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Agenda Texas: Post-Session Horse Race Begins

On the latest Agenda Texas, from KUT News and the Tribune: Texas lawmakers may still be hanging around the Capitol for a special legislative session, but their minds are wandering toward 2014.

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at a polling station in the Hancock Center on Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012 in Austin, Texa…

The end of a legislative session usually triggers the beginning of the next election cycle. But before any candidates could throw their hat in the ring this week, an incumbent exited the arena.

A lot of people thought Texas Comptroller Susan Combs was planning a run for lieutenant governor in 2014. Instead, she announced Wednesday she was going to retire at the end of her term.

That opened a flood of candidates looking to replace her and new speculation about what it might mean for other statewide and legislative races.

But Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith isn't sure this session elevated any lawmakers into the statewide spotlight.

"I'm not certain that there were any stars created in this legislative session," Smith said. "But certainly there were a lot of people who during this session behaved in ways that reflected their interest in finding another job."

But before we get to the 2014 primaries and general election, there's an election of consequence in November 2013. As part of this fall's constitutional proposition ballot, voters will have a chance to approve or deny the creation of a bank account to fund water infrastructure projects.

Without approval of the proposition, the $2 billion lawmakers set aside for the projects can't be spent. And Smith thinks there's a chance Tea Party groups could rally their supporters and defeat the measure.

"Here's the problem: The average person goes into their house and they turn on the tap in the kitchen and water comes out. They put on their sprinkler and water comes out," Smith said. "You have to persuade those people we have a water crisis."

He said the traditionally low turnout for a constitutional proposition election also seems a ripe target for the energized Tea Party base.

We're still waiting on several political announcements this summer. At the top of that list: whether Gov. Rick Perry will seek a fourth term in office or let gubernatorial candidate-in-waiting and current Attorney General Greg Abbott have a go at it.

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