Sweet Sixteen

The political air is different in sixteen legislative districts: Republicans win statewide races, but Democrats dominate in legislative contests.

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Campaign Maps, By the Numbers

Redistricting, with just a few exceptions, still has a strong hold on the makeup of the state Senate and the Texas congressional delegation. But several House members continue to confound the mapmakers, winning in districts where, on paper, they shouldn't.

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Green Pastures

We pulled the numbers from campaign reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission and the Federal Election Commission and ranked officeholders and candidates by how much they had in their accounts at mid-year.

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The Speaker Thing

Start with a follow-up to last week's story about the powers of the House Speaker, and the attempts to get Attorney General Greg Abbott to referee. The issue is now in the hands of the lawyers, mostly, and that means there is a large stack of briefs to go through.

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While We Were Out

Legal arguments about how the Texas House should run have picked up, but it's still too early to tell whether Attorney General Greg Abbott will weigh in and whether, if he does, it'll make any difference in the final outcome.

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Who's Subsidizing Whom?

The state's biggest phone companies and their competitors are fighting over a fund that subsidizes companies that provide phone service where it would otherwise be unaffordable. AT&T, the biggest, says the Universal Service Fund doesn't cover its costs. Competitors say the company gets at least twice what it should.

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Campaign Finance, to Start the Season

Just as state officeholders were racing to stock their election accounts by an end-of-month deadline, the state and federal courts got busy on the subject of campaign finance. The state's highest criminal court had good news for former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, while the nation's highest court had good news for corporations and unions and groups that campaign on so-called issue ads in the last week's before elections.

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Stick a Fork in It

Gov. Rick Perry finished off a tumultuous session by vetoing 49 bills — well short of record of 82 vetoes he set after his first session as governor — and cutting about $650 million out of the Legislature's state budget.

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Purple?

Texas Republicans have been licking their chops lately about the prospect of a presidential race with Hillary Clinton topping the Democratic side of the ticket. Their hope? That she turns off Texas voters so badly it'll help all the Republicans and hurt all the Democrats.

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Where It Stops, Nobody Knows

One way to attract attention: Start chattering about the governor's inclination to break his 82-bill veto record. That's the signal watchers in the press and lobby are getting from Gov. Rick Perry, and it has bred a mini-industry of speculation about what might be and might not be on the chopping block. We've heard talk — thoroughly unsubstantiated and mentioned here only to illustrate the point about speculation — that Perry might whack the legislation fixing problems and making adjustments to the state's new business tax. So-called "special items" for colleges and universities in the state budget — that's where they make appropriations for specific projects and programs outside the regular operations of the schools — are on the gossip channel. And the governor has yet to sign a watered-down highway bill that went to him after he vetoed a stronger version in the final days of the session.

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Survivor: Austin

House Speaker Tom Craddick had the tenacity to withstand a three-day siege at the end of the legislative session, but it cost him some of his own supporters in the House. The question now is whether the next elections will replace enough of the rebels for him to hold on for a fourth term.

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Tenacious C

A lawyer we know was out drinking with a lobster the other night and saw a group of the House's anti-Tom Craddick rebels sitting at a big table having a good time. Nothing wrong with that, he said, except that he was guessing Craddick was sitting next to a telephone somewhere, writing notes in his tiny scrawl on a legal pad, talking to people, working.

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All Fall Down

He's still the lead gorilla, but House Speaker Tom Craddick is no longer a 900-pounder. More like 300. And the adage about 900-pound gorillas sleeping "wherever they want to" applies here, too. A 300-pounder has to pick his way through the band, lest one of his 250-pound colleagues turn into an open rival.

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The Briar Patch

It's hard to explain just how things in the Senate got the way they are, but you can mark the beginning. Last Spring, senators figured out how to maneuver around Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst while they were passing a new business tax bill and approving legislation to replace local property tax money in public schools with state money.

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