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The Brief: Feb. 16, 2015

Bipartisan appears to be a dirty word in a couple of the special election contests set to be finally decided on Tuesday.

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

The Big Conversation

Bipartisan appears to be a dirty word in a couple of the special election contests set to be finally decided on Tuesday.

In Bexar County's Senate District 26, the strategy of some GOP and tort reform groups to attack Democratic candidate Trey Martinez Fischer with the hopes of motivating Republican voters to vote for José Menéndez, the other Democrat in the runoff, continues to draw attention in the highly expensive contest.

Spending in the race has passed the $2.3 million mark, according to the San Antonio Express-News' John W. Gonzalez.

In the battle’s final days, Martinez Fischer stepped up attacks on Menéndez over his efforts to woo GOP and other conservative voters. He’s flooded the district’s mailboxes with almost daily placemat-size ads that mix attacks on Menéndez with self-praise.

...

But Menéndez made no apology for seeking bipartisan backing. Greeting supporters Saturday at VFW Post 9174 on the West Side, Menéndez said that’s what it takes to be effective — something he learned on the City Council. He said it’s puzzling that he’s portrayed as both a flaming liberal and in sympathy with the GOP.

The high-profile contest appears to be driving voters to the polls. Elections officials told Gonzalez that voting in this runoff and a House contest to fill the seat vacated by San Antonio mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal is running higher than the first round.

Meanwhile, in the Central Texas-based House District 17, it is a candidate in the all-GOP runoff who is making news for openly touting bipartisanship. The Houston Chronicle's Patrick Svitek writes:

Perhaps the most notable contrast has been (John) Cyrier's decision to strike a decisively bipartisan tone in what is effectively a GOP primary ... At a debate last week in Luling, it took less than 10 minutes for the topic to come up. Cyrier made no bones about his interest in bipartisanship, while (Brent) Golemon countered he is more focused on defining himself for the voters.

"The time and place to reach out is not in the election," Golemon responded after Cyrier urged occasional compromise to avoid "Washington, D.C.-style politics" in Texas.

One other contest, in House District 13, to determine a successor to now-state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, is scheduled for Tuesday.

The Day Ahead

•    Presidents' Day federal and state holiday

•    The House convenes at 2 p.m.

•    House Appropriations subcommittees begin work today. The subcommittees on Article II (JHR 120); Articles VI, VII and VIII (E1.026); and Article III (E1.030) meet at 7:30 a.m. The subcommittee on Articles I, IV and V (E2.036) meets at 10 a.m. House Human Services meets at 2 p.m. or on adjournment to discuss the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) (E2.030)

Trib Must-Reads

Texas vs. the Feds: A Look at the Lawsuits, by Neena Satija, Ryan McCrimmon and Becca Aaronson

As State Ages, Families Face Caring for Elderly at Home, by Edgar Walters

Analysis: Tension is About More Than Border Security, by Ross Ramsey

In New Web Ad, Perry Touts New Hampshire, by Julián Aguilar

Elsewhere

Bills would boost chemical info sharing, but not with public, Houston Chronicle

McRaven’s handling of UT admissions report shows he wants to move on, Austin American-Statesman

Rick Perry assembles Iowa team for possible presidential bid, San Antonio Express-News

Ranking the 2016 Republican field, Washington Post

Gov. Abbott wants broad spectrum of education reform, Abilene Reporter News

Patrick has Senate on fast track, Houston Chronicle

Fikac: In Patrick's Senate, the chill is gone, San Antonio Express-News

Hot seat is part of the job for immigration chief Sarah Saldaña, The Dallas Morning News

Just as Texas solar industry gets moving, it finds itself on defense, Austin American-Statesman

The Debt Trap: Texans taken for a ride by auto-title loans, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Quote to Note

“The issue is like a hot spur to Texans.”

University of Houston associate political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the expected reaction to a court ruling deciding the future of gay marriage in Texas

Today in TribTalk

It's time to end straight-ticket voting in Texas, by Ron Simmons

News From Home

On this Presidents' Day, we're rolling out a special new feature for those of you — like us — who can't get enough presidential politics: free email blasts alerting you to every new 2016 headline on our site. Whether it's Rick Perry zinging Ted Cruz, or Ted Cruz zinging Rick Perry right back, or Mike Huckabee, Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul or Ben Carson making swings through Texas fundraising country, our reporters will have the story — and so will you, immediately, in your inbox. 

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro on Feb. 19 at The Austin Club

•    Immigration: The Next Five Years on Feb. 27 at at the University of Texas at Brownsville

•    A Conversation With State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. John Zerwas on March 5 at the Austin Club

•    Meet the Mayors: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price on March 12 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With UT-Austin Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston on March 26 at The Austin Club

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