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The Brief: Feb. 24, 2014

Greg Abbott has an 11-point advantage over Wendy Davis in the November general election contest, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

At separate events, Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, filed for governor in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.

The Big Conversation

Greg Abbott has an 11-point advantage over Wendy Davis in the November general election contest for governor, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Another key takeaway from the internet survey of 1,200 registered voters is that Republican contests for lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller all seem to be heading to May runoff elections.

•    In the governor's race, the Republican Abbott leads 47-36 over the Democrat Davis with 17 percent undecided. “The story of the last four months is, Davis loses a couple points, Abbott gains a couple of points,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a professor of government at UT-Austin. “He had a pretty good couple of months. She had a pretty bad couple of months, all without many people paying attention.”

•    In the GOP race for lieutenant governor, incumbent David Dewhurst (37 percent) and Dan Patrick (31 percent) are well-positioned to qualify for a runoff, with Todd Staples (17 percent) and Jerry Patterson (15 percent) trailing significantly. In the Republican race for attorney general, Dan Branch (42 percent) and Ken Paxton (38 percent) appear to be on the way to a runoff, with Barry Smitherman (20 percent) the odd man out. And in the Republican race for comptroller, Debra Medina (39 percent) is the most strongly positioned, with Harvey Hilderbran (26 percent) and Glenn Hegar (24 percent) fighting for the second spot in the runoff.

•    In one of the few contested primary races at the top of the Democratic ballot, Kesha Rogers was preferred by 35 percent for the nomination for U.S. Senate. She had significant leads over David Alameel (27 percent), Maxey Scherr (15 percent), Harry Kim (14 percent) and Michael Fjetland (9 percent).

Today's report is the first of several on the latest UT/TT poll. Tomorrow's report will feature Texans' views on proposals for public education.

The Day Ahead

•    Eight-day campaign finance reports for state officeholders and candidates are due.

•    GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is in McKinney and Abilene while GOP lite guv candidate Todd Staples is in Waco and San Antonio for get-out-the-vote rallies. Early voting in the party primaries ends on Friday.

Today in the Trib

A Focus on Helping Colonia Residents With Health Law: "Thousands of residents of Texas colonias could be largely left with little hope of obtaining health insurance after falling into the 'coverage gap.' But community-based organizations are working to educate them on their options."

In Primaries, Political Issues Trump State Issues: "Maybe you were looking for a policy debate on transportation or water or school finance? That's not what the political candidates are talking about. They're focused on issues that motivate primary voters."

Stockman Campaign Denies It Was Behind Mailer: "U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman’s campaign for U.S. Senate is fighting back against allegations from GOP primary rivals that it is involved in third-party groups' efforts to promote his campaign."

Houston Church Opts Not to Defect from Denomination: "In a narrow vote Sunday, the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church in Houston opted not to leave a national Presbyterian church over a debate about the church's views on homosexuality."

McCaul: Guzmán's Extradition Hinges on Sovereignty: "The Mexican government's reaction to perceived U.S. pressure to hand over Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán Loera will play into whether the head of the ruthless Sinaloa cartel will be extradited here, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said on Sunday."

Fed Up With Government, Environmentalists Sue Companies: "In high-profile cases that will be heard in federal court this year, environmental groups are suing companies for allegedly violating pollution laws, saying they can't depend on the government to take action."


BREAKING: Patterson Describes Alleged Dan Patrick 'Amnesty Letter' To Breitbart Texas, Breitbart Texas

Democratic heavy-hitters look to build progressive majority in Texas, Houston Chronicle

Some candidates question Democratic effort to shape a Texas ticket, Austin American-Statesman

Harper-Brown faces first serious primary challenge in Texas House District 105, The Dallas Morning News

Two percent of Texans have cast primary ballots so far, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Resistance, The Weekly Standard

Cruz Control, Politico

In the DeMint Era at Heritage, a Shift From Policy to Politics, The New York Times

Eagle Ford windfall goes to fix what the boom broke, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

"They’re like fire ants. They bite everybody who gets in their way."

— Former GOP Tarrant County Commissioner Bob Hampton, on "these Ron Paul people" who form the core of support for the ascendant Tea Party candidates there

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    Live Post-Primary Election TribCast at the Austin Club, 3/5

•    A Conversation With Sen. Wendy Davis, 2014 Democratic Candidate for Governor, at Stateside at the Paramount, 3/6

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

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

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Health care Politics Dan Patrick David Dewhurst Glenn Hegar Greg Abbott Ken Paxton Michael McCaul Rick Perry Ted Cruz Wendy Davis