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The Brief: Oct. 19, 2015

Six Republican presidential hopefuls heeded the call to appear at a Plano church on Sunday where they emphasized their Texas ties and discussed the state of Christianity in America.

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The Big Conversation

Six Republican presidential hopefuls heeded the call to appear at a Plano church on Sunday, where they emphasized their Texas ties and discussed the state of Christianity in America.

"Organizers billed the event, which drew around 6,000 people, as an opportunity for candidates to make an in-person case to Texans ahead of its March 1 primary, an earlier-than-usual date that gives the state greater influence in the nominating contest," wrote the Tribune's Abby Livingston and Patrick Svitek. "The event was potentially the largest — and only — Texas forum for Republican presidential candidates before those who last long enough meet on a Houston debate stage in February."

The candidates with a leg up when it came to trading on a Texas connection were Ted Cruz, the state's junior senator, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose family has long roots in the Texas political world. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also staked their Lone Star State credentials.

Religion was another big topic of the four-hour event in which each candidate gave prepared remarks and spoke with the pastor of the host congregation. Svitek wrote that "candidates sought to tap into deep anxiety about the state of Christianity in America, an issue already front and center in the GOP race."

Cruz, for instance, discussed the importance of putting social conservatives on the bench following the Supreme Court's decision over the summer to legalize same-sex marriage. Svitek wrote"'Many of the most egregious judicial activists' were picked by GOP presidents, Cruz said, adding that the next commander in chief must be 'willing to spend the capital' to put the right justices on the bench."

Other candidates talked about taking criticism "for decisions based religious beliefs." Bush talked about his involvement as Florida governor in efforts to keep Terri Schiavo on a feeding tube. Svitek wrote, "(CarlyFiorina described the scene awaiting her at a campaign stop following her remarks on the Planned Parenthood videos during the last GOP debate — 'Protesters pelted me with condoms. They dressed up like birth control dispensers.' — and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania lamented how his critics have paired his name with a sexual fluid in Google search results."

Trib Must Reads

Texans Decide on 7 Constitutional Amendments Nov. 3, by Luqman Adeniyi – On Nov. 3, Texas voters will consider whether to add another seven amendments to the hundreds already in the state constitution.

Analysis: Low Voter Interest, High Interest to Others, by Ross Ramsey – Do the math: The support of two or three out of every 100 people, depending on the year, is all that’s needed to decide the constitutional changes the rest of us have to live by.

Nearly 90 Texas Democrats Throw Support Behind Clinton, by Patrick Svitek – Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign on Monday announced the support of almost 90 Texas Democrats, including well over a majority of the Texas Democrats holding elected office in the Texas Legislature and Washington, D.C.

Castro on VP Speculation: Call Me, Maybe?, by Alexa Ura – Despite growing speculation that he could be tapped to serve as the running mate of Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Julián Castro on Sunday said “it's not a given” that he’d accept the position.  

Lessig Discusses "Referendum Presidency" Switch, by Abby Livingston – In an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival, Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig said that people had lost sight of his singular goal to implement an overhaul of the nation’s political system and ethics laws.

Williams: Texas Must Expand Teacher Pool, by Annie Daniel – In his first public remarks since announcing his resignation as the state’s education chief, Michael Williams said Saturday that the biggest threat to Texas education is the state's teacher shortage.

Regent Hall, Rep. Martinez-Fischer Meet at TribFest, by Alana Rocha – University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall and state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, met for the first time in person at the Texas Tribune Festival Saturday. And the two had plenty to talk about.  

Three Private College Presidents Say No to Guns, by Matthew Watkins – Three private colleges — Trinity University, Austin College and Paul Quinn College — likely will opt out of a new state law allowing licensed students to carry concealed guns on campus, their presidents said Saturday. Rice University is still thinking it over.

Pelosi: Dems Open to "Bipartisan" Speaker, by Aman Batheja – Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Saturday there are Democrats in the U.S. House who are open to joining with some Republicans to elect a consensus choice for House Speaker.  

Sid Miller Sees Human Role in Climate Change, by Jordan Rudner – After seeing the smog in China, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller says he believes human actions have contributed to climate change — though Texas isn't a big part of the problem.

Straus Defends Conservative Record of House, by Morgan Smith – Critics of his leadership should look at the conservative record of the Texas House under three terms of his speakership, Joe Straus told an audience at the Texas Tribune Festival Saturday.

At Festival Opener, Patrick Makes a Spirited Conservative Pitch, by Ross Ramsey - Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unapologetically stuck to his guns in an on-stage interview Friday evening — and his religious views, and the Legislature’s conservative budget and the state’s reluctance to embrace Medicaid expansion and the federal health care law.


Texas officials frequently ignore hiring law for friends, campaign workersHouston Chronicle 

VA delays skyrocket in San Antonio, San Antonio Express-News

Ted Cruz: U.S. should focus on ISIS, avoid Assad in Syria, The Dallas Morning News

'Medical necessity' decried as a loophole for insuring the mentally ill, Houston Chronicle

Rangel: Redistricting fight could delay Texas primariesLubbock Avalanche-Journal

UT faculty speaks out on campus carryHouston Chronicle

From promise at A&M to killing on White Rock Trail, receiver spiraled through madness The Dallas Morning News

Dallas ISD bond proposal pits needed repairs against new schools, The Dallas Morning News

The battle for religious liberty at the heart of 2016 presidential raceFort Worth Star-Telegram 

Quote to Note

"One of the Texans has dropped out. I need to get the rest of them to do that and then once that happens, we’ll start fighting a little more thoroughly for it."

  Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joking about former Gov. Rick Perry when asked how he will win votes in Texas during an event in Plano.

Today in TribTalk 

Exclusion vs. inclusion: the role of faith in governance, by Donna Howard – Religion, beliefs and values are part of who we are and certainly part of what shapes our ideologies, but at what point do personal beliefs and the policies those beliefs create infringe on the rights of others?

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht on Oct. 29 in Austin

•    A daylong higher education symposium on Nov. 16 at Baylor University in Waco

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