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The Brief: Oct. 26, 2012

The showdown between Attorney General Greg Abbott and international election observers hit new dramatic heights on Thursday.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

The Big Conversation:

The showdown between Attorney General Greg Abbott and international election observers hit new dramatic heights on Thursday.

The dispute started earlier this week, when Abbott sent a sharply worded letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a watchdog group affiliated with the U.N. that plans to monitor Texas' elections next month. Abbott told the OSCE — which is reportedly interested in monitoring the effects of new voting laws — to keep its observers at least 100 feet away from polling locations per state law, and reminded the group that its opinions were "legally irrelevant in the United States."

The OSCE fired back in a statement, saying, "The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable." The group also appealed to the federal government, according to Abbott's office, asking the State Department "to ensure the OSCE’s election observers are not 'restrained in their activities' while in the State of Texas."

On Thursday, Abbott countered the group's plea, sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that the group intended to interfere with the state's elections.

"It appears that OSCE is under the misimpression that the State Department can somehow help its representatives circumvent the Texas Election Code," Abbott wrote. "OSCE monitors are expected to follow that law like everyone else."

Abbott also continued to criticize the Vienna-based organization for its ties to Project Vote, an advocacy group that opposes Texas' voter ID law (which isn't in effect this year). 

On Wednesday, Project Vote joined the fray, saying the state needed to be monitored. "Texas has a long history of voting rights infringements, which is why it is subject to the Voting Rights Act," Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote, said in a statement. "Recently, Texas lawmakers have passed laws that make it one of the states most hostile to voter participation.”

Culled:

  • Large, spirited crowds greeted former President Bill Clinton as he campaigned for Democratic congressional candidates in San Antonio and Beaumont on Thursday. In San Antonio, at a rally for CD-23 candidate Pete Gallego, Clinton deployed many of his lines from the Democratic National Convention, jabbing at the Tea Party and Mitt Romney. But Clinton also tailored his remarks to the heated congressional race, in which Gallego faces Republican incumbent Francisco "Quico" Canseco. "If you look at the campaign that's being run against Pete Gallego, it's your basic, standard Tea Party deal: 'The government would mess up a two-car parade, and God is on my side,'" Clinton said, according to the San Antonio Express-News. "I don't want to get into a religious dispute, but the Bible that I read said the only time Jesus got really angry was when he had to run the money-changers out of the temple." In Beaumont, Clinton whipped up a similarly adoring crowd while stumping Democrat Nick Lampson, who's battling Republican Randy Weber in CD-14. 
  • A federal appeals court on Thursday denied a request to rehear a case involving Planned Parenthood's participation in the state's Women's Health Program. The ruling, from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, means the state can proceed with its plans to cut Planned Parenthood from the program. In a statement, Gov. Rick Perry said, "In Texas we choose life, and we will immediately begin defunding all abortion affiliates to honor and uphold that choice.”
  • The Texas Public Utility Commission voted Thursday to double the state's cap on wholesale electricity prices. The commissioners, who voted unanimously, said higher prices would encourage more power plant construction, helping to avoid blackouts as the state's growing population strains electric resources. Industry watchers have issued conflicting reports over whether the hike will force prices up significantly for most Texans.

"I’m drawing a blank on the Second Amendment — but I think it’s the weapons, isn’t it? The NRA?" — U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday at a debate in McAllen. (Hinojosa later said he "simply paused for a second" to collect his thoughts.)

Must-Read:

Early voting runs through Nov. 2. Use the secretary of state's website to find a polling place!

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