Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune

Managing Editor, Texas Tribune

Ross Ramsey is managing editor of The Texas Tribune and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. Texas Weekly was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly 2 million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas. Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was associate deputy comptroller for policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's director of communications. Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin bureau chief. Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.

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Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

Republican Mitt Romney has a commanding lead over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race in Texas, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The survey of likely voters found that 55 percent support Romney while 39 percent support the incumbent. The remaining 6 percent said they support someone else.

Michael Stravato

The baby boom — that fat lump that has been moving through the demographic snake since the end of World War II — is now made up of people between 45 and 65 years old, give or take.

They are starting to retire, prompting some of the growing conversations about pensions. Their bodies are getting old, which explains some of the ballooning advertising about drugs for this or that. Seen all the hearing aid ads in the paper? Products for gray hair? Couples sitting in bathtubs next to lakes?

As of 2010, 13 percent of the nation’s population was 65 or older. By 2030, demographers reckon that group will account for 19.3 percent of the population. Boomers are not babies anymore — and there are some public policy ramifications.

Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

Greg Abbott, the state’s ambitious and litigious attorney general, is on a losing streak.

Federal courts in Washington ruled against him in two crucial voting rights cases last week, first finding that the redistricting maps drawn by the Republican Legislature didn’t protect minority voters as the law requires, and then ruling the state’s tough new photo voter ID law unfairly burdens minority voters.

Neither ruling appears to be a threat to the elections now under way. In the case of redistricting, the state’s maps were replaced this year with interim maps prepared by another set of federal judges. In the case of voter ID, there doesn’t appear to be enough time for the courts to turn around an appeal and order the new standards before November.

Michael Stravato, Texas Tribune

Dull as it sounds, appointing the committees in the state Senate is a big deal. The lieutenant governor is dishing out power, giving more to this senator than to that one, letting the senators know how they rank for the next several months. The idea is to get things done while strengthening friendships and loyalties, to do it without making too many enemies and to be sure the enemies who remain are too weak to fight back.

That’s the inside game. Outside, the public is watching, particularly that narrow slice of the public that votes in primary elections. Now that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has decided to run for re-election in 2014, what he does with his committee assignments for the 2013 legislative session is the first step in his next campaign.

Bob Daemmrich / Eric Kayne, Texas Tribune

This might be kind of awkward.

Usually, when candidates with seemingly every advantage blow their political races, they retreat into the holes they crawled out of.

In fact, until this year, Texas never had to contend with statewide officeholders serving after being rejected by the voters.

Now we have two.

Todd Wiseman / Gage Skidmore, Texas Tribune

The pundits have this one all wrong.

Their persistent and ubiquitous storyline is that the Tea Party and the politicians who've embraced it are beating stodgy incumbents all over the country, winning an ideological battle against moderates whose conservative blades have been dulled by years of governing and compromising.

The argument travels through Indiana, where a longtime U.S. Senate incumbent who apparently didn’t visit home often enough lost to an insurgent candidate who wasn’t supposed to have a shot. It hopped to Nebraska, where two statewide officeholders beat the stuffing out of each other while a lesser-known candidate favored by insurgents emerged unscratched.

Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

Even with nine candidates in the Republican primary to replace United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, just about everybody bet on Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to win outright.

Instead, he is in a runoff against Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, an energetic opponent who tapped into the anti-establishment vein in the Texas Republican Party. Dewhurst is still the front-runner, but he is no longer the inevitability presented throughout the spring.

And now the spotlight is brighter. Dewhurst and Cruz don’t have to compete for attention with a presidential race or contests in other states. National political reporters looking for things to cover are more likely than normal to be planning visits to the Texas barbecue trail. They — like the people they cover — are trying to connect the dots this election year, to figure out whether there is any theme or trend in the results.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera for Texas Tribune

Texas Democrats, trying to compete in a state that overwhelmingly favors Republican candidates for executive, legislative and judicial offices, elected their first Hispanic chairman Saturday.

In a reflection of the state’s burgeoning Hispanic growth and the party’s longtime success with Latinos, delegates overwhelmingly elected Gilberto Hinojosa as the next party chairman. He will replace outgoing chairman Boyd Richie, who announced in April 2011 that he would not seek another term after six years on the job.

Hinojosa successfully breathed some life into the sparse crowd on the convention floor with a fiery speech before the delegates cast an overwhelming majority of votes in his favor.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune / Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A charismatic personality isn't going to end the Texas Democratic Party long electoral drought, three prominent local officeholders said Friday. But bickering Republicans and a renewed effort to build their party and their bench of candidates will help bring Texas Democrats back into statewide office.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Are political conventions necessary?

Texas Democrats are in Houston for their state convention. Texas Republicans are in Fort Worth for the same thing. The Libertarians are meeting this weekend near DFW Airport, and the Green Party is having its convention outside of San Antonio.

It’s actually easier to make the convention case for the Libertarians and the Greens, who use their gatherings to put people on the ballot, because they don’t hold primary elections.

Photo courtesy Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Michael Quinn Sullivan and the influential conservative group he leads, Empower Texans, haven't filed required disclosure reports on their lobbying and campaign activities, two Republican state legislators said in formal complaints filed today with the Texas Ethics Commission.

In one complaint, Reps. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and Vicki Truitt, R-Southlake, said Sullivan lobbied in 2010 and 2011 without filing the required lobbyist disclosures that he had filed up until that time.

In their filing, they said Sullivan and his employees lobbied lawmakers during the last quarter of 2010 and into 2011, when lawmakers began their most recent legislative session. "That direct communication included written communications directed to elected members of the Texas House of Representatives and staff employed by them expressing the action on legislation preferred by Mr. Sullivan's employer," they wrote.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman / Chris Chang, Texas Tribune

This is a squeeze play.

The state’s Hispanic population is blooming, and its black population grew faster than its Anglo population. But Anglos still dominate the political maps, and Latinos dominate the part of the political maps controlled by minorities.

When the Legislature drew political lines, minority groups were in widespread agreement that the maps didn’t reflect the growth — there were not enough seats where minority voters had the ability to decide elections.

Texas outgrew the other states in the country, so much so that it added four seats to the 32 already in its congressional delegation.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams will join the Republican primary for a congressional seat that stretches 200 miles from the southern edge of Tarrant County to Hays County, south of Austin.

"We're excited and ready to get going," Williams told the Tribune Thursday morning, as he was preparing to file with the state GOP.

Williams initially set out to run for U.S. Senate, but switched to a race for Congress after the Legislature drew new maps. But those maps died in court, and the Weatherford Republican ended up in a district, CD-12, with an incumbent — Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth — that he didn't want to challenge.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Gov. Rick Perry might run for re-election in 2014, and he could run again for president in 2016.

Isn’t this familiar?

Three years ago, as the legislative session began in January, politically minded Texans talked about whether it would be Perry’s last ride as governor. Lobbyists wondered openly whether they were dealing with a lame duck.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was quietly talking to advisers about a 2010 race for governor, presumably hoping to step into the office after Perry stepped out.

Now it’s Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general, who is quietly talking about working in the Texas Capitol’s middle office. The conversation among lobbyists is there, still, along with a bemused and persistent cautionary note: Remember last time, when Perry turned out not to be a lame duck?

Illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

[UPDATED] Election officials were told to prepare for a possible May 29 primary, as redistricting foes reached agreement on a map for Texas Senate elections this afternoon and continued talks on state House and congressional maps. That Senate deal means they won't alter Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis' Tarrant County district. 

SAN ANTONIO — Redistricting foes reached agreement on a statewide map for Texas Senate elections this afternoon and continued working on state House and congressional maps.

The fight over the Senate map was all about Tarrant County's Senate District 10, where Democrat Wendy Davis is the incumbent. Under their agreement, they'll leave the district alone, leaving Davis with the same plan that put her in office. It's a marginally Republican district that voted for John McCain for president in 2008 and for Rick Perry for governor in 2010. But for Davis, who had been drawn into a more hostile district by her fellow legislators, the deal is a win.

The lawyers presented it as an "interim" plan, meaning they reserve the right to fight again when permanent maps are drawn. But if it's approved by the court, this will be the map used for the 2012 elections.

That was a bright spot in a day when the lawyers and judges trudged through the lists of differences over political districts for legislative and congressional seats. The judges put the lawyers through their paces, asking them to make their arguments on congressional maps district by district.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Still no maps, still no date.

The federal judges who asked attorneys to negotiate a deal on political maps for this year's elections instead got a day of explanations and arguments about why no such agreement has been made.

Image courtesy YouTube

Political redistricting is for real nerds, for those sometimes overly serious people who have spent a great deal of time learning and thinking about something that’s outside the day-to-day experience or interest of the rest of us.

For the political lawyers, the subject comes with layers of statutes and case law and the certainty that one or more cases will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That’s nerd heaven, you know: dense, complicated, both dull and important and loaded with the chance to get the public’s full attention, if only for a second, every 10 years.

graphic by: Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

With hearings on redistricting scheduled for next week and deadlines for April primaries pending, a panel of federal judges told lawyers Friday afternoon to redouble their efforts to reach a quick settlement on interim political maps for the state's congressional and legislative elections.

That's not the first time they've told the lawyers to talk, but negotiations stalled this week when the state and some plaintiffs reached an agreement that several other plaintiffs didn't like.

Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

In a parallel political universe — one in which redistricting maps were in place and elections were on schedule — Texas would be getting national attention right now.

The four survivors in the Republican presidential primary race would be hitting all the stops on the barbecue circuit, wearing jeans and boots, raising money, posing for pictures and saying remarkable things to be played over and over on TV.

Instead, the earliest possible date for our primary elections will come after 34 states and territories have already spoken, either through primaries or caucuses. It could come later, leaving Texas to join 13 states that hold presidential primaries in May and June.

Just think of it. If the federal courts had approved the maps drawn by the Legislature, or those drawn by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio last year, we’d be less than two weeks away from early voting.

Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The state unveiled proposed redistricting maps, saying some of the parties in that litigation have signed off on at least some of the lines.

Today is a court-set deadline: Three federal judges in San Antonio told the redistricting parties that they needed to reach an agreement by this afternoon to preserve any hope of holding political primaries on April 3. Those primaries, already delayed from March 6, could be pushed back to May or June if maps aren't in place in time to stage the elections.

Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he had reached agreement on most parts of the maps with most of the parties involved. Notably absent from the deal are the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the NAACP, the so-called Davis plaintiffs, and the Texas Democratic Party, who sued over the Senate district maps in Tarrant County.

In a conference call on the proposal, Abbott says he's confident that the state will have a primary in April. "The plan that is now posted — that will not be objected to by a large number of parties to this lawsuit — addresses all of the Section 5 and Section 2 objections [under the federal Voting Rights Act]," he said.