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The Brief: Dec. 30, 2015

Former Gov. Rick Perry made headlines Tuesday with his decision to endorse a primary challenger to tea party firebrand state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

Rep. Jonathan Stickland R-Bedford speaks during the Texas Tax Day Tea Party Rally at the Texas Capitol on April 15th, 2015

The Big Conversation

Former Gov. Rick Perry made headlines Tuesday with his decision to endorse a primary challenger to tea party firebrand state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

On one level, Perry's decision to endorse Scott Fisher is a personal one. Fisher, a Bedford pastor, was a Perry appointee to the Texas Ethics Commission and the Texas Youth Commission. As the Tribune's Jim Malewitz reported, Perry has now made four endorsements this cycle.

In addition to Fisher, Perry is backing state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who is seeking to replace outgoing state Sen. Kevin Eltife; Austin ophthalmologist Dawn Buckingham, who is looking to succeed retiring state Sen. Troy Fraser; and Bill Waybourn, who is campaigning to unseat Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson.

In response, Stickland said he wasn't concerned by the decision by Perry, whom he dismissed as "an Austin insider."

"I've served my district for nearly 4 years now and have never tried to represent Austin insiders, only the conservatives in my District," he said in a written statement.

On another level, this is just the latest development in a primary race that has gotten increasingly nasty in recent days. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Anna Tinsley reported that the Fisher campaign is making an issue of posts to online message boards in 2001 and 2002 by Stickland asking how to grow marijuana.

Stickland responded by saying he's used marijuana but never grew it.

The Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy wrote that Stickland's penitent response might end up being his saving grace.

"But Stickland’s response may be the best possible for his mostly church-driven district," Kennedy wrote. "He did 'things I wish I hadn’t,' he wrote. 'But by the Grace of God, my past sins are forgiven.' On his usually busy Twitter account on Monday, he posted only one word: 'LIBERTY!!!!' Don’t count Stickland out at all. Not this year. Never count out a repentant sinner."

Trib Must Reads

In Cisco, Cruz Courts Religious Right, Aims to Lock Up Home State, by Patrick Svitek — Spending two days in the Texas town of Cisco, GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz talked with hundreds of evangelical leaders and spoke at a rally attended by well over 500 people.

The Day Ahead

•    U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is scheduled to visit Rowlett this morning to meet with local officials and tour the areas affected by the Dec. 26 tornadoes.

Elsewhere

Couch’s mom had sold Tarrant home; teen is expected to serve 4 months at most, The Dallas Morning News

Ted Cruz 2016 campaign: House rebels crusade for Cruz, Politico

Billionaire Trump to Spend Millions on Ads in GOP Race, The Associated Press

Dept. of Justice investigating Blue Bell for deadly Listeria outbreak, CBS News

Break Is Likely in Planned Parenthood Funding Battle, The New York Times

Texas again opposes delaying immigrant deportations, San Antonio Express-News

Texas Supreme Court releases new rules for minors seeking abortions without parental consent, The Dallas Morning News

El Paso lawmaker questions DPS border claims, El Paso Times

Hondurans sue feds over assault by Border Patrol agent, San Antonio Express-News

Morningstar: The outlook is bleak for oil in 2016, Houston Chronicle

For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions, The New York Times

Quote to Note

“What I relish is catching the companies with their pants down. If we catch enough with their pants down, sooner or later they’re going to have to start wearing a belt.”

— Austin resident Chris Vickery to the Austin American-Statesman on why he tests online databases for how secure their data is. He gained attention this week when he showed voter information for 191 million Americans had been left exposed online.

News From Home

•    Since we launched our interactive death row database in June, five Texas inmates have been executed and one died of natural causes. Use this tool to see all 253 inmates currently on Texas' death row, searchable by race, age and other factors.

•    We couldn't think of a better gift for you, our generous readers, than our ambitious coverage plans for 2016. Hear from beat reporters, editors, developers, producers and the boss himself on what we've got in store for the coming year.

•    We're taking another "Brief" break for the New Year's holiday. Thanks again for reading this year and we'll be back with another edition on Monday.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A conversation with state Reps. Celia Israel, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman on Jan. 14 at St. Edward's University in Austin

•    Symposium on Urban Public Education on Jan. 22 at the University of Texas at El Paso

•    The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin

•    The Ticket: A Live Recording and Democratic Primary Debate Watch Party on Feb. 11 at KUT Public Media Studios in Austin

•    A conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

•    Symposium on Transportation on March 29 at Texas A&M University in College Station

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