Top 10 State Stories

Top 10 State Stories
Photo by Jana Birchum

1) Obama-(Tex)Mania Technically, this started in Austin back around Feb. 23, 2007, with the massive Auditorium Shores rally. But through the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama debate at UT, the rally at the Capitol, and the seemingly endless stream of volunteers around the nation – Austin decided, "Yes, we can."

2) Your Gerrymander Looks Ill House Democratic Caucus Leader Jim Dunnam thought it would take another couple of electoral cycles, but somehow state Democrats made three straight elections of gains, taking 74 House seats in November. Republicans were wondering why keeping power felt so much like defeat.

3) Your Other Gerrymander Is Just Fine "The monster that was created to produce the result that has occurred tonight has in fact produced the result that occurred tonight," said Democrat Larry Joe Doherty, after pouring $1.2 million – including $100,000 of his own – into the Tom DeLay-gerrymandered CD 10 and still losing to incumbent Michael McCaul. The Texas GOP actually regained a delegate and nearly took out Waco's Chet Edwards.

4) DPS Raked Over Coals Insufficient security allowed an arsonist to set fire to the First Residence in June. Fortunately, the Perry family was not in residence – but for the Texas Department of Public Safety, the timing couldn't have been worse, as the Sunset Commission had just delivered a scathing review. DPS leader Col. Tommy Davis decided it was a good time to retire.

5) Hurricanes Gustav and Ike Austin barely suffered a glancing blow from the storms but opened its doors to coastal evacuees. Then the UT Board of Regents decided to lay off 3,800 employees at UT Medical Branch at Galveston, turning a disaster into a tragedy.

6) Ta-Ta to the Titty Tax It's not Texas without gung-ho puritans screaming that a little bit of flesh will be the end of civilization. But when lawmakers levied a $5 surcharge every time naked nipples and booze were in the same room, the courts called it an unconstitutional tax on content, leaving the pols nothing to cover their embarrassment.

7) Harris County Turns Blue Despite the best efforts of Paul Bettencourt (see "Top 10 Election Gaffes"), the once rock-solid Republican Harris County got caught in the tide of Obamamania, as Houston Democrats flexed their muscles. Dems were the top vote-getters in 72 of 106 races, and the formerly all-GOP district court judgeships went 21-4 to the donkeys.

8) We'd Rather Just Forget Bush Ever Happened When it was announced that SMU would host the new George W. Bush Presidential Library, 28 current and retired bishops signed a protest saying, "Linking [Bush's] presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name is utterly inappropriate." In June, a group of Methodist theologians launched the "What Would John Wesley Do?" website to organize against the library.

9) Kicking Out the Two-Step. Texas has never seen turnout like it did for this year's primaries, which also meant unprecedented scrutiny on the Democrats' hybrid daytime primary/nighttime caucus presidential nomination system. It seemed to work fine since 1976, but after Clinton won the day and Obama took the night it nearly caused an insurrection at the state convention. Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, is designated fixer.

10) Jockeying for 2010 As of press time, the buzz was that U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will mount a 2010 interparty challenge to Gov. Rick Perry, and a line was forming to take Hutchison's seat. On the Democratic side, maybe Houston Mayor Bill White and definitely Comptroller John Sharp; GOP side, former Secretary of State Roger Williams and current Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones are definite, as is fellow Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Florence Shapiro are floating.

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