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The Brief: July 24, 2013

As the governor's race awaits a Democratic entrant, the contours of other key down-ballot contests are beginning to take shape.

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As the governor's race awaits a Democratic entrant, the contours of other key down-ballot contests are beginning to take shape.

On Tuesday, over a week after Attorney General Greg Abbott announced his bid for governor, state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, declared his candidacy to succeed Abbott.

"I'm running for attorney general to fight against an overreaching federal government, to fight for open and accountable government and to preserve limited government in Texas," Branch said in front a crowd of supporters at Southern Methodist University. 

It may be too early to deem Branch the front-runner in the race, but he has already shown formidable fundraising skills. This month he reported $4 million on hand, about four times that of his only official Republican competition so far, Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman.

In a statement issued shortly after Branch's announcement, though, state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney — who is also expected to join the race — announced that he would announce his own "future plans" next week.

Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Tuesday helped draw attention briefly to what's shaping up to be Texas' most competitive 2014 primary race. In a statement, Huckabee announced that he had endorsed state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who is hoping to unseat David Dewhurst as lieutenant governor. 

"Dan Patrick is an authentic conservative leader with a proven record of fighting for life, border security, tax reform and less government spending and debt," said Huckabee, who last year endorsed Dewhurst in his U.S. Senate race against Ted Cruz.

Patrick and Dewhurst will also face off against Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

As for Democrats in down-ballot races, virtually the only announcement so far has come from former El Paso Mayor John Cook, who said last week that he would enter the race for land commissioner, where he would face George P. Bush, the likely Republican nominee.

Otherwise, as Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told the San Antonio Express-News last week, Democrats appear to be waiting on a decision from state Sen. Wendy Davis about whether she's running for governor, for re-election or for something else.

"You'll see a slate start forming as soon as Wendy makes a decision," Hinojosa said.

Culled

•    Latino Leaders Planning Push for Immigration Bill (The New York Times): "Latinos gathered [in New Orleans] this week for a major annual convention said they would use their new political influence to press the House of Representatives for a vote this year on a broad immigration bill and mobilize support for House Republicans who take the risk of backing it. More than 5,000 Latinos from community groups came to the conference of NCLR, the nation’s largest Hispanic organization, which is also known as the National Council of La Raza. Facing fading momentum in Washington on immigration, the leaders said they were heading to the fight this fall with their rank and file intensely motivated and more united than ever."

•    Michelle Obama asks Latino activists to help sign up millions for health care program (The Associated Press): "Michelle Obama urged Latino activists on Tuesday to help sign people up for her husband’s health care overhaul, especially the millions of younger, healthier people the system will need to offset the cost of caring for older, sicker consumers. … 'Simply passing the Affordable Care Act was not the goal,' Mrs. Obama said at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group. 'The goal is to get folks to sign up for the insurance so they have the care they need to stay healthy.'"

•    Travel security tab now $2.6 million for Perry (San Antonio Express-News): "As he mulls the idea of another presidential race, the cost of Gov. Rick Perry's security detail on out-of-state trips has already cost taxpayers more than $2.6 million since his re-election. Much of that total — $1.8 million — was racked up in August 2011 through January 2012, when he traveled the country during his race for the White House. Perry has rejected calls that he pay the security costs."

•    Harlingen abortion clinic to close down in 90 days (Action 4 News): "A newly-signed state law is putting more restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas. The law is forcing abortion facilities across the state to shut down, including one in Harlingen. … Reproductive Services of Harlingen owner Dr. Lester Minto said he’ll have to close his doors to women seeking abortions in the next 90 days."

Quote to Note: "Maybe I should do what Rick Perry does and pray for an answer on what to do." — Kinky Friedman to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on whether he'll run for statewide office again in 2014

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