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The Brief: Oct. 8, 2013

In the shadow of the governor's race, the fight for the state's second-highest office lit up on Monday.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson

The Big Conversation

In the shadow of the governor's race, the fight for the state's second-highest office lit up on Monday.

As the Tribune's Morgan Smith and Edgar Walters report, a new ad from state Sen. Dan Patrick claiming that he is the only candidate for lieutenant governor who opposes in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants injected a shot of energy into a crowded race that has yet to make big headlines.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, one of Patrick's GOP foes, fired back first

"There’s no polite way to put this — Dan Patrick is lying," Patterson said in a statement on Monday. "I didn’t vote for and I never would have voted for or supported in-state tuition for illegal aliens." (Patterson is a former state senator but was not in the Legislature in 2001, when lawmakers passed an in-state tuition bill that Gov. Rick Perry later signed.)

The other two Republicans in the race, incumbent David Dewhurst and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, also objected to the ad.

A spokesman for Dewhurst, who did not assume office until 2003, said the lieutenant governor has "always opposed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants."

Staples, also a former state senator, voted for the measure in 2001, but he said on Monday that he now opposed the law.

"I oppose giving benefits to those who have violated our nation’s entry laws. If that bill came up for a vote today, it would not pass, and I support its repeal," Staples said in a statement. "The real problem is that Obama and the Federal government have failed to secure our border."

Meanwhile, the state's marquee race also stayed in the headlines Monday as debate turned to a controversial nondiscrimination ordinance recently passed by the San Antonio City Council.

As the Tribune's Jay Root reports, state Sen. Wendy Davis, in San Antonio to receive the endorsement of Mayor Julián Castro, said she hoped the ordinance — which added protections for residents based on sexual orientation and gender identity — would become "commonplace" throughout Texas.

It’s "important that people be treated equally in the workplace, plain and simple," Davis, D-Fort Worth, told reporters.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, Davis' likely Republican opponent, had previously threatened legal action over the ordinance but recently decided not to proceed with a suit, citing a change in the measure's language.

Still, a spokesman for Abbott added: "Greg Abbott believes that private companies should make employment decisions consistent with the laws of the United States and Texas, and in the best interests of their customers and shareholders. However, both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions protect faith-based organizations from being coerced into employing persons in a way that would require them to violate their faith."

Culled

•    Philanthropists pledge $10 million to restore 7,000 Head Start seats (Politico): "Head Start programs across the country closed because of the government shutdown will reopen Tuesday thanks to a $10 million contribution from a pair of Texas philanthropists. The National Head Start Association said Monday the founders of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation came forward after learning about the shutdown’s effects on the federal pre-K program for children from low-income families. The money is a personal donation, however, not through the foundation."

•    Rainy day fund to overflow with oil and gas tax revenue (Austin American-Statesman): "Resurgent oil and gas production in Texas could fill the state’s rainy day fund to capacity within the next four years, according to a report to be issued Tuesday. New projections from the business-backed Texas Taxpayers and Research Association show the fund would soon replenish record balances even if voters approve two constitutional amendments that would authorize using billions from the fund for water infrastructure and roads."

•    Weeks before election, strong voter registration numbers (Houston Chronicle): "This is not a presidential or midterm election year, but Harris County has the highest number of registered voters it has seen in several years.  As of Monday, the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election, 1.98 million Harris County residents were registered — 100,000 more than during the last municipal election two years ago. The last time the number of registered voters cracked 1.9 million was last year's general election, when the county had 1.94 million registered voters."

Quote to Note: "She would make a formidable opponent in the lieutenant governor's race, and I'm excited and hopeful that she'll be joining this race." — Wendy Davis to the San Antonio Express-News on state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte's political plans

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