David Dewhurst

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

In a speech in Washington, D.C., on Friday, outgoing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst doubled down on claims that Muslim prayer rugs had been found on the Texas-Mexico border.

"Prayer rugs have recently been found on the Texas side of the border in the brush," Dewhurst said at the Values Voter Summit, according to a report on Friday by Talking Points Memo, a liberal news site.

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It's been 12 weeks since the March primaries. And with so much time, and in some cases so much money on hand, some of the six races on the ballot have turned pretty nasty.

At the top of the list is the headline-grabbing Republican Lieutenant Governor's race between incumbent David Dewhurst and State Senator Dan Patrick.

Update: Today, KUT's Ben Philpott talked to WBUR's Here and Now about the Lieutenant Governor primary. Listen to the interview here

Original story (7 a.m.): A political mailer was sent to hundreds of thousands of Republican voters recently, calling on them to elect what it called “Tea Party Champions” in tomorrow’s Republican runoff elections. But many Tea Party leaders in the state have never heard of the group that put out the glossy ad.

The previously unheard of "United Texas Tea Party" isn't the only fishy thing about this mailer, according to Tea Party activist Katrina Pierson. It shows Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst alongside Tea Party-backed candidates like Attorney General candidate Ken Paxton and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Sid Miller. That’s despite the fact that most Tea Party groups back Dewhurst's opponent, State Sen. Dan Patrick.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera /Mark Graham for Texas Tribune

Texas is about five weeks away from several runoff elections that will set the final ballot for November. That includes the hard fought Lieutenant Governor's race between incumbent David Dewhurst, who's held the office since 2003, and state Sen. Dan Patrick

From the very beginning, this was a race about who was the most conservative candidate. So when Sen. Patrick launched his campaign last year, his first move was to paint himself as the conservative standard-bearer – while putting Lt. Governor Dewhurst's own conservative credentials in doubt.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The four Republican candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor met last night in a debate broadcast across the state. And, as it’s been through the months leading up to the March primaries, the hour-long event showed few differences among the candidates when it came to policy. But that didn’t stop them from attacking each other throughout the night.

As a three-term incumbent, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has been the main punching bag of his three challengers throughout the campaign. With each highlighting what they consider missteps by Dewhurst as reason to give someone else a chance at the job.

Texas State Library and Archives

George P. Bush has more than $2.8 million to spend on his campaign for Texas Land Commissioner. His two main challengers, a Republican and a Democrat, have a combined total of around $20,000. 

Democrat John Cook, former Mayor of El Paso, reports raising about $13,000 since June. Republican David Watts's campaign finance filing this week indicates fundraising in the second half of 2013 of about $7,000. 

Dr. Brian Smith is a professor of political science at St. Edward’s University in Austin. He says what the Bush campaign is doing is a tried and true intimidation tactic.

“He’s over-raising money to scare off any potential Republican challenger,” Smith says. “If I’m a Democrat I would be, like, wow, I have to raise $3.3 million just to match him. That’s going to scare me away. If I’m a Republican, I’m going to be like, gosh, he’s got a lot of money. Let him have it.”

Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

Studying technology's impact on higher education and evaluating public school students' writing scores on state assessments are among the tasks Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gave lawmakers in education-related interim charges Thursday.

Dewhurst announced the charges, which are expected to increase in the coming weeks, at a benefit for the United Negro College Fund in Dallas.

State of Texas

The four major Republican candidates for Texas Lieutenant Governor met in the first televised debate of the race last night.

Current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst faced off against the men who want his job: Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, State Sen. Dan Patrick and Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples.

Three of those candidates spoke out in support of teaching creationism in Texas public schools – a move that would be unconstitutional.

The debate on Waco TV station KCEN focused on border security, the role of the Tea Party in Texas politics and education.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: A spokesperson for Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst says he was acting out of concern for a family member when he called Allen Police to see what he could to get a female relative out of jail. He says Dewhurst was careful not to ask Allen Police to do anything outside of their normal protocol.

But State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) released a statement calling the move an "abuse of power." 

dewfeed.com

It may be too early to start running attack ads on TV and radio for the 2014 Texas general and primary elections. But it's apparently never too early to launch an attack website.

So to give you something to do heading into the weekend, we've compiled a list of some of the most prominent attack sites out there at the moment. The number will certainly grow as we get closer to the primaries in March.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Last week, the Texas Senate passed  House Bill 2, restricting abortions in Texas. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign it in coming days, and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services is already gearing up to start implementing the changes. But even with that battle lost, some Democrats have dared to dream about what the abortion battle could mean for the 2014 elections.

Bobby Blanchard for KUT News

Earlier today, law enforcement officers took part in a memorial for the 25 Texas police officers who died in service over the past two years.

Every two years, the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation of Texas hosts a candlelight vigil and a memorial ceremony and parade in May. The parade started at the Congress Avenue Bridge and ended at the Capitol, marched by a procession of color guard teams, police motorcycles, cyclists and pipe and drum corps. 

KUT News

Some public school students are taking state mandated tests this week. Do Texas schools lose 45 days a year to that testing, as one politico claims?

KUT News' Emily Donahue discussed that question is the Austin American-Statesman’s political fact checker, Gardner Selby.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Despite an ongoing grant moratorium, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas received permission Wednesday from state leaders to move forward on contract negotiations for 25 grants that would bring renowned cancer researchers to Texas.

“We have worked hard to regain trust with our elected officials and the citizens of Texas,” Wayne Roberts, interim executive director at CPRIT, said in a statement. “We take this action as evidence that some progress has been made, and we will continue to work to strengthen this trust during the coming weeks and months.”

The researcher grants represent a combined $72 million and were formally approved by the CPRIT oversight board in late 2012 before the moratorium took effect. Many of the researchers had moved their families and research labs to Texas in anticipation of receiving CPRIT financing.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

In the midst of ongoing turbulence between the University of Texas System regents and the leadership of its flagship institution, the Texas Senate and House honored University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers on Monday with resolutions acknowledging his accomplishments and his years of service.

Ben Philpott, KUT News

A former aide to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is being accused of stealing at least $1 million from Dewhurt’s campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Kenneth “Buddy” Barfield was already facing accusations that he embezzled at least $600,000 from a state campaign account. Now, a spokesperson for Dewhurst says they believe Barfield stole more than $1 million from a separate campaign fund aimed at securing Dewhurst the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. 

U.S. Drought Monitor

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst says there’s no choice about funding the state’s water plan, but he’s less specific on how much to spend. Yesterday State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Abilene, supported a proposal to spend $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund.

Today, Dewhurst told KUT News’ political reporting partner the Texas Tribune that he doesn’t know how much to invest.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst slipped out his committee assignments for the 83rd Legislature late Friday afternoon, a bit of timing that will give senators — and the lieutenant governor — several days before they see each other again to debate the choices. 

This year's announcements are earlier than usual, and a bit anticlimactic: Dewhurst rearranged the chairmanships late last year.

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is accusing one of his aides of stealing at least $600,000 from his campaign.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Kenneth “Buddy” Barfield, an Austin political consultant who has worked for Dewhurst for years, is alleged to have use accounting tricks and false invoices to take the money. The embezzlement allegedly goes back years, and could involve up to a million dollars of campaign funds.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Speaking in a Catholic school classroom in Austin, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick gave the first details of what they promised would be a wide-ranging set of proposals for public education policy during the upcoming legislative session.

Patrick, a Houston Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he would carry legislation that would increase the options for public school students through lifting the state's cap on charter schools, fostering open enrollment within and across school districts, and creating a private school scholarship fund through offering a state business tax savings credit to corporations. 

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