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The Brief: Jan. 6, 2014

Wendy Davis looked to go on the attack last week on the issue of payday lenders, but some misread reports have her campaign dealing instead with "fuzzy math" and "'oops' moment" headlines.

Democratic candidate for Governor of Texas, Sen. Wendy Davis, speaks to press after meeting with volunteers at a phone bank in Austin, Texas

The Big Conversation

Wendy Davis looked to go on the attack late last week on the issue of payday lenders, but some misread reports have her campaign dealing instead with "fuzzy math" and "'oops' moment" headlines.

The latter headline comes from columnist Peggy Fikac, Austin bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News, who calls attention to a series of "campaign missteps" that include not just overstating the amount of contributions from the payday lender industry to presumed GOP nominee for governor, Greg Abbott, but also giving Abbott an opening to make Davis' vote to confirm Finance Commission Chairman William White an issue.

The consensus view is that a Republican statewide candidate has a built-in advantage over a Democratic challenger in reliably red-state Texas. Clean execution, therefore, is a must for any Democratic hopeful. And that makes headlines that might tag a campaign as "not ready for prime time" doubly damaging.

Fikac talks to Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, who says the campaign's execution here "sends up red flags the first-time statewide candidate can ill afford, encouraging skepticism about the information she provides. Her campaign would have been better advised to be upfront about the senator's 2011 vote to confirm White and provide an explanation, rather than allowing Abbott's camp to point it out, he said. Accurate figures would be good, too."


•    Husband says Texas law shouldn’t restrict life support decision for pregnant wife (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "But when her husband learned she had no brain activity, he expected that the family could decide to have life support withdrawn, he said. So he was surprised when a physician at John Peter Smith Hospital told the family that the 1999 Texas Advance Directives Act requires an expectant mother to be kept alive until her fetus is delivered."

•    Texas business groups ally to counter tea party influence in GOP primaries (The Dallas Morning News): "Some of Texas’ biggest business trade groups are moving to counter tea party and anti-government forces that have dominated recent Republican primaries. The Texas Future Business Alliance — a mix of 10 major business groups, including the chemical industry, bankers, builders and contractors — is sending out mailers and providing other support on behalf of GOP candidates who have supported water infrastructure development, highway construction and education spending."

•    Republican Reformers Stop Being Polite to Tea Party, Start Getting Real (New York Magazine): "The common thread of both pieces is a call for a Republican Party that designs its platform as a response to observed real-world conditions, rather than waging an eternal war against the size of government regardless of any real-world effect. In the modern political context, this is a revolutionary manifesto."

•    Texas’ 2014 election will test politics of married vs. single women (Austin American-Statesman): "With Davis rising to national prominence after her summer filibuster of legislation to restrict abortions — restrictions that later became law — Democratic operatives hope her appeal among women will provide a key piece of a road map for an upset victory. But they might have a particularly tough nut to crack because those Texas women are married to Texas men, and, as a small group of political scientists have discovered, political affinity is among the surest predictors of who marries whom, and, over the course of a marriage, wives tend to become even more like their husbands."

•    State Farm, Farmers, Allstate raising home insurance rates (The Dallas Morning News): "The big three home insurers in Texas are ringing in the new year with hefty premium hikes for their policyholders. Allstate, Farmers and State Farm have notified the Texas Department of Insurance that they are increasing rates for most current and new customers by an average 6.5 percent to 15 percent to offset projected losses. More than 2 million homeowners will be affected."

•    U.S. oil glut stirs up political dilemma (Houston Chronicle): "As a new year dawns in the nation's capital, the Obama administration and Congress find themselves grappling with a scenario that was unthinkable just a few years ago: What to do with the domestic oil flowing out of West Texas, North Dakota and other states? The climb in domestic crude production has created a dilemma for both lawmakers and the White House, who are facing new pressure from oil companies to relax the nation's 38-year-old ban on exports of the unprocessed product."

Quote to Note

"I have yet to meet anyone who knew about this law, not a single doctor. We want people to know because it has the potential of affecting others. People should have the right to make these decisions because they know the person better than some legislator down in Austin.” — Erick Muñoz on the Texas law at the center of the fight over whether he can end life support for his brain-dead pregnant wife


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Politics Dan Patrick David Dewhurst Greg Abbott Wendy Davis