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The Brief: Nov. 19, 2014

Despite his challenger's vow to take a speaker vote to the floor on the first day of session, backers of House Speaker Joe Straus spent Tuesday trying to demonstrate the race is already a foregone conclusion.

House Speaker Joe Straus is shown on Sept. 20, 2014, during an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival.

The Big Conversation

Despite his challenger's vow to take a speaker vote to the floor on the first day of session, backers of House Speaker Joe Straus spent Tuesday trying to demonstrate the race is already a foregone conclusion.

In two separate releases, a total of 21 GOP House members declared their support for Straus' re-election, bringing the total of pledged votes for him to 35. Coupled with the votes of the members of the Democratic caucus — assuming they back Straus over a challenger from the right — it would appear at this point that Straus has the votes necessary to retain the gavel.

The Tribune's Aman Batheja has the details on the first dozen Straus supporters to declare on Tuesday. That group was collected in a statement released by state Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria. The second group of nine was detailed in a statement released by state Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas.

And late Tuesday, there was a call for civility by Tea Party-aligned state Rep. Matt Krause, who took to Facebook to denounce rumors that family members of Straus supporters were being harassed by Straus foes.

The big unanswered question remains whether all of the above will have any influence on Straus' challenger, Scott Turner.

"Turner has said he plans to continue his campaign until a vote is held Jan. 13, the first day of the legislative session," Batheja wrote. "He and his supporters have said they want a public record of the members who back Straus over Turner. In the past, House speaker challengers have traditionally dropped out of the race before the first day of the session if it was clear that the votes weren't there."

The Day Ahead

•    The House State Affairs Committee meets at 2 p.m. in the Capitol Extension to take invited testimony on an audit report on the HealthSelect contract at the Employees Retirement System. (agenda)

•    The Texas Association of Business hosts its annual Higher Education Conference at the Sheraton at the Capitol, beginning at 10 a.m.

Trib Must-Reads

For Shale Residents, Boom is a "Blessing and a Sadness", by Jim Malewitz and Callie Richmond

Dismay Rises as Border Agent Hiring Bogs Down, by Julián Aguilar

Common Core Stymies Vote on New Textbooks, by Morgan Smith

Perry Judge Rules Prosecutor is Not Disqualified, by Terri Langford

Billboard Takes Aim at UTSA Graduation Rates, by Reeve Hamilton

Border Surge Could Continue Through August, by Julián Aguilar

AG-Elect Paxton Names Roy as First Assistant, by Edgar Walters

Elsewhere

Rand Paul hires Ted Cruz's digital guru, CNN

Ken Paxton associate named in securities action, Austin American-Statesman

Administration takes case for Obamacare directly to TexansHouston Chronicle

ICE closing N.M. family detention center, San Antonio Express-News

Texas to allow inmate weddings in prison, The Associated Press

Thornberry wins coveted chairmanship, Amarillo Globe-News

King aims to extend footprint as kingmaker, Des Moines Register

Facebook shutting down a key path Obama used to reach voters, Yahoo News

10 Maps That Explain the Next Election, Politico

Quote to Note

“I don’t see how you can grow in political strength and influence if what you’re doing is threatening people, that, ‘If you don’t support me, I’ll come after you.’ ... So I’ll leave the threats and the intimidation to others.”

— House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, after a speech Tuesday to the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce

Today in TribTalk

Don't let data fail Texas students, by María Robledo Montecel

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Reps. Myra Crownover, Tan Parker and Ron Simmons on Dec. 1 at Texas Woman's University in Denton

•    A Conversation With Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Dec. 4 at The Austin Club

•    The Texas Tribune Festival presents a one-day symposium previewing the 84th Legislature on Dec. 5 at the Austin Community College Highland Campus in Austin

•    A Panel Discussion on the Transformation of Medical Education in Texas, on Dec. 9 at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.

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