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The Brief: Jan. 28, 2014

In their first televised debate, the four GOP candidates for lieutenant governor seemed content to continue to frame the contest as a race to see who could claim the title of the most conservative.

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The Big Conversation

In their first televised debate, the four GOP candidates for lieutenant governor seemed content to continue to frame the contest as a race to see who could claim the title of the most conservative.

The twist in Monday night's showdown, broadcast from the KERA studios in Dallas, was a question on whether a judge was right in ordering a pregnant brain-dead Fort Worth woman to be removed from life support. To a man, the candidates said the judge erred and that lawmakers should revisit the issue in a coming legislative session. Also, all candidates came out against exceptions for rape and incest in laws against abortion. In one of the few instances in which candidates registered a different position, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said that "we should consider" allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

And while this might have been the first candidate forum to be broadcast statewide, there has been no shortage of encounters among the candidates. The Austin American-Statesman's Mike Ward wrote: "Campaign aides said Monday’s debate marked at least the 24th debate or forum featuring all or most of the field. Many are hosted by local tea party groups — yet another was scheduled for Tuesday night in Salado — and follow a script of each candidate parsing otherwise identical conservative stances on border security, education and gun rights."

The Day Ahead

•    Today is the special runoff election for the vacant House District 50 seat in northern Travis County, with weather potentially becoming a big factor in voting. The National Weather Service is forecasting a chance of snow and sleet in Austin before 11 a.m. and a slight chance of rain and sleet between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Temperatures are not expected to break 35 degrees.

•    Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis will be in Austin to keynote the Travis County Democratic Party's JBR Dinner honoring Cecile Richards.

Today in the Trib

Low Temperature, Low Turnout Expected in House Runoff: "Republican Mike VanDeWalle and Democrat Celia Israel will face off Tuesday in the special election runoff for House District 50. Freezing temperatures could keep many voters at home."

Abbott Bolsters Outreach With Spanish-Language Website: "Republican Greg Abbott has become the first gubernatorial candidate to launch a Spanish-language website as he and his expected Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis, court Hispanic voters ahead of the general election."

TxDOT Taking Steps to Further Explore High-Speed Rail: "State transportation officials will start public hearings this week on a high-speed rail study that includes Oklahoma and Mexico, and officials are also expected to launch a commission to look at a rail proposal focused on Dallas-Fort Worth."

Despite Recent Hurdles, Battleground Founder Optimistic: "The Obama campaign operative who founded Battleground Texas weighs in on a controversy involving some of his volunteers and talks about the fierce criticism directed at Wendy Davis."


Stockman says he was working overseas, not missing, The Associated Press

State agency gives LCRA approval to cut off water to rice farmers, Austin American-Statesman

New Braunfels river rules deemed unenforceable, San Antonio Express-News

City keeping audit letters secret, Houston Chronicle

Company running red light camera program in El Paso allegedly bribed officials, employee said, El Paso Times

Is Greg Abbott sponsoring a Super Bowl pool? You bet., The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

Stockman and State Department officials met with and held press conferences with foreign leaders on matters of U.S. interests ... Stockman also used the official trip to expose the partisan bias of the American media, who claimed they did not know where he was.”

— U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, explaining in a statement that he's been on a 10-day official visit to Egypt, Israel and Russia. His absence from Congress and the campaign trail — where he's running for the GOP nomination for John Cornyn's Senate seat — led to much speculation on his whereabouts.

News From Home

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Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Comptroller candidate Debra Medina at the Austin Club, 1/30 

•    Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, candidate for lieutenant governor, at the Austin Club, 2/6

•    Sen. Kel Seliger and Reps. John Smithee and Four Price at West Texas A&M in Canyon, 2/7

•    Reps. Joe Deshotel and Allan Ritter at Lamar University in Beaumont, 2/19

•    Texas Tribune Festival On the Road at The University of Texas El Paso for a daylong symposium on demographic change, 2/27

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21

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Health care Politics David Dewhurst Four Price Greg Abbott John Cornyn John Smithee Kel Seliger Wendy Davis