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The Brief: June 26, 2015

Tea Party activists have had several successes in Texas legislative races, but it's been harder for them to oust Republican members of the state's congressional delegation — in large part due to a lack of money.

Reps. Blake Farenthold, Lamar Smith and Pete Sessions

Correction appended

The Big Conversation

The sheer size of Texas' GOP congressional delegation means a lot of potential electoral upsets from conservative activists.

But aside from the ousting of U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall last year, that hasn't really been the case. Texas Tea Party candidates have succeeded in numerous state legislative races, but political observers say it's relatively hard for them to do so in a congressional race.

And as the Tribune's Abby Livingston reports, a large part of that has to do with money:

Even as the Washington label grows more toxic with each election cycle, there remain benefits to incumbency, like franking and name identification. Mostly, though, incumbents are magnets for raising money.

Texas is a seasoned delegation, its members holding prime committee chairmanships and assignments that attract donations. Trade associations or corporate groups that watch committees closely often have policies dictating that they donate only to incumbents.

“Because of the multitude of resources available to sitting members, it’s extremely difficult to take them out in primaries if they are serious about their campaign,” said Chris Perkins, a pollster who works on both state and federal campaigns.

Challengers, on the other hand, often face sticker shock when faced with the multimillion-dollar campaign price tag.

Still, Tea Party activists are optimistic they'll have a deep bench of state lawmakers to run for congressional seats soon. And they're already targeting some of Texas' GOP congressional members, with the biggest target being U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, as reported earlier this week.

Trib Must-Reads

Texas Leading Challenge to New Smog Standards, by Neena Satija — The agency responsible for enforcing environmental laws in Texas is paying a private company $1.65 million to conduct research to challenge forthcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on ozone pollution, which exacerbates asthma, lung and heart disease.

Texting Bill's Demise A Victory for Tea Party Freshmen, by Edgar Walters — It was a mostly new cast of characters in the Senate, a chamber historically ruled by seniority, that flexed its political muscle to stop a statewide texting-while-driving ban this year.

A Texas Tech Professor Crusades Against Tenure, by Matthew Watkins — James Wetherbe of Texas Tech University is the rare professor who thinks tenure is terrible. His opinions have him tangled up in a long-running lawsuit against the university where he teaches.

Abbott's Office Promised Help to Major Donor, by Jay Root — A major donor to Gov. Greg Abbott sought and received help from the office of the governor after complaining that Democrats and their top contributor were on the verge of defeating a controversial bill insurance companies wanted.

Paxton to County Clerks: Wait for Direction on Gay Marriage, by Alexa Ura — If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is constitutional, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants county clerks to hold off on issuing marriage licenses to such couples until his office has given them direction.   

Railroad Commission Executive Director to Retire, by Jim Malewitz — Milton Rister, executive director of the Texas Railroad Commission, plans to leave the agency on Aug. 31, according to a letter he sent to commissioners. 

Rep. Scott Turner Not Running for Re-election, by Patrick Svitek — State Rep. Scott Turner, the Frisco Republican who unsuccessfully ran for speaker this year, has decided not to seek re-election. 

Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare Subsidies, by Edgar Walters and Alexa Ura – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a key element of the president’s signature health law — the part that gives tax subsidies to people who buy health insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace. 

Supreme Court: Texas Reinforced Segregated Housing, by Liz Crampton — The biggest federal housing subsidy program in Texas — which awarded $9.7 billion in tax credits from 1990 to 2011 — effectively has been reinforcing segregated housing, the U.S. Supreme Court found Thursday.


SCOTUS ruling changes nothing in Texas, San Antonio Express-News

Cruz calls Supreme Court “lawless,” vows Obamacare repeal, sees “faux outrage” at ruling, The Dallas Morning News

Losing subsidies could have sparked ‘a whole other crisis,' San Antonio Express-News

Babin bill would force the Supreme Court to enroll in ObamaCare, The Hill

Dallas group wins its Supreme Court case against Texas housing; civil rights leaders relieved, The Dallas Morning News

Texas congressman re-introduces bill to legalize online poker, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Controversial New Textbooks Go Into Use This Fall In Texas, WBUR

Jeb Bush headed to Dallas, Houston for campaign cash, The Dallas Morning News

Rick Perry Is Not Quite Transcending the 'Oops,' Bloomberg

Domestic violence conference unites state's prosecutors, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

New Texas law lets first-time DWI convicts install a breathalyzer and drive, Houston Chronicle

Use of Perry logo in independent PAC ad raises questions, The Dallas Morning News

TxDOT to kick in more than $200 million for U.S. 183 tollway project, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

"We’ve tried that before, and it didn’t work very well."

— U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on whether Congress should use the appropriations process again to try to defund the Affordable Care Act following Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling

Today in TribTalk

5 takeaways from the new UT/TT poll, by Jim Henson and Joshua Blank — Here are five takeaways about the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll that highlight important aspects of the current state of play in Texas politics in the aftermath of the legislative session.

A new pathway for engineering students in Texas, by M. Katherine Banks — Where will Texas find its next generation of engineers? As college costs and employer expectations rise, a groundbreaking new program seeks to serve students in their communities. 

News From Home

•   Use our interactive to see how the demographics in your county have changed since 2010, according to race and ethnicity figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

•   If you missed the event, here's the full video from Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith's conversation about health care and the 84th Legislature with state Reps. Donna Howard, D-Austin, Susan King, R-Abilene, and J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation About Houston and the 84th Legislature on June 29 at George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

Clarification: The original version of the "Quote to Note" section suggested U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was responding to comments from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. He was actually responding to a question about legislative strategy.

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