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The Brief: Jan. 7, 2015

No final resolution was reached in any of the three special elections held on Tuesday.

State Reps. José Menéndez (left) and Trey Martinez Fischer, both Democrats from San Antonio, are seeking the Texas Senate ...

The Big Conversation

All three of the special elections held on Tuesday will be resolved by runoff elections, meaning occupants of those seats won't be determined by the time the Legislature convenes in six days. Coincidentally, a fourth special election, to fill the House seat vacated by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, will take place on the session's first day.

In the two special elections held in the San Antonio area, two Democrats — Trey Martinez Fischer in Senate District 26 and Diego Bernal in House District 123 — emerged as strong front-runners in their respective races even while falling a few percentage points short of taking outright majorities.

Gilbert Garcia of the San Antonio Express-News wrote that the results were a function of low turnout in contests where campaigning and early voting took place in the middle of the holiday season. 

Garcia wrote, "In the end, SD 26 looked like a base election. Martinez Fischer won a solid plurality over [José] Menéndez ... It’s encouraging news for Martinez Fischer, who weathered more than $200,000 of harsh negative advertising from the GOP-leaning Texans for Lawsuit Reform."

In the third special election held to select a successor to Lexington Republican Tim Kleinschmidt in the Central Texas-based House District 17, two Republicans — John Cyrier and Brent Golemon — advanced to the runoff. Cyrier took 46 percent while Golemon took 24 percent.

The Day Ahead

•    The Texas Public Policy Foundation begins its three-day policy orientation in Austin. Steve Forbes handles opening keynote duties on the first day, which will also feature a conversation between Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick and Arthur Laffer.

•    The Code Red Task Force, which was formed by 10 academic health institutions nine years ago, presents its latest report on the condition of Texas health care at Rice University in Houston. On hand to help deliver the report will be task force chairman and former state demographer Steve Murdock.

Trib Must-Reads

TPPF Building the Foundation of Texas Conservatism, by Neena Satija

Court to Weigh Texas Policies on Abortion, Gay Marriage, by Alexa Ura

Analysis: When Right Doesn't Make Might, by Ross Ramsey

Will Hurd's First Day in Congress, by Abby Livingston

Lakey Leaving Health Agency for Position at UT System, by Reeve Hamilton

Gun Rights Advocates to Build Weapons at Capitol, by Morgan Smith

Elsewhere

Texans figure big in House Speaker fight, Houston Chronicle

House Republicans Change Rules on Calculating Economic Impact of Bills, The New York Times

Bush leadership PAC raising money fast, Politico

Kirk Watson: Pro-GOP Senate rule change likely, Austin American-Statesman

State to investigate judge in controversial sex offender program, Houston Chronicle

Officials: El Paso VA Doctor Shot, Shooter Kills Self, El Paso Times

USGS confirms 3 more quakes in Irving, Dallas; today's total now 7, The Dallas Morning News

N.C. gov. hints at Medicaid expansion on GOP terms, time, The Associated Press

Quote to Note

“Realistically, the small balls are much more probable than the big blockbusters, at this point.”

— State Sen.-elect Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, on the impact of low oil prices on lawmakers' expectations for tax relief next session

Today in TribTalk

Critical services depend on sound contracting, by Jane Nelson

2015: An agenda for higher education, by Wallace Hall Jr.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    Meet the New Guys in the House: Reps. Celia Israel, Linda Koop and César Blanco on Jan. 14 at The Austin Club

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

•    A Conversation With Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick on Jan. 27 at The Austin Club

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