Excess Stomach Acid

Got political heartburn? It's because the dining has been so rich around here for two years. Though it was never much of a race in Texas, the state has been ground zero for the GOP half of the presidential race for two years. Texas politicos have never been particularly bashful, or even polite, about trying to win promotion to higher offices, but George W. Bush's run for the White House has opened a line of speculation that would make Jim Mattox blush.

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Fighting Over Steering Wheels, Part II

Turns out the Republicans aren't the only folks fighting at the dinner table in Senate District 3. The Democrats are at it, too. The general consultants and media folks for David Fisher, the Silsbee attorney trying to wrest that seat from the Republicans, bailed with just a few weeks to go, and Fisher had to come back and hire someone to take over media buys for the rest of the race.

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Fighting Over the Steering Wheel

Rep. Todd Staples got a Sunday visit at home last week from Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, pollster Mike Baselice and former Rep. Mike Toomey, now a lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform. They wanted to talk about his campaign for state Senate, and apparently wanted to have that conversation outside the presence of his main political consultant, Bryan Eppstein of Fort Worth.

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A Vote Against Change

The quiet race for lieutenant governor got a little louder with a letter from Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, knocking a proposal from Sen. David Sibley, R-Waco. The two are probably the most active candidates for the job. Sibley has proposed stripping away some of the powers of the office and putting them in the hands of the senators. Wentworth, in a letter to his fellow senators and to Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, says that's a rotten idea that would increase partisan rivalries in the upper chamber.

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On the Road Again

Somebody come up with a title and a pilot script so we can sell the voting saga of the Polk County Escapees to some fool in Hollywood and make a load of money. If the first episode is a hit, there is plenty of material here for sequels. Some of the lawyers and others involved now think they'll be involved in this through at least January. That's when election contests are decided.

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Sharpening the Crayons

It is possible to draw a political map of Texas, according to some of the wise owls in the Legislature, that would preserve the legislative districts of just about every rural representative in the statehouse. Many of those folks are Democrats, but most rural Democrats are closer in philosophy to Republicans than are urban Democrats. And if Anglo Democrats are on the chopping block next year, as many Republicans and even some Democrats believe, the rural-urban difference could be grounds for a civil war inside the party that has dominated Texas politics for the last century.

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It May Not Be Local for Texas Voters...

Six weeks away from the election and most of the political conversation in Texas is about a contest that isn't even being fought in the state. You might have expected attention to turn from national stuff to local stuff by now, but local stuff isn't as interesting as the closest presidential race in the last 20 years. If you're in our business, that means you call folks to see what's happening in this race or that one, they want to talk about the presidential polls in Ohio and Florida.

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Politics, Money and Poor Kids

Advocates for the poor will tell you that one of their biggest complaints with the Medicaid system in Texas is the sign-up process. Texas is one of only 12 states that still require a face-to-face interview with a caseworker before someone can receive benefits. It's one of only five states that require both the interview and the so-called assets test that uses what someone owns in addition to their income level to determine whether they're eligible for benefits. And the forms are complicated.

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Political Hopefuls Leave the Starting Gate

Most Texas politicos came out of the Labor Day weekend in seasonally optimistic moods. This is their moment and it begins with every entrant a potential winner. And the watching is promising, too: As the gates spring open and the races start, the Republicans and Democrats are planning or fearing or predicting anything from skirmish to war in nearly a dozen-and-a-half legislative seats.

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Budget Problems? What Budget Problems?

Don't get all cocky just because there is no budget deficit. The cure for high financial hopes can be found in the newest files at the Legislative Budget Board or in any number of budgeteers' offices at the Capitol. State agencies are presenting their boring old Legislative Appropriations Requests, detailing what they believe they'll need during the next two-year budget cycle.

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A Federal Grand Jury Rocks the Senate

Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, is under investigation by a federal grand jury that has peppered Texas government with subpoenas over the last several weeks. The panel is apparently trying to find out whether Madla or a member of his family benefited from some action he took while in office, but none of the information that has so far become public appears to support any such claim.

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Shuffling Inside the Senate Crab Bucket

Nobody has dropped out of the phantom race to be the next lieutenant governor of Texas -- the race that would take place if the governor is elected president and the current Lite Guv becomes Guv. Few senators will say openly how they would cast their vote in a contest for that job, so no hard count is available. And none of the active and passive contestants have tried to declare victory.

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Summer Games Collide with Autumn Games

A reader points out that the Olympics start on September 15 and run through October 1, and the public will probably tune in to track stars and gymnasts and swimmers and equestrians at the expense of presidential candidates. The Olympics four years ago in Atlanta ended in the first week of August, so this is new territory. It might be nothing, but it might put a pothole in the political road.

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Hot Today, Tepid Tomorrow

If Gov. George W. Bush becomes president in November, the next two weeks could well prove to be the low spot in his campaign. At our deadline, he was on top of the world, the presidential nominee of the Republican Party, the happy recipient of a four-day bouquet of a convention and the surfer of the wave that historically carries candidates out of their national conventions.

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Making Bad News Out of a Budget Surplus

Sheesh, before you get all bothered about the grand mal disaster in the state budget, take a breath. There is no grand mal disaster in the state budget. What you've got -- as we've noted in detail over the last couple of months -- is a situation where the state has several agencies with budget messes of varying degrees of difficulty, and plenty of money to clean it all up. What you've also got is a presidential campaign and lots of people who'd like to put this in the worst light.

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State Long-Distance Phone Codes Stolen

The Texas Department of Public Safety's Capitol Police have started a criminal investigation of fraudulent use of the state's long-distance phone network by college students who apparently got hold of agency calling card numbers. So far, that investigation involves four state agencies whose phone usage recently took unexpectedly large jumps. The investigators think college students across Texas have been using calling card codes to steal tens of thousands of dollars worth of phone time from the state's Tex-an (pronounced Techs-ANN) phone system.

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Property Taxes Too Cheap to Meter

Lawmakers knew that letting new companies sell electricity in Texas would bring some financial drama to a staid industry, but they predicted it would take two years to get that far down the road. As you might have heard by now, they were wrong, and the price tag on the mistake is hovering in the $50 million range.

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Sweet Nothings Trump Nasty Somethings

Not that anyone expected unpleasantness or noise or a floor fight at the state GOP convention, but there sure were a lot of relieved Republicans on hand when the thing was over and no figurative blood had been spilled. There was no ugly fight amongst the factions. The statewide elected officials were not left off the list of national delegates, as some had feared they would be. The platform didn't take on any wacky, headline-grabbing new provisions.

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Official Spin: Sick, But in Recovery

If you stick with the riff that the bad ol' Democratic Party is dead, then be ready for this to turn into a slasher movie; the corpse will certainly rise for a sequel, if not soon, then certainly in a year's time when the Republicans are picking their way through a post-George W. Bush landscape.

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From Roadkill to Road Warrior

About a year ago, the people in the highway business in Texas were fresh off of a legislative victory. They had killed a bond program that some thought would endanger future funding of roads. They feared, among other things, that the interest on those bonds would eat into money that would otherwise be spent on roads, and by extension, on road builders.

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