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The Brief: Nov. 9, 2015

An investigator looking into the attack Friday night on Travis County District Judge Julie Kocurek said on Sunday that her attacker was trying to murder her.

Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas.

The Big Conversation

An investigator looking into the attack Friday night on Travis County District Judge Julie Kocurek said on Sunday that her attacker was trying to murder her.

The Austin American-Statesman's Tony Plohetski reported Sunday that Kocurek had been threatened several times in the past couple of years. "Law enforcement sources said Sunday that they still think the shooting Friday night probably was tied to Kocurek’s work as a judge, even though such attacks on judges are fairly infrequent," Plohetski wrote. "The attacker apparently made no demands for money or property during the brief encounter, leading investigators to think robbery was not the motive."

Kocurek was shot at in the driveway of her West Austin home late Friday night after attending a high school football game, according to a report from the Statesman.

The Statesman reported on Sunday that investigators now think that she might have been injured by flying glass and shrapnel rather than a bullet. The latest update on her condition was on Saturday, when she was listed as stable.

Media reports noted that Kocurek has presided over some of the most high-profile criminal cases in Travis County over the last 10 years or so. That includes the case of Mark Norwood, who was convicted in the killing of Christine Morton. Her husband, Michael Morton, was wrongfully convicted of her murder in 1987 and spent nearly a quarter century behind bars.

Kocurek also made headlines when she responded to Gov. Rick Perry's comments about a grand jury indictment handed down in August 2014. After Perry described the investigation as a "farce" and that “those responsible will be held to account,” Kocurek said those comments could be read as a threat against the grand jurors.

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: A Peculiar Way to Disenfranchise Voters, by Ross Ramsey – Texas lawmakers have designed a congressional district too slippery for either political party to control, making it impossible for anyone to stay in office long enough to build up the clout needed to get things done for the folks at home.

In Texas, Minorities Less Likely to Own Homes, by Alexa Ura and Jolie McCullough – A shortage of affordable housing, credit problems and lack of savings for down payments are among the main barriers blamed for creating a demographic divide in home ownership between minorities and whites.

At GOP Confab, the Focus is Squarely on 2016by Patrick Svitek –  Activists at the Texas Federation of Republican Women convention ate up talk of the Lone Star State's Texas-sized influence in 2016. The GOP faithful hope the state's earlier-than-usual primary will make it matter more.

Court: Texas Elections Should Proceed with Current Maps, by Ross Ramsey – The state’s 2016 elections for Congress and the Texas House can proceed under the current political maps, a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio said late Friday.

Lawmakers Support Abbott Against "Sanctuary Cities", by Luqman Adeniyi – A majority of lawmakers in both the Texas House and Senate back Gov. Greg Abbott's recent moves to rein in "sanctuary cities" that don't comply fully with federal immigration policies, a Tribune tally shows.

Garcia Endorses Turner in Houston Mayoral Runoff, by Patrick Svitek – Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia on Friday endorsed state Rep. Sylvester Turner in the Houston mayoral runoff.

Judge Dismisses Austin's Tax Lawsuit Against State, by Aman Batheja – A Travis County district judge dismissed a lawsuit Friday by the city of Austin that challenged the state's property tax system.  

Supreme Court to Decide Birth Control Mandate, by Alexa Ura and Edgar Walters – The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether religious nonprofits should be required to provide birth control benefits to female employees even if the employers object to certain contraceptives on religious grounds.

Abbott Seeks to Shape Republican Primary Conversation, by Patrick Svitek – Gov. Greg Abbott is planning to release a set of issues he would like Republican primary voters to prioritize next year.

Patrick: I Tried to Draft Nelson for Lieutenant Governor, by Patrick Svitek – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick revealed Friday he tried to draft state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to run for lieutenant governor last year before he decided to enter the race. 

The Day Ahead

•     The House Select Committee on Transportation Planning will hear testimony from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and the Texas Department of Transportation on transportation revenue projections at 1 p.m. in the Capitol Extension.

 •     Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham heads to Texas A&M University to discuss his new book, set for release Tuesday, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. The event starts at 6 p.m  at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center.


A Lot of People Don't Like Cruz. Why Is That OK With Him?The Washington Post

Fikac: Jeb Bush campaign stumbles are a family tradition, San Antonio Express-News

G.O.P. Candidates, Lagging, Rely on New Hampshire to Get Close, The New York Times

George W. Bush talks with father’s biographer at event, avoids Rumsfeld-Cheney criticismsThe Dallas Morning News

Will Supreme Court review Texas abortion law?, Austin American-Statesman 

Disappearing Texas: New reservoir could wash away farming life in Fannin County, The Dallas Morning News

Texas Gets a D- in 2015 State Integrity InvestigationCenter for Public Integrity

More options for more road money, San Antonio Express-News

DPS, other police agencies failing to report officer-involved shootings, Houston Chronicle

Ethics commission sets sights on ‘campaign in a box’, San Antonio Express-News

Texas casino to open in 2016?, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

A Texas Utility Offers a Nighttime Special: Free Electricity, The New York Times

At Fort Hood, juvenile crimes that go unprosecuted, Austin American-Statesman 

Fans at speedway ignore TMS, NASCAR requests not to fly Confederate flagsFort Worth Star-Telegram

Quote to Note

“These people keep shooting arrows at him, trying to take him out, and he’s not going anywhere."

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Ted Cruz on the lack of love for for the Texas senator and presidential candidate

Today in TribTalk

How HERO was defeated, by Robert Stein – The messaging of the anti-HERO campaigns and strong turnout by African-Americans and Republicans to support their respective mayoral candidates formed an unusual coalition that led to the defeat of HERO.

How to reduce the testing burden on Texas students, by Stephanie Cawthon – Tests in Texas schools, known as the Texas Student Assessment Program, need to change. Tests need to be purposeful and provide substantive, meaningful information to teachers and parents about how to best support their students. Statewide assessments can be part of a reasonable and effective testing framework, but only if they are administered in balance with the value they add to student learning.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A conversation on Transforming Texas Hospitals at the Texas Medical Center in Houston on Nov. 10

•    A discussion about Public Education: The Next Five Years on Nov. 13 at the University of Texas at El Paso

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

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