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The Brief: June 27, 2012

Disagreements on display Tuesday between the two Democrats running for U.S. Senate have shifted the spotlight, briefly, away from the Republicans.

U.S. Senate candidate Paul Sadler at a TribLive event on March 22, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

Disagreements on display Tuesday between the two Democrats running for U.S. Senate have shifted the spotlight, briefly, away from the Republicans.

Former state Rep. Paul Sadler of Henderson and retired educator Grady Yarbrough on Tuesday participated in an hour-long debate in Dallas at the studios of PBS affiliate KERA. The Tribune was a partner in the event.

The two Democrats, one of whom will face long odds in November against either Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst or Ted Cruz, have remained relatively quiet throughout their primary battle, struggling to draw money and attention as the Republican race continues to dominate headlines. As the Tribune's Aman Batheja reports, Tuesday's event offered the candidates their first opportunity to differentiate themselves — and differentiate themselves they did, mostly over the economy and immigration.

On the economy, Yarbrough — a relative unknown who unexpectedly made the made the runoff with Sadler — said he supported a plan to subsidize the costs of new hires in the private sector with federal money. Yarbrough, unlike Sadler, also said he supported extending unemployment benefits. Sadler instead urged fiscal restraint, saying he'd focus on cutting the national debt. “Until we get our financial house in order, we cannot continue to spend money,” Sadler said.

The candidates also disagreed over marijuana legalization: Yarbrough said he supports it; Sadler opposes it.

But the candidates drew the starkest contrast between themselves over immigration, specifically how the government should improve security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"I hate to refer to this, but, as you recall, the Berlin Wall was put up in 1961, and it was pretty effective," Yarbrough said. "Now, if we have to go and use a method that is similar to the Berlin Wall, then I think we have to do that."

Sadler rebuked Yarbrough's idea.

“I think the very idea that we would take a Berlin Wall-type scenario and stick it on our border is offensive,” Sadler said.

The debate, though, wasn't all disagreement. The two, who remained cordial throughout the event, agreed on several issues, including gay marriage (which they both support), U.S. intervention in Syria (which they both oppose) and the federal "Fast and Furious" weapons operation that has made headlines recently (both criticized it).

Watch video of the debate here.


  • In a major blow to Texas, a federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the first Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would cut emissions that contribute to climate change. Texas and 13 other states, as well as several industry groups, had filed suit against the regulations, which they said overstepped the authority of the federal government and relied on unproven global warming science. "This is how science works," the court wrote in its ruling. "The EPA is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question." Texas' Republican leadership, which has consistently lined up against the EPA, blasted the ruling. The court "failed to rein in the unelected bureaucrats at the [EPA] who are holding our country’s energy independence and fragile economy hostage to a radical environmental agenda," Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
  • U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Tuesday called for congressional involvement if Attorney General Eric Holder fails to investigate recent national security leaks. Cornyn and 30 other Republican senators signed a letter urging Holder — already facing intense criticism over his role in the failed "Fast and Furious" operation — to appoint special counsel to investigate the source of leaked information, like the existence of President Barack Obama’s so-called terrorist kill list, which The New York Times reported on last month.
  • Emails acquired by the Tribune may foretell the tumult that could rock the University of Texas at Austin if its president, Bill Powers, were dismissed in a manner similar to that of recently reinstated University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton reports. And some Texas higher-education observers believe Powers' dismissal — rumors of which have swirled since May — is still a possibility.


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