You Can't Go Home Again

Congressman Michael McCaul at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 23, 2011.
Congressman Michael McCaul at the Texas Capitol on Feb. 23, 2011.

U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul's decision not to run for the U.S. Senate means he won't be testing one of the truisms of Texas politics: A seat in the Texas congressional delegation is a lousy launching pad for statewide office.

Members of Congress who come home to Texas to run for statewide office almost always fail. Each of the autopsies includes this line: "It's a big state."

They're known, usually, in only one little district of Texas. They don't usually have strong organizations or statewide fundraising networks. The political party infrastructure has been privatized over the years, with politicians and their committees — and outside political action committees — controlling most of that machinery in the state.

And they have to survive party primaries before they become part of statewide tickets — many don't survive that round.

McCaul, R-Austin, would have faced another obstacle this year. "Congress" is a dirty word and his opponents in a Senate race would have wrapped it around his neck. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison found that out last year, challenging Rick Perry in GOP primary that turned into a referendum on Washington. Washington, and Hutchison, lost.

Jim Mattox left Congress and successfully won statewide election as Texas Attorney General in 1982 and again in 1986. He lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1990 to Ann Richards, who went on to become governor later that year. He lost a bid for U.S. Senate in 1994 and a run for attorney general in 1998.

Phil Gramm broke through, and he's the Republican people like to point to when they're suiting up for a big race. But he was a national figure, in a national fight, with Ronald Reagan's arm around his shoulder. He staged his party switch from the Democrats to the Republicans. He quit office early and forced a special election, which he won as a member of the GOP. And he brawled his way through a primary in 1984 (against Ron Paul, among others) and then a general election and into the Senate seat he held from 1985 to 2002.

Kent Hance, whose national profile was, for a few short moments, as bright as Gramm's, lost in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate that year. He and Gramm could have been on opposite sides of the ballot. But Hance lost to Lloyd Doggett, who lost to Gramm. Hance came back, as a Republican. He lost the 1986 GOP primary for governor, got appointed to the Texas Railroad Commission, won a term there and then for governor again in 1990, falling short again. Now he's the chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

Those are exceptions. A gaggle of prominent and non-prominent members of the congressional delegation went to Washington and found they couldn't come home again. The rolls of congressmen who tried and failed in the last 30 years includes Mike Andrews, Joe Barton, Chris Bell, Ken Bentsen, John Bryant, Jim Chapman, Jack Fields, Bob Krueger and Tom Loeffler.

Texans are happy to send people to Washington, but it's been a long time since they let one come back for anything but retirement or a change of careers.

Campaign Chatter

U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst
U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is running a state version of a Rose Garden strategy in his bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, appearing only rarely with lesser-known opponents who'd like to get more chances to poke at him. The loudest of that group, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, is now challenging Dewhurst to a series of five Lincoln-Douglas-style debates. No acceptance letter has come out of the frontrunner's camp, but a group called the Grassroots Texans Network says now that it will sponsor the debates if they're held. The invitations apparently don't include the other candidates in the field, such as former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones. Leppert, meanwhile, is up with his second TV ad, this one titled "Fix things with a speech?" It's a shot at Cruz and Dewhurst, identified in his spot as "a lawyer and a career politician."

Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman found 69 people who'll vote for him; his campaign says that many Republicans in the Texas House have endorsed his first bid for statewide election. Gov. Rick Perry appointed Smitherman to the post earlier this year and he's seeking election in 2012.

Add Jerome Tilghman, an educator and retired Army major, to El Paso's congressional race. Tilghman, a Democrat, is getting into the primary with U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes and former City Rep. Beto O'Rourke.

Jim Kuiken, a Republican from Weslaco, will challenge U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Edinburg. Kuiken served in the Marines and the Marine Reserve for 30 years, worked for the Border Patrol and is now a business consultant.

Bracy Wilson, a McKinney Republican, will run for the Texas House in Ken Paxton's seat; Scott Sanford, a CPA and executive pastor of  a Baptist church is in that same race. Paxton is running for the state Senate. Wilson is the founder of HelpCharters LLC, a charter school developer.

The political arms of some big trade associations are sponsoring a meet-and-greet for Chris Paddie, a Republican running in HD-9. What's unusual about that? It's not an open seat: state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, is the incumbent there. Paddie is the mayor of Marshall and general manager of a radio station there. The political action committees of three groups — the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Association of Manufacturers and the Texas Ophthalmological Association — are hosting.

The Conservative Republicans of Texas — a Houston-based group fronted by Dr. Steve Hotze — released its first endorsements of the season. The group's list: Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, and Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown. All are running for Senate seats. Hotze sent out email blasts on behalf of each, including personalized web videos featuring him saying nice things about the candidates.

State Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, who had an unexpectedly strong challenge in her primary in 2010, picked up an endorsement in this round from Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

The Texas Academy of Family Physicians PAC endorsed former state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Burleson, in his bid for HD-101, an open seat in Tarrant County. 

Dallas tax consultant Brint Ryan has signed up as campaign finance chairman for state Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas. Ryan, a former mayoral candidate, is also co-founder of Make Us Great Again, the super PAC supporting Gov. Rick Perry's bid for president.

Empower Texans PAC endorsed Republican Supreme Court Justice Don Willett for reelection.

The Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC endorsed freshman state Rep. Marva Beck, R-Centerville.

Running for reelection: State Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington.

Inside Intelligence: On the Issues

We mirrored some of the questions from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll again this week, to get an idea where the insiders stand and to have a look, later, at the differences between the insiders and registered voters in the general public (take a look at Jim Henson's analysis of last week's Inside Intelligence and how the public answered the same questions).

Insiders put education at the top of their list of issues facing the state of Texas, followed by the economy, the water supply and state budget cuts (a tie), and political corruption/leadership.

Illegal immigrants who have lived in the state for at least a year and who graduated from Texas high schools ought to get lower in-state tuition rates and Texas colleges and universities, according to 75 percent of the insiders. Spoiler alert: Only 28 percent of the registered voters in the UT/Tribune poll agreed with that position.

Eighty percent of the insiders said most of the people they know would vote for a Mormon presidential candidate if they agreed with the candidate on the issues.

Most of the insiders — 58 percent — believe people are "occasionally" wrongly convicted of death penalty cases in Texas. Another 32 percent said that "almost never" happens.

Education is at the top of the issue list, and the insiders think the schools could be better and say the state spends too little on public education. Half said the quality of K-12 education is "not very good," while 41 percent say it's "good." Those were the middle choices — most of the insiders stayed away from "excellent" and "terrible." Two-thirds said Texas spends too little on public education; in the comments, many cited concerns about the allocation of the money that does get spent.

We collected comments and, as always, attached the full set. Here's a sampling:

What would you say is the most important problem facing the state of Texas today?

• "Divide political corruption and leadership. Political corruption is a problem, but it is dwarfed by the leadership vacuum. Part of the problem with leadership is, admittedly, a lack of commitment to ethics, but if there is no one to carry the ball, who cares if they step out of bounds?"

• "The Legislature needs to step up and create a comprehensive water policy. This is not a new issue ... just one that appears to big for lawmakers to face."

• "We are dangerously close to caste system of the haves and the have-nots. Inner city kids denied a quality education will only drive up our social costs - welfare, prison, etc. Texas will no longer be an economic beacon."

• "No water=No work. We need full-blown conservation efforts to protect our economy, not our environment."

• "Health care costs are taking an increasing and growing portion of business expenses and local and state budgets, not to mention increased cost sharing out of individuals pocketbook"

• "This is not an effective survey, too many choices. My choice is meant to reflect my belief that the Republican's hold on state government at every level has eliminated any scrutiny. Courts are compromised, laws are punitive, administration cannot be challenged, long-held rules are ignored etc. Every decision is meant to help a powerful business or contributor, or discourage the poor, or defile political opponents. Texas will not remain a leading state in this atmosphere; it has already begun to be ignored as a force for positive change. Nothing good has happened through the government since 2003 ... it can't."

• "We have a public education crisis that threatens Texas' future economic viability. Enormous numbers of Texas young people are not completing high school. If this trend continues, we will not have the skilled workforce we need for the future, and Texas will have a giant underclass that lacks the education and skills needed to earn a living wage, and will need government assistance just to make ends meet."

• "Media, and political leadership, are telling the masses what they want to hear rather than being thought leaders. This underlies all problems."

Should illegal immigrants who have graduated from a Texas high school and lived in the state for at least a year receive lower in-state tuition rates at Texas public colleges and universities, or should they have to pay the higher tuition rate for out-of-state students?

• "If they're living here, they're paying the same state taxes as legal residents — property, sales, and use taxes. Why not give them the benefit?"

• "Once we've invested a few hundred thousand graduating them from HS, it doesn't make sense to bail on them for undergrad."

• "Come on, aren't we tired of this now? Isn't this one pretty clear?"

• "A red herring issue. If they go to high school in Texas and get a diploma in Texas, they are in-state students."

• "A college graduate will have more resources to contribute to the state than an uneducated person...regardless of immigrant status."

• "It's mind-boggling, that an Oklahoman who lives ten feet from the state border would have to pay a higher rate than another country's citizen whose eligibility is based on having broken the law successfully for at least one year."

Do you think most people you know would vote for a Mormon presidential candidate if they agreed with him or her on the issues?

• "Maybe. Depends on who they were running against (isn't Obama a Muslim?) and how much they know about the Mormons... and their own planets they get to go to when they die."

• "The people who believe that Romney doesn't have any political principles should believe that he doesn't have any religious ones either."

• "Gold tablets. Burning bush. What's the difference?"

• "Would like to think so, but also know many Christians would not, particularly in the South, as Mormonism is a cult."

• "This issue is more than just a proxy for religious bigotry. A candidate's religious views and religious participation do convey important information to voters. Is that aspect of a person's life any less important or revealing than his education, career or family life (all 3 of which are categories that usually get emphasized)?"

How often do you think people are wrongly convicted of death penalty offenses in the state of Texas?

• "While our judicial system is not fool-proof, let's not dismiss the 99.9% of the time that the system gets it right in cases where the death penalty is fully warranted."

• "In Houston, Dallas and Tarrant, it has been rampant. Virtually every death penalty under those wretched big city DA's in the 70's, 80's and 90's should be reexamined, and every single charge the Williamson County DA has filed since taking office should be reconsidered by a neutral prosecutor."

• "Once would be too much. Especially when the prosecutors fight against even DNA evidence and the Board of Pardons and Parole refuses to recommend clemency."

• "There are adequate measures currently in place to appeal such wrong convictions. Thankfully, reversals are rare, which means our legal system is working well."

• "Almost never is not never. Most disturbing is that Texas seems in deep denial on this issue."

Would you say that the quality of K-12 public school education in Texas is:

• "Suburbia - good to excellent. Inner city - terrible."

• "Each year, children graduate from Texas High Schools and they must take REMEDIAL English and Math before moving on to College Level courses! If they were truly being taught in school, these classes would be unnecessary"

• "Depends on where you live. I don't see families in Westlake or Lake Travis rushing to pull their kids out of public school"

• "There are numerous exceptions (Highland Park, Westlake), but the combination of lots of factors--cutbacks in funding, Robin Hood, etc., etc., means that a majority of Texas schoolchildren are NOT receiving the educations they need."

• "High stakes accountability testing has narrowed the overall educational experience for students and created robotic test-takers instead of creative right-brain thinkers."

Do you think that Texas spends too much, too little, or about the right amount on primary and secondary education?

• "Look at results, not spending. Or so the saying goes, until the results start to look bad."

• "We spend without a clue of what it costs. No financial accountability, no measure of productivity."

• "You can't be serious with this question. Is there any reasonable person in Texas who thinks we spend too much on public education?"

• "When more dollars come with a guarantee of better performance by students, teachers and administrators, then it will be time to open the spigot all the way - but not until then."

• "Hard to make the case that the problem with public education is that we're spending too little."

• "More money needs to be spent on teachers and classrooms. The issue is not the money it is where and how it is used."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, James Aldrete, Clyde Alexander, Louis Bacarisse, Tom Banning, Mike Barnett, Reggie Bashur, Walt Baum, Don Baylor, Leland Beatty, Dave Beckwith, Amy Beneski, Rebecca Bernhardt, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Steve Bresnen, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Snapper Carr, Tris Castaneda, Corbin Casteel, William Chapman, Elizabeth Christian, Rick Cofer, Lawrence Collins, John Colyandro, Harold Cook, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Tom Duffy, Anne Dunkelberg, David Dunn, Jeff Eller, Alan Erwin, Gay Erwin, Jon Fisher, Robert Floyd, Terry Frakes, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Eric Glenn, Daniel Gonzalez, Kathy Grant, John Greytok, Jack Gullahorn, Anthony Haley, Bill Hammond, Sandy Haverlah, Albert Hawkins, Adam Haynes, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Laura Huffman, Kathy Hutto, Shanna Igo, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Mark Jones, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Donald Lee, Luke Legate, Rebecca Lightsey, Homero Lucero, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Bryan Mayes, Dan McClung, Scott McCown, Debra Medina, Lynn Moak, Bee Moorhead, Steve Murdock, Craig Murphy, Keir Murray, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Sylvia Nugent, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Bill Pewitt, Jerry Philips, Wayne Pierce, Kraege Polan, Ted Melina Raab, Andrea Rado, Bill Ratliff, Karen Reagan, Tim Reeves, Carl Richie, Kim Ross, Jason Sabo, Mark Sanders, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Julie Shields, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Keith Strama, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Russ Tidwell, Bruce Todd, Trent Townsend, Trey Trainor, John Weaver, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Michael Wilt, Seth Winick, Alex Winslow, Lee Woods, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

Inside, Outside: Damning with Faint Praise

Gov. Rick Perry while leaving the Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Oct. 11, 2011.
Gov. Rick Perry while leaving the Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Oct. 11, 2011.

If the October 2011 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll captured Texans in a lukewarm mood about Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential bid, the Texas Tribune/Texas Weekly Inside Intelligence survey found Texas insiders edging into downright cranky territory in their assessments of the governor.

As we did last May, we took a few questions verbatim from the October UT/Tribune poll and put them before the decidedly unscientific sample we take every week on current events preoccupying the inside baseball crowd in Texas. Last week’s Inside Intelligence questions focused on attitudes toward Perry and the impact of his presidential campaign.

It appears that familiarity has bred, if not contempt, certainly a comparatively skeptical attitude toward Gov. Perry among those who responded last week. Overall, most of the insider assessments were more negative of Perry than those found in the statewide poll. The differences were generally not large, but they were consistent.

Perry job approval
Approve strongly 13% 14%
Approve somewhat 20% 25%
Neither approve nor disapprove 3% 14%
Disapprove somewhat 20% 13%
Disapprove strongly 45% 31%
Don’t know 0% 2%

In the most general assessment of Perry’s job performance as governor, the insiders were only somewhat less approving than the registered voter sample — 33% versus 39%, as the table above illustrates. But crankiness in the insiders’ pool shows up in the composition of those who disapprove: With only 2.5% straddling the non-committal middle ground, the insiders went negative on the governor in noticeably larger numbers, and more intensely: 64% versus 44% in the UT/TT poll, with 45% of the insiders disapproving intensely.

Which terms best describe Gov. Rick Perry
Honest 4.16 5.05
Career politician 8.68 7.11
Conservative 7.5 7.4
Corrupt 4.27 4.58
Strong leader 5.12 5.89
Competent 4.22 5.6
Outsider 2.18 3.86
Self-serving 7.84 5.64
Straight talker 4.24 5.36
A real Texan 6.82 6.32

Note: Responses to traits were randomly rotated and not all respondents received all traits. Responses for each trait ranged from 372 to 421.

The insider responses to the items that asked respondents how well a word or short phrase described Perry also suggest that the insiders are somewhat less impressed with the governor than the statewide sample. The table above reports the mean scores for the responses in both groups; the higher the number, the more apt the group found the term at describing Perry. The mean score from the insiders for all of the straightforwardly positive terms — “honest”, “strong leader”, “competent”, “straight talker” — were all lower among the insiders than in the UT/Tribune Poll. Some of the differences were very small; the difference on “honest” was less than one. (Both scores were near the middle of the scale — 5.05 for the statewide survey, and slightly into the realm of negative judgment on this point, 4.16, for the insiders.)

The insiders were also comparatively tougher in applying negative terms to the governor. Calling someone a “career politician” may not automatically get you in a fist fight at your local bar (unless it’s The Cloak Room), but in contemporary politics it’s certainly not a term of endearment, and the insider group found this the most apt term for the governor. This was the second-highest ranking response in the general survey, though the mean score was more than a point-and-a-half less among regular folks — who may also attach a somewhat more negative connotation to the term than do the career political professionals that make up the bulk of the insider group. The insiders also went much stronger for “self-serving” than the general population. If we go by dictionary definitions, I think it would be fair to give the insiders a 10 for “cynical”. (By comparison, the general population didn’t embrace “self-serving” nearly as enthusiastically.)

Impact of Perry Candidacy on National Image of Texas
Helped 12% 19%
Hurt 57% 37%
Had no effect 30% 34%
Don’t know 1% 11%

The insiders and the statewide sample found it easier to agree on the less judgment-laden items: The mean scores for “conservative” are almost the same (and, not surprisingly, are high). There seems to be a consensus that Perry can reasonably be thought of as “a real Texan,” though it might hurt a little that the governor didn’t break 7 in the mean scores here. (As a guy born in California, I look at these results and kind of wonder what a guy has to do to have Texans think of him as a real Texan. If Rick Perry ain’t it…)

Explaining the State's Comparative Economic Success
Natural resources and long-standing policies have helped Texas fare better than the rest of the country. 80% 65%
Rick Perry’s leadership and policies have helped Texas fare better than the rest of the country. 18% 21%
Don’t Know 3% 14%

The insiders were even less convinced than the statewide sample that Perry deserves credit for the relative success of the Texas economy (a somewhat arguable premise, I know, but we were interested in how the message was received, not its accuracy). They were also less inclined to think that the governor’s foray into presidential politics was helping the state's image in the rest of the country, and more inclined to think it was actually hurting. The latter result was perhaps the most negative judgment among the insiders: More than half of the group passed on the chance to say his candidacy helped or had no effect, choosing to affirmatively conclude it had hurt Texas’ image. Ouch.

Again, the limitations of the insiders’ pool are worth mentioning. There is no effort to make the insiders a politically representative group. At first blush their self-declared partisan affiliation — 34% Democrat, 36% Republican, and 30% independent — is not particularly skewed. But the large number of independents likely conceals the same dynamic we see among independents in political polling. When pushed to indicate how they lean, independents that admit to leaning toward one party or the other tend to be fairly ideologically committed. That is, the preferences of independents that lean toward a party look a lot more like strong partisans than weak ones. Since the Inside Intelligence survey doesn’t follow up independent responses with an attempt to smoke out the leaners, we don’t know anything about the ideological make up of the leaners (or even if any leaners are choosing to identify as independent).

Party identification
Democrat 34% 29%
Republican 36% 34%
Independent 30% 27%
DK/Skip 0% 2%

Note: Responses combine 7-point party identification responses, with Republican and Democratic leaning independents combined as "independents" for purposes of comparison.

The insiders, whose names are published under the aggregate results in the Tribune and Texas Weekly, are also likely to be very inclined to check in as independent rather than chance revealing their partisan allegiances, despite the fact that names are not identified with particular responses. Some of them, of course, are professionally affiliated with party politics, so it’s not a problem for them. Back of the envelope assessments of the list of respondents suggest that the pool isn’t harboring a huge collection of leftist Perry haters. I would say that there are some Real Texans in there, though I’m thinking there’s more of an “eye of the beholder” factor in that judgment than I realized.

The latest UT/Tribune internet survey of 800 registered voters was conducted October 19-26. The margin of error is +/-3.46 percent. On questions asked only of Republican voters, the MOE is +/- 4.93 percent; on questions asked only of Democratic voters, the MOE is 6.39 percent.

Flying the Flag

Houston has a city election going on and there are ten constitutional amendments on the ballot. Next Tuesday — November 8 — is Election Day.

Early voting is underway and has been since October 24, but it's not easy to prove it.

In the state's 15 biggest counties, through Wednesday of the this week (Nov. 2), turnout was 1.4 percent.

A total of 116,059 people had voted through that date. Those counties have a combined 8.1 million registered voters, according to the Texas Secretary of State.

Harris, Bexar and Travis counties had each turned out more than 2 percent of their registered voters (don't get a big head — the high mark here is 2.5 percent); Hidalgo County, where 0.5 percent had voted through Wednesday, was the stinker in this particular woodpile.

So far, anyway. They've got until Tuesday.


The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Harris County officials may have jumped the gun when they included instructions on enforcing the state’s new voter ID law in a training manual. The legislation, which passed in the spring legislative session, requires voters to show a photo ID but does not take effect until Jan. 1. Election judges receiving training in Houston were confused by the information directing them to require anyone who shows up to vote to provide photo identification. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart acknowledged the error and said it had been corrected.

As the redistricting debate drags on with the state’s newly redrawn maps still pending, the filing period that candidates will have is shrinking. The three-judge panel that is working on creating interim maps for the 2012 elections announced that it would not be able to get those maps redrawn and approved in time for the opening of the filing period on Nov. 12. Officials in the secretary of state’s election division said they’d also need time to prepare for any new configurations of the maps. The deadline for filing is Dec. 12.

Texas’ handling of disaster relief is under scrutiny from the feds, and former state workers may be interested in the proceedings. Many of those employees lost their jobs as the state made cuts to departments handling disaster relief and recovery and contracted the work out to a private company, HNTB. Their contract was canceled as of Aug. 31, but not before the state had spent about $32 million for their services. That amount represents about 90 percent of money budgeted for managing infrastructure grants awarded to communities affected by hurricanes Ike and Dolly, but the firm reportedly only saw about 20 percent of the projects through to completion.

In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week, House Speaker Joe Straus expressed dismay at what he characterized as an assault on higher education this legislative session. After Perry’s appointment of a critic of academic research at higher institutions, debate raged about how the state funds universities, and research in particular. Straus expressed hope that the tone of the debate would be more civil in the future and that some of the common goals could be reached without such vitriol.

Gov. Rick Perry, attempting to reboot his presidential campaign, made the biggest headlines earlier this week for an awkward speech he delivered in New Hampshire. The video of Perry, variously described as energetic, fidgety and possibly under the influence, quickly went viral on the internet. Asked about the speech in Iowa, Perry said he “felt great” during the speech and thought the event went well.

“Occupy” movements are encountering challenges in cities across the nation. The Occupy Austin movement found itself in conflict with city officials when 37 protesters were arrested on a charge that would have prevented them from returning to the site of the protest, City Hall, for one year. But leaders of the group and city officials came to an agreement Monday to review each of the cases, clearing the way for protesters to return once their case has been reviewed and they’ve received a rescission or modification of the criminal trespass charge. Meanwhile, leaders of the group are working with city officials to modify their distribution of food and to work with the city to clean the plaza.

State park rangers are shooting burros in Big Bend State Park, and locals aren’t the only ones upset. The Washington Post reported that the killing of 130 free-roaming donkeys is not sitting well with protesters who say the state’s new policy is designed to protect the bighorn sheep in the park so that their population can grow and be hunted in the future. A permit to hunt bighorns has been sold at auction for more than $100,000, and critics of the burro killing suggest that it’s all about rich hunters getting their chance to hunt the rare bighorn sheep by letting them have the run of the 316,000 acre range. A petition on has collected more than 94,000 signatures protesting the practice.

While it’s predicted that the current drought could continue unabated for at least another year, water systems across the state are feeling the pinch. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s figures show that 91 percent of the state is facing extreme or exceptional drought and that the critical water shortage has caused at least 20 percent of water districts to impose mandatory restrictions or bans on watering. Additionally, 23 of the 4,271 community water systems are so critically low on water that officials are having a hard time determining how long their supplies will last. Reported levels at water supply reservoirs fell below 60 percent capacity in September, the lowest on record since 1978.

It’s unclear what will come of a video posted on YouTube of a county court at law judge beating his daughter. The video was date-stamped 2004 and shows a man beating and cursing at a teenage girl for more than seven minutes. Aransas County Attorney Richard Bianchi confirmed that Judge William Adams is the man in the video and that county officials and Rockport police are reviewing the it for possible sanctions.

Political People and their Moves

Guy Diedrich is the Texas A&M University System's new vice chancellor for federal and state relations, and Frank Ashley III is the new vice chancellor of recruitment and diversity. The school's new chancellor, John Sharp, announced the promotions and also said he'll bring in a management consulting firm — MGT of America — to try to streamline operations. Diedrich, founder and president of Austin Technology Ventures, had a similar job at A&M until 2010. Ashley has been the system's vice chancellor for academic affairs since May 2007. Stanton Calvert, the current head of government relations for A&M will become vice chancellor emeritus.

Gov. Rick Perry added some staffers to his presidential campaign, including Chip Roy, who assisted on the governor's book Fed Up. He and Brandy Marty will be senior advisors. Victoria Coates, Sean Davis Emily Domenech and Shana Gooch will join the campaign's policy shop. Roy was most recently director of state-federal relations for the governor. Marty was his director of budget, planning and policy. Coates worked for Donald Rumsfeld and will advise Perry on foreign policy. Davis was a U.S. Senate staffer and CFO for The Daily Caller; he'll be an economic advisor. Domenech worked for the secretary of defense from 2007-11; she'll work on defense, energy and environmental issues.

Press corps moves: Scott Braddock, who got to Austin about ten minutes ago, is moving to Houston to join a new all-news radio operation at 92 on the FM dial. He came to Austin and the Texas State Network from Dallas, and did a fair amount of Capitol coverage in both gigs. The new place goes on the air on November 14.

Deaths: Travis Sampley, chief of staff to state Rep. Ralph Sheffield, from an aortic dissection. He was 32. A memorial service will be held in Austin next Tuesday at First United Methodist Church, across the street from the Capitol.

Roy Talley, a longtime lobbyist for Mobil Oil known for regularly holding court at breakfast at the Driskill Hotel. He was 80.

Quotes of the Week

We have no choice, unless we want to continue to try to grow our population and continue to shrink spending significantly. I think at some point you can't cut your way to prosperity.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, quoted by the El Paso Times

We want to think politics should be better. But maybe it is more reflective of us. And that may be what we don’t like to see.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, quoted in Politico

It was a great crowd. Good response, and I guess you can do anything you want with a video and make it look any way you want, but I felt good, felt great. I think the message got across very well, so it was a good speech.

Gov. Rick Perry, on a viral video of his speech he gave in New Hampshire

There are five candidates. I read all the national stories. Half the story was about Rick Perry. The other four candidates who were there got, like, one sentence, one little blurb, basically, at the bottom of the story. The first half of the story and the whole story is about Rick Perry.

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, quoted in The New York Times

The finger pointing that’s going on with all of this is unfortunate, and it makes me sad. It makes me sad to see this. It’s not good for our party. It’s not about what this election is about.

First lady Anita Perry on the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal