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The Brief: July 23, 2012

With early voting for the July 31 runoff now under way, all eyes, and hopes, are on turnout.

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The Big Conversation:

With early voting for the July 31 runoff now under way, all eyes, and hopes, are on turnout.

At the top of the ticket, in the state's U.S. Senate race, conventional wisdom has long held that lower turnout will favor Ted Cruz, whose energized base of insurgent Tea Party support will be voting no matter what. But higher turnout could dilute the power of that bloc, potentially benefiting Cruz's opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

But it's not just the Senate race in which attention will be paid to how many Texans are braving the heat and the lure of the Summer Olympics to come out and vote.

As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey recently put it, "A voter coming out for one insurgent candidate might help another one, and so on. And a top-of-the-ballot candidate trying to stake a claim to their support could benefit — and benefit from — local and regional candidates in down-ballot races."

That means voters coming out to support insurgents like Cruz might also vote for Donna Campbell, the Tea Party-backed emergency room doctor challenging state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio. Or Wes Riddle, another Tea Party-supported candidate vying for a congressional seat in Central Texas with Roger Williams, the former Texas secretary of state. Similarly, voters coming out to support those down-ballot candidates might also be more inclined to support Cruz.

A heated Railroad Commission runoff between Christi Craddick and state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and a state Supreme Court race between incumbent David Medina and challenger John Devine will also attract Republican voters.

Democratic voters, meanwhile, will also select a U.S. Senate candidate, and some will be voting in competitive congressional races (like the Congressional District 33 race in Dallas, where Al Sharpton will make an appearance today).

Whatever the case, in the most-watched race, both Cruz and Dewhurst will get yet another opportunity to make their case before the state, debating tonight at 6 p.m. in Houston — their third such pre-runoff forum.

Early voting ends Friday. Find your polling place here.

Culled:

  • Bain Capital, the financial services company founded by Mitt Romney that has been thrust into the center of the presidential race, left a mark on Texas business starting in the 1980s, as The Dallas Morning News reports. In 1988, Romney helped arrange a merger between Bealls and Palais Royal that produced the retail chain Stage Stores. Though Bain reaped huge profits from the merger, Stage declared bankruptcy in 2000, three years after Bain had sold its stake in the chain. Democratic groups have slammed Romney and Bain for profiting from the deal, but some say Bain should receive no blame for the chain's demise, and that the merger may have initially saved jobs. 
  • Tom Suehs, the state's health and human services commissioner, says the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling on federal health care reform may help Texas' efforts to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state's Women's Health Program. While the court upheld most of the health care law, it said the federal government may not withhold funding from states that choose not to expand their Medicaid rolls. "We don't think that the threat of the feds withholding federal money would hold up," Suehs recently told state legislators.
  • The Tribune's Aman Batheja has a look today at Ted Cruz's tenure arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, which the former Texas solicitor general has made a cornerstone of his U.S. Senate campaign. "We ended up year after year arguing some of the biggest cases in the country," Cruz said of his work with the state's attorney general, Greg Abbott. "There was a degree of serendipity in that, but there was also a concerted effort to seek out and lead conservative fights."

"It is inappropriate for anyone, regardless of their political views, to attach politics to this tragic loss of life, and at this moment, we should all pray for the victims, their families and for the recovery of those who were wounded in this heinous act."James Bernsen, a spokesman for the Ted Cruz campaign, on an email from a conservative group that parlayed a criticism of media coverage of Friday's shooting in Colorado into a fundraising pitch for Cruz

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