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It's Cold in Texas, but the Politics Are Hot

Political campaigns across the state wasted no time kicking into high gear as the calendar flipped on the New Year.

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Political campaigns across the state wasted no time kicking into high gear as the calendar flipped on the New Year.

In an early bombshell, Empower Texans, one of the state's most aggressive conservative advocacy groups, made an early statement about its intentions to be a big player in the upcoming GOP party primaries. It disclosed that it gave $250,000 each to lite guv candidate Dan Patrick and AG candidate Ken Paxton. The giving was funded entirely by Midland oilman Tim Dunn, who contributed $900,000 to the PAC. Semi-annual reports, which cover campaign activity over the final six months of 2013, are due Jan. 15, but they can be filed early.

Another candidate for attorney general, Dan Branch, announced that he will report $4.9 million in cash on hand in his forthcoming campaign finance report.

Campaigns also continued to announce high-profile endorsements. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said that he has earned the endorsements of the state's homebuilders and doctors. One of Dewhurst's rivals for lite guv, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, said he has the support of former U.S. Reps. Dick Armey and Ron Paul.

David Barton, the founder of WallBuilders, confirmed he has endorsed two candidates for attorney general — Paxton and Barry Smitherman. There is apparently no corollary to the biblical advisory against "serving two masters" in the world of political endorsements.

The attacks kept coming in the GOP U.S. Senate primary as well. A super PAC supporting incumbent John Cornyn launched ads against his highest-profile challenger, U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman. Those ads, probably not coincidentally, are running in Stockman's backyard, the Houston and Beaumont-Port Arthur media markets.

In other Stockman news, the Tea Party favorite dropped a misleading endorsements page from his campaign website. The page had claimed endorsements by, among others, Ted Nugent and conservative activist Howard Phillips, who died months before Stockman launched his campaign.

In the lite guv race, Patrick attacked Dewhurst for dawdling in naming a new Senate Finance chair to replace former state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. Patrick helpfully suggested Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, for the job. He also chided Dewhurst for delaying interim charges on education topics. Patrick just happens to be the chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Dewhurst on Thursday released those education interim charges at a Dallas appearance.

And in an important developement in hot sauce news, state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, pressed the creators of Sriracha to move operations from California to Texas.

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