Cruz willing to release tax returns

At least one other senate candidate is willing to release his tax returns, as long as the other candidates do so, as well.

A spokesperson for former Solictor General Ted Cruz tells Capital Tonight that Cruz will release his returns if Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert agree to release theirs.

The statement is in response to Craig James’ announcement today that he would release his returns from the last five years.

James also called on his opponents to make their earnings public. We reached out to the Dewhurst and Leppert campaigns for comment, but have not received a response.

James calling on opponents to release tax returns

We’ve been hearing a lot of chatter over presidential candidates and their tax returns. Now, some state Senate candidates are getting into the ‘release your tax return’ game.

Craig James, the newcomer to the race, announced he will release five years worth of returns, today. He’s calling on his opponents to release theirs, as well.

James is a former SMU football player and former ESPN analyst. His name became known in Texas prior to his Senate run because of his connection to the firing of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach in 2010. The college fired Leach after allegations that he mistreated James’ son.

Most recently, some media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, have published stories that Leach made conflicting statements during that investigation.

The other candidates in the race, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former solicitor general Ted Cruz and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert have not said if they will release their tax returns, as well.

Meanwhile, James released this ad on his website, explaining why he is running for Senate:

Gov. Perry losing support in Texas

Gov. Perry forgets the third government agency he would cut as president during the CNBC Republican presidential debate on November 9, 2011 in Rochester, Michigan.

A new poll from several Texas newspapers shows Gov. Rick Perry losing support at home. The poll, from the Dallas Morning News, Austin American-Statesman, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram shows 43 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job Perry is doing as governor, and 42 percent approve. The American-Statesman writes this is Perry’s worst showing ever. The last time his approval rating dipped was 2010, when he received only 44 percent approval.

The poll also found that 41 percent of registered voters say Perry’s run for president made him less favorable.

In addition, 56 percent of registered voters in the poll said Perry should not run for governor again in 2014. When asked how his run impacted Texas’ image nationally, 25 percent said the state’s image is a little worse, 23 percent said a lot worse.

The poll, conducted by Blum & Weprin of New York, surveyed 806 Texans by phone. Of those surveyed, 669 were registered voters.

Tea Party Express joins list of Ted Cruz backers

The Tea Party Express, the Tea Party movement’s biggest political action committee, is officially backing longtime darling Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate.

In the endorsement, Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer writes, “Ted Cruz’s knowledge of the Constitution and focus on limiting the size, cost, and intrusiveness of the federal government make him not only the strongest candidate in the race, but one of the strongest Tea Party candidates in the nation."

Kremer also mentions Cruz’s promise to repeal President Obama’s healthcare reform law and his desire to pass a balanced budget amendment as important reasons he secured the Tea Party Express’ support.

Cruz has other big names backing his Senate run. Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and U.S. Senators Jim DeMint and Rand Paul have all voiced their support for Ted Cruz.

Obama: State of the union is strong

President Obama laid out his blueprint for how to rebuild the nation’s economy Tuesday, and set his agenda for a tough election year. His State of the Union address began with plans to revitalize the nation’s manufacturing industry and tax cuts for businesses who create jobs domestically.

The President again made the argument for ending tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for entitlement reform and asked Congress to pass the payroll tax cut immediately. The president also listed several initiatives he plans to implement via executive order, including the creation of a special unit to investigate any misconduct that led to the mortgage and securities crisis.

None of the changes, the president said, could be successful without more bipartisanship in Washington.

"None of these reforms can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town," President Obama said. "We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction, that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas."

The ambitious plan also targets countries with unfair trade practices and asks states to force kids to stay in school until they turn 18.

Republicans, meanwhile, have talked down the president’s speech all day Tuesday. House Speaker John Boehner called the address a rerun of past State of the Union’s.

And continuing along that line Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels delivered the Republican response from Indianapolis shortly after the president’s speech.

"When President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true," Daniels said. "The president did not cause the financial and fiscal crises that continue in America tonight, but he was elected on a promise to fix them and he cannot claim that the last three years have made them anything but worse."

President Obama plans to ride the momentum of Tuesday’s speech. He will embark on a three day tour of five key battleground states–Nevada, Iowa, Arizona, Colorado and Michigan– starting on Wednesday.

Politics overshadow policy in State of the Union response

President Obama’s State of the Union address was criticized harshly by Republican members of the Texas delegation.

Austin Representative Michael McCaul called Obama’s address "further evidence of broken promises" He released this statement:

"In his first State of the Union address, President Obama promised to cut our deficit in half by the end of his first term. Since then, he has presided over the largest debt increases in U.S. history. What we heard tonight was more rhetoric that doesn’t match his record. The president says he wants to strengthen our economy and create jobs; yet 28 bipartisan jobs bills passed by the House are still sitting in the Senate untouched. The president says he wants to achieve energy independence; yet he caved to political pressure and stopped the Keystone pipeline that would have created thousands of jobs and reduced our dependence on foreign oil. Since he took office, two million people have lost their jobs and nearly half of the American population is in poverty or considered low income. This is unacceptable.

"While we share the desire for long-term economic prosperity, this president’s policies of spend more, tax more and regulate more stifle job creation, diminish families’ disposable income and continue to bury future generations in deeper debt. His policies promote entitlement over empowerment, punishing those who take risk and rewarding those who take a handout. If the president wants to move this country forward, he should start by urging the Senate to act on our jobs bills and pass a budget for the first time in 1,000 days. Americans don’t need flashy slogans and a repeat performance of the last three years. They need action right now."

In his response, Sen. John Cornyn accused President Obama of putting the country on a path to "a European-style social democracy."

"Tonight’s speech highlighted the massive disconnect between the President’s priorities and the nation’s most pressing challenges. Rather than seriously address those challenges, the President went through a familiar wish list that both Congress and the American people have already rejected.

“Americans must decide whether we want to return to our roots as a beacon of entrepreneurial energy, or continue down a path towards a European-style social democracy. I’m confident that Texans will choose the first option, and that’s what I will continue to fight for here in Washington.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison also weighed in, accusing Obama failing to "address the fundamental solutions that would help get Americans back to work."

You can view Hutchison’s full video statement, below.

Dems accuse Abbott of wasting tax dollars on lawsuit

The Texas Democratic Party fired back Monday at Attorney General Greg Abbott’s lawsuit to expedite the state’s voter identification legislation, calling it a waste of tax dollars.

TDP spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña issued this statement:

"Abbott’s wasting tax dollars to inquire whether the Voter ID law is discriminatory in intent or just in effect, as if it made any difference to the people being discriminated.

General Abbott knows in-person voter fraud doesn’t exist. He already cost Texas taxpayers $1.4 million on a wild goose chase that turned up no cases of voter impersonation. Our question to General Abbott is, if there are no cases of voter impersonation, then what exactly is this legislation’s purpose? The absolute intent of this law is to disenfranchise voters.

General Abbott admits that the Republican voter-ID law would have a disparate impact on minorities, he just doesn’t care. ”

Abbott’s decision also angered the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. ACLU Executive Director Terri Burke had this to say:

“The fact that the state of Texas filed a federal lawsuit to speed up implementation of the new Voter ID law is ludicrous. The burden is on the state of Texas to prove this voter ID law will not inhibit certain groups of Texans from voting. To shirk that responsibility shows that state lawmakers in favor of this law do not support the growth of democracy by encouraging voter participation. They want to shrink it by making it harder to vote. The ACLU of Texas has said it before, and we say it again: There is absolutely no proof of voter fraud at the polls in Texas. This bill, from the start, was a solution to a problem that does not exist.”

TX attorney general asked court to clear voter ID

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is asking a federal court to clear the way for the state’s Voter ID law after the Department of Justice failed to clear it.

In a court case filed Monday, Abbott said the Obama administration was hostile to laws like the one passed last year in Texas, which requires voters to show a photo identification card in order to vote.

Texas is one of 16 states where all changes to voting laws must first be cleared by the justice department or the Washington D.C. district court before they can go into effect.

Abbott is asking the court to clear the law because similar laws exist in other states and he said the Obama administration is taking too long to decide whether to clear the law.

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House Democrats: Pay up Gov. Perry

House Democrats are asking Gov. Rick Perry to repay Texas taxpayers the $2.6 million dollars spent on his failed presidential run. In a letter, House Democratic Caucus Leader Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, writes to Gov. Perry, "I suggest you reimburse Texas taxpayers for the money you spent on travel expenses leading up to your withdraw from the GOP primary race."

Farrar also asks Perry to return the extra money he received in retirement pay last year.

You can read part of the letter here:

"Please submit to the Texas Comptroller’s Office a check in the amount of $2,692,376, plus any other expenses related to your out-of-state campaign activity that you charged to Texas taxpayers.

Given that $2,692,376 million amounts to about ten cents for each Texan, direct reimbursement from the Comptroller to taxpayers does not seem like a wise expenditure of taxpayers’ money — stamps are expensive these days. Instead, we could put that money back into classrooms, health services, or disaster relief services. I am open to your suggestions."

Court throws out judge-drawn Texas electoral maps

The Supreme Court has thrown out electoral maps drawn by federal judges in San Antonio that favored minorities.

According to the Quorum Report, the order stated, "Because it is unclear whether the District Court for the Western District of Texas followed the appropriate standards in drawing interim maps for the 2012 Texas elections, the orders implementing those maps are vacated, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

The Supreme Court’s decision leaves office holders like Congressman Lloyd Doggett in limbo. He’s continuing to campaign as if his district will stretch from East Austin south to San Antonio.

"I’ve been in San Antonio every week this year and will be there again next week, just in case this ‘Perry-mandered’ map resurfaces and I have to seek election in a district where half the people are folks I’ve never represented before," Rep. Doggett said.

He believes his district could be redrawn to cover a smaller, more concentrated area. It would be a plus in his eyes, because he says long, narrow districts compromise lawmakers’ ability to serve their constituents.

"You cannot have members of Congress that are as accessible if they are stretched out across hundreds of miles, or even 90 miles to San Antonio," he said.

Doggett’s still wary when new maps will be ready. A three-judge panel in San Antonio’s tasked with creating them, but not the way they did previously.

Under the previous maps, minority groups complained they were denied sufficient voting power by Republican lawmakers who sought to maximize GOP electoral gains in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Steve Munisteri with the Republican Party of Texas thinks it’s too early to tell if the GOP will get the advantage.

"The ruling from the Supreme Court has been fast enough that, if the Bexar County three-judge panel can draw maps within a week, maybe even two weeks, we can still hold April 3rd," he said.

Some are skeptical the primary could be pushed back a few weeks, maybe even into May, creating the possibility of two primaries.

"Generally speaking, the more we delay the elections, the less input we are going to have into the presidential primary process, the smaller the turnout and more ideological the likely primary voters," Harvey Kronberg with the Quorum Report said.

Controversy over the maps arose from redrawing political boundaries based on results of the 2010 census which found that Texas added more than four million new residents, mostly Latinos and African-Americans, since 2000.

To view the full order click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg explains more in the video below.