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Straus Names Panel to Oversee Spending on Border Operations

Also, how white voters figure into Democrats' electoral strategy, and Senate candidates appear for seats that are not (yet) open.

House Speaker Joe Straus gavels out the 83rd Legislative session at Sine Die 5:03 PM on May 27, 2013.

House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday announced the creation of a new panel tasked with keeping an eye on the costs associated with the state's stepped up presence along the Texas-Mexico border.

Straus, along with Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, recently directed the Department of Public Safety to spend an additional $1.3 million weekly to boost the law enforcement presence along the border in response to a surge in border crossings by unaccompanied children.

According to a statement from the speaker's office, the panel has three main functions:

•    "Monitor the costs of those operations and other services associated with increased border crossings."

•    "Review and evaluate any support that Texas receives from the federal government to address this issue and study the influx’s effect on resources available to local governments."

•    "Determine the long-term budgetary effect of efforts to ensure Texans’ safety."

“It is important for legislators and the public to know the full impact of these operations,” Straus said in the statement. “A comprehensive look at the costs and benefits associated with our investment in border security will be helpful as the House sets priorities for next year’s legislative session.”

Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, will chair the panel with Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood; Myra Crownover, R-Denton; Drew Darby, R-San Angelo; Donna Howard, D-Austin; Oscar Longoria, D-Mission; Marisa Márquez, D-El Paso; Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Palmview; John Otto, R-Dayton; Sylvester Turner, D-Houston; and John Zerwas, R-Simonton, were also tapped to serve.

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These Senate seats are not open (yet), but candidates continue to come forward. Here are the names of a couple of hopefuls already throwing their hat in the ring:

•    Jodey Arrington of Lubbock circulated a release in which he explained why he’s the best person to succeed Robert Duncan in SD-28. Duncan on Thursday officially resigned in order to take over the reins of the Texas Tech University System next week.

State Rep. Charles Perry has already signaled his intent to run as has Eppie Garza of the Lubbock bedroom community of Wolfforth. Others contemplating a run are Tech regent John Steinmetz and Lubbock City Councilman Todd Klein.

•    Charles Gregory has launched a website touting his candidacy for SD-18, the district represented by GOP comptroller candidate Glenn Hegar. Should Hegar win his general election contest, he would have to step down. Another name attached to a run for the seat is Brenham state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst.

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Our nominee for tweet of the week from former Burt Solomons/Redistricting Committee staffer Bonnie Bruce, who comes up with this gem:

“Members of #txlege who did not run for reelection or who lost in primaries have 329 yrs of combined experience.”

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In our reading this week, these two quotes — the first by Democrat Trey Martinez Fischer and the second by Republican Jerry Patterson — got our attention.

“Wait a minute. GOP. That just stands for 'gringos y otros pendejos.'”

“Some of the stuff we're doing now is going to result in . . . well, actually, not a surrender, but a fight to the death, where all of us lose on the Republican side. We just got dumber than a rock. And immigration is one of those issues.”

Now, which of these two parties is facing an outreach challenge? And for which of these two parties is expanding its voting base more important in November?

Or, as state Rep. Eric Johnson put it in his op-ed last week in The Dallas Morning News, Democrats are looking at a couple of strategies that most likely can’t be done simultaneously.

One strategy is registering more African-Americans and Latinos and getting them to turn out in much larger numbers than at any other time in our state’s history. This path would also depend on demographic shifts continuing at a sufficiently rapid rate to make this strategy a winning one.

The other strategy is convincing a significant number of white Texans that it is OK to be a Democrat again.

His conclusion is that the party will focus its efforts on turning out minority voters “and that this work will preclude any serious, organized effort toward reclaiming white voters.”

At the same time, he says it’s important to consider whether the rise of the Tea Party within Republican ranks has given Democrats their first opportunity in many years to win back some white voters this year.

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