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The Brief: Feb. 18, 2015

State Rep. José Menéndez handily won election to the state Senate after a high-dollar, contentious race against House colleague Trey Martinez Fischer.

State Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, debating amendment #14 of HB 5 from the House chamber's back mike on March 26, 2013.

The Big Conversation

State Rep. José Menéndez handily won election to the state Senate after a high-dollar, contentious race against House colleague Trey Martinez Fischer. The two Democrats were vying to succeed Leticia Van de Putte in the San Antonio-based Senate District 26.

Menéndez lost the first round of the special election by 18 points, but was able to completely turn the tables, winning the runoff contest by 18 points. A huge factor in the race was spending by outside groups allied with Republicans and tort reform interests designed to run up the negatives of Martinez Fischer, who was the more liberal of the two candidates.

Trial lawyers in turn spent heavily on behalf of Martinez Fischer. In all, about $2.3 million was spent in the contest.

Menéndez wasn't the only candidate on Tuesday night to turn a first round deficit into a runoff win. In the race in House District 13 to find a successor to now state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, Caldwell attorney Leighton Schubert defeated former Austin County Judge Carolyn Bilski by 14 points in an all-GOP runoff election after having lost in the first round by 10 points.

In House District 17, John Cyrier won the election to succeed Tim Kleinschmidt, holding off fellow Republican Brent Golemon by 4 points after having come within a few percentage points of winning outright last month. This contest became heated in recent weeks as Cyrier's public support of bipartisanship became an issue.

The other blowout of the evening came in San Antonio-based House District 123, where former San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal easily won election to the seat that was vacated by Mike Villarreal at the outset of the current legislative session. Bernal bested Nunzio Previtera, a State Republican Executive Committeeman who had received the endorsement of Gov. Greg Abbott in the closing days of the election.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m.

•    Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht gives the State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Legislature at 11 a.m. We will livestream the speech.

•    House Appropriations subcommittees meet again beginning at 7:30 a.m. with the Article II panel taking up the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management and the Department of State Health Services (JHR 120); the Article III panel taking up higher education agencies (E1.030); the Articles VI, VII and VIII panel taking up the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Texas Lottery Commission, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles (E1.026); and the Articles I, IV and V panel taking up judiciary agencies along with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (E2.030).

•    Senate Finance meets at 9 a.m. to take invited testimony on agencies in the Health and Human Services enterprise (E1.036).

•    The Texas Association of Business' two-day annual conference wraps up with a keynote address from House Speaker Joe Straus.

Trib Must-Reads

Dealers Reach Out, But Tesla Slams the Door, by Jim Malewitz and Bobby Blanchard

Bullet Train Firm Reveals Dallas-Houston Route, by Aman Batheja

Faith Leaders Rally at Texas Capitol for Gay Rights, by Eva Hershaw

Immigration Attorneys, Feds Mull Options After Ruling, by Julián Aguilar

In State of the State, Abbott Proposes Sweeping Agenda, by Jay Root

Elsewhere

Abbott puts muscle behind tax relief, basic services, open carry, San Antonio Express-News

Gov. Greg Abbott pledges to keep troops on border, El Paso Times

Delay of Obama order galvanizes immigrants, Houston Chronicle

Texas same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, Travis judge rules, Austin American-Statesman

M.D. Anderson faculty leaders tell UT regents of 'pervasive dissatisfaction' with leaders, Houston Chronicle

GOP leaders buck bid to move Texas’ primaries ahead of Iowa’s, The Dallas Morning News

Shale projects in Mexico 'off the table’ — for now, San Antonio Express-News

Drop in oil prices leaves roughnecks at loose ends, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

“I have the fear. Everyone in my family has that fear, that they’re not sure they’re going to go home. It’s hard.”

— Student Luis Rocha to the San Antonio Express-News on the uncertainty gripping him and his family after a federal judge in Brownsville put a temporary halt to President Obama's executive order on immigration

Today in TribTalk

A Texas-style Medicaid solution is still possible, by Ken Janda

News From Home

As we follow bills on immigration and border-related issues during the 84th legislative session, we'll keep you updated on legislation addressing border security operations. Stay caught up on the session with our Texas Legislative Guide.

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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