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The Brief: Aug. 2, 2013

A combative new phase of a key 2014 down-ballot race is beginning to emerge.

State Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, after failing to win the endorsement of GOP caucus members for House speaker on Jan. 10, …

The Big Conversation

A combative new phase of a key 2014 down-ballot race is beginning to emerge.

At a kickoff event in Plano on Thursday evening, state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, officially declared his candidacy to succeed Republican Greg Abbott as attorney general, as the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton reports.

Calling himself a "proven conservative," Paxton said he would continue Abbott's crusade against the federal government, which the long-serving attorney general has sued more than two dozen times. 

"President Obama, I have a message for you: Texas will govern Texas," Paxton said, adding that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would know his name within a month on the job.

Paxton's jabs at the federal government resembled the campaign messages of his two GOP rivals for the job, Dan Branch, a state representative from Dallas, and Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, who have both pledged to continue Abbott's legacy.

On Thursday, Branch, who as of last month held a sizable financial advantage over his two opponents, released a list of endorsements from six former senior members of Abbott's leadership team. Paxton countered with his own announcement, releasing a list of endorsements from 23 House members — several of whom attended the Plano event — and conservative activists like Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans.

"He's the obvious choice to continue Greg Abbott's work standing up for Texas and standing up for our values," state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said of Paxton after the speech.

Meanwhile, in other attorney general's race news, the Branch campaign has raised questions over Facebook's removal of the candidate's first campaign video. Though Facebook hasn't responded to requests for comment, the campaign said it suspected it was removed because of objections to a part of the video in which Branch expresses opposition to gay marriage.

"We sincerely hope that Facebook did not remove based on a political bias against Texans who want to fight the Obama Administration and who respect conservative values," Enrique Marquez, Branch's campaign manager, told the Tribune.

Culled

•    House Panel Backs New Transportation Funding Plan (The Texas Tribune): "After consulting with members from both the House and Senate, state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, decided to make some minor changes to his latest transportation funding proposal. On Thursday — the third day of the third special session — a House committee gave his altered proposal its endorsement."

•    Prices under wraps as Texas health coverage marketplace takes shape (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas has opted out of running a health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, leaving it to the federal government to run one for state residents. Mike Hash, who heads the office of health care reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the plans contain 'market-sensitive' information and won’t be released until September."

•    DPS has dropped its Twitter subpoena (San Antonio Express-News): "The Texas Department of Public Safety has withdrawn a subpoena for information on two Twitter users accused of making 'terroristic threats' against lawmakers who pushed for abortion restrictions."

Quote to Note: "We are exploring all options at this time." — Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, on the state's dwindling supply of the drug used in lethal injections

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