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The Brief: Jan. 5, 2015

Three special elections are on tap for Tuesday, including two contests to find replacements for a pair of San Antonio Democrats who have opted to run for mayor.

Campaign signs outside a polling place at Zilker Elementary School in Austin on March 4, 2014.

The Big Conversation

Three special elections are on tap for Tuesday, including two contests to find replacements for a pair of San Antonio Democrats (Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Mike Villarreal) who have opted to run for mayor. Also, Central Texas voters east of Austin will be selecting a replacement for a state representative, Lexington Republican Tim Kleinschmidt, who is leaving for a job at the agriculture department.

For a complete rundown of the candidates in all three contests, check out the write-up from the Tribune's Alexa Ura and Bobby Blanchard.

Drawing the most attention is the Senate District 26 contest where two other sitting legislators — state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez — are the highest profile candidates in the field seeking to succeed Van de Putte. Interestingly enough, tort reform group Texans for Lawsuit Reform has emerged as a major factor in the race.

It's uncommon for TLR to become involved in an intraparty Democratic contest but the group has a special dislike for Martinez Fischer. And it's putting Menéndez in a tight spot, writes Gilbert Garcia of the San Antonio Express-News.

Menéndez’s prospects have been aided over the past week by a withering TV attack ad blasting Martinez Fischer, bankrolled (to the tune of nearly $150,000) by the Texans For Lawsuit Reform PAC, a group which champions tort reform and routinely backs conservative Republicans.

Menéndez is never mentioned in the ad, but as Martinez Fischer’s chief adversary in the five-candidate race, he’s the prime beneficiary. At the same time, he knows that his fellow Democrats despise TLR. So even if TLR is the enemy of his rival, Menéndez doesn’t want to appear too friendly with the group.

The Day Ahead

•    Gov.-elect Greg Abbott visits Austin High School, which has installed new wheelchair-accessible installations. Abbott will be joined by the Austin High senior who raised funds for the project.

Trib Must-Reads

Louie Gohmert Announces Challenge to Speaker Boehner, by Abby Livingston

Texas Perspective: Water, by Justin Dehn and Alana Rocha

Revisiting Tenure of Texas' Longest-Serving Governor, by Texas Tribune Staff

Rediscover the New Salaries Explorer, by Ryan Murphy

Elsewhere

Herman: Rick Perry looks back, Austin American-Statesman

Perry farewell speech set for Jan. 15, Houston Chronicle

Texas lawmakers to feds: Leave us alone, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Declining revenue might cause crunch in legislative session, El Paso Times

Texas school start date debate pits educators against tourism industry, The Dallas Morning News

Governors’ inaugurals fueled by political donors, The Associated Press

Meet Ted Cruz's Twitter whisperer, CNN

Republican contest for 2016 race is heating up quickly, Washington Post

Quote to Note

"The gun business is a paper-intensive deal."

— Gun store owner Jim Pruett on federal government requirements that records of gun sales be kept in a way that they can't be easily searched

Today in TribTalk

Telling the real story of Laredo, by Raul G. Salinas

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Senate Caucus Chairs Kirk Watson and Joan Huffman on Jan. 12 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With House Public Education Chair Jimmie Don Aycock on Jan. 22 at The Austin Club

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