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The Brief: Sept. 30, 2014

The major party nominees for governor — Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis — hold their second and final debate tonight in Dallas. The smart money is on an encounter similar to the first one held 11 days ago in Edinburg.

State Sen. Wendy Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott before their debate at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance…

The Big Conversation

The major party nominees for governor — Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis — hold their second and final debate tonight in Dallas. The smart money is on an encounter similar to the one held 11 days ago in Edinburg, with Davis on the attack.

“'You expect them both to sort of take the same tack they took in the first one,'" Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said to the Tribune's Jay Root. Henson also "predicted that Abbott would keep trying to associate Davis with President Barack Obama and warn that the Democratic senator would bring Washington-style liberalism to conservative Texas."

Since that first debate, something of a wild card has emerged in the coverage of a state auditor's report that revealed many recipients of awards from the job-promoting Texas Enterprise Fund did not submit formal applications to receive the cash awards.

“It still doesn’t look like the big race changer that we’ve been thinking she needs,” Henson told Root. “That said, there is reason to believe that we’re getting closer and maybe the race has tightened a bit.”

Republicans and Democrats, as would be expected, differ on what the TEF story means for the gubernatorial contest.

The Houston Chronicle's Patrick Svitek talked to GOP consultant Craig Murphy, who said that Davis has "been searching for an issue for a long time and it's sort of like, 'Oh, here's something that just came up' ... I don't think it's something that voters have been sitting around and basing their vote on this issue. She could spend the whole debate talking about it and it wouldn't make a difference."

The Davis camp, however, would like to portray the TEF story as an example of Abbott acting to protect political allies. The story, Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas told Svitek, is "extremely relevant in the lives of Texans, and I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it was a topic brought up" in the debate.

The Tribune will livestream the encounter at 8 p.m. KERA is co-producing the debate with NBC 5, KXAS-TV, Telemundo 39 and The Dallas Morning News.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Day Ahead

•    The Tribune presents a conversation on the impact of the digital divide in a state with a rapidly changing population. The discussion takes place at noon at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin. For those unable to attend, we will livestream the event.

•    Charles Perry will be sworn in as the state Senator representing the West Texas-based Senate District 28. The ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. in Texas Tech University's McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.

•    The House Select Committee on Child Protection meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to look at ways to reduce the number of child abuse and neglect fatalities. (agenda)

•    The House Environmental Regulation Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to take a look at the new proposed EPA plan on carbon emissions reductions. (agenda)

Trib Must-Reads

In Debate, Patrick and Van de Putte Spar Over Taxes, by Alexa Ura

Davis Accuses Abbott of Grant Fund "Cover-Up", by Jay Root

In Texas, Solar Manufacturer Ramps Up Production, by Jim Malewitz

Immigrant Sanctuary Effort May Head to Texas, by Julián Aguilar

San Antonio a Step Closer to Controversial Pipeline, by Neena Satija

Dallas Hospital Isolates Patient Over Possibility of Ebola, by Edgar Walters

Elsewhere

TCEQ plans new air monitoring site in the Eagle Ford Shale, San Antonio Express-News

GOP will focus on border security, not citizenship, Cornyn vows, The Dallas Morning News

Group of Valley Democrats endorse Cornyn for re-election, The Monitor

Perry lawyer sought Lehmberg interview, records indicate, San Antonio Express-News

Texas continues Medicaid expansion — for kids, Houston Chronicle

Joaquin Castro endorses Hillary Clinton, The Hill

Justice Don Willett of the Texas Supreme Court Lights Up Twitter, The New York Times

Republicans advertise on ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Democrats buy ads on ‘Big Brother’, Washington Post

Quote to Note

"At this point it's 90/10 he's in. And honestly, 90 is lowballing it."

— An unnamed Ted Cruz advisor, telling National Journal the odds of a Cruz candidacy for president in 2016. The comment earned a swift denial from Cruz, who said via Facebook that "an overzealous supporter" spoke without authorization and "doesn’t know what they’re talking about."

Today in TribTalk

Texas Democrats' uphill battle, in numbers, by Mark P. Jones

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Kathie Glass, 2014 Libertarian Nominee for Governor, on Oct. 2 at The Austin Club

•    A Panel Discussion on Changing Population, Changing Health Care, on Oct. 6 at Rice University's Baker Institute in Houston

•    A Conversation With Sam Houston, 2014 Democratic Nominee for Attorney General, on Oct. 16 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, on Oct. 22 at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches

•    A Live Post-Election TribCast, featuring Tribune editors and reporters on the election results, on Nov. 5 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick on Nov. 6 at The Austin Club

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