campaign that have accused Cruz of helping to kill American jobs by representing a Chinese company that was convicted of stealing designs from an American company.

“He’s spending millions of dollars trying to distract voters,” said Cruz, who added that he isn't the lead lawyer on the case.

Read the full story for a more detailed rundown of the night's proceedings.

Culled:

  • The Tribune's Jay Root traveled to Hidalgo this week to sit down with rocker Ted Nugent, who dished on Mitt Romney, guns, Eric Holder and his infamous "dead or in jail" comment about Barack Obama that landed him in trouble last month with the Secret Service. Some choice quotes from The Nuge, who in his interview wasted no opportunity to employ some of his trademark profanity-laced imagery: “On stage, I will say what I damn well please. I will not be silenced.” “Anybody who f**** with me on the right to defend myself and the right to eat venison is going to lose in a tailspin of agony.” “I’m having so much fun it’s almost scary, rocking like a breeding animal — literally and figuratively.”
  • The University of Texas Board of Regents on Thursday voted to freeze tuition for most students at UT-Austin and also committed to developing long-awaited medical schools in Austin and South Texas. Though the board approved rate increases at other UT institutions, the regents have faced political pressure to keep costs low at the flagship campus and on Thursday voted to allow UT-Austin to instead draw from the state's Available University Fund. As for the medical schools, their opening dates remain unknown.
  • Politico has named Democratic U.S. Reps. Silvestre Reyes of El Paso and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas as two of the most endangered House incumbents this year. Of Reyes' Democratic challenger, Beto O'Rourke, Politico says: "The challenger heads into the final month of the race with $23,000 more cash on hand — and he’s expected to receive backup from the Campaign for Primary Accountability. A CPA spokesman said the group would very likely spend around $200,000 in the district during the final weeks of the race on O’Rourke’s behalf." The report also notes that the CPA, a bipartisan anti-incumbent group, has said that it may air ads against Johnson.

"God help us if he doesn’t win."Rick Perry to Fox News on former rival Mitt Romney

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