Today is the Christmas of the civic-minded, the Passover of politicos, a high holy day for policy wonks of any and all persuasions. Today, ladies and gentlemen, is the kickoff of the Texas Tribune Festival, which runs through Sunday.
With pretty much every Texas political heavyweight in attendance (Cruz! Castro! Davis! The other Castro!), odds are good that there will some big news and maybe even a few revelations to come out of the fest (we're looking at you, Wendy). So after watching this year's chaotic legislative session and chatting with Texas Trib CEO and Editor-in-chief Evan Smith, we pulled together our prediction for the next three days.
It's Greg Abbott's Texas; we're just living in it. The attorney general turned gubernatorial candidate will be speaking with Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey on Saturday morning at 11:10 am.
What we think will happen: This week, Texas Monthly released its somewhat controversial October cover featuring Abbott in his wheelchair, rifle slung over his soldier, with the headline "The Gov." Expect him to talk about the Affordable Care Act, his penchant for suing the Obama administration, his campaign for governor and what a Texas under the Abbott administration would look like (less federal input, less regulation, less good hair).
What we wish he'd talk about: Why he hasn't gone on the record chastising his campaign's sexist attacks on Sen. Wendy Davis.
Why you should care: It's likely that he'll be your next governor.
With a decade in office under his belt, the lieutenant governor is running for re-election in 2014 against fellow Republicans Sen. Dan Patrick and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, among others. He will be speaking to Ramsey on Saturday at 1:45 pm.
What we think will happen: Dewhurst isn't going to slide back into office. Accused by his opponents of not being as conservative as they are, Dew is expected to shake his tail feathers. He'll most likely reiterate his stance on Obamacare (he doesn't care for it), his role in passing HB 1 and how he'll continue bringing jobs to Texas.
Also expect to see him pressed on his leadership over the past 10 years. While he received praise when his tenure began in 2003, Dewhurst is often criticized for lack of leadership, something that was discussed again during this contentious legislative session. Look for a few curveballs from Ramsey, who has been vocal in his criticism of Dewhurst.
What we wish he'd talk about: Who changed the timestamps on the official docket the night of the filibuster.
Why you should care: Dewhurst is a staunch conservative, but his opponents are building their campaigns on his not being conservative enough. This schism is happening throughout the national GOP, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out right here in the Lone Star State.
The Republican senator completed a 21-hour filibuster on the floor of the U.S. Senate this week in hopes of stopping a bill that would shut down the federal government and, by extension, defund the Affordable Care Act. He kicks off the Fest on Friday at 6 pm with Smith.
What we think will happen: Though it looks like he will be joining Smith on stage via Skype (boo!), this could be the most important week in Cruz's career to date. Cruz made his senate career on his opposition to Obamacare, and this very public, very dramatic final attempt to defund it could be a make-or-break moment. Expect to hear about the Affordable Care Act and his very Tea Party stance on pretty much everything else. It's almost a 100 percent guaranteed that Smith will grill him on his possible run for the presidency in 2016.
What we wish would happen: We wish he'd bring his birth certificate! Just kidding. We wish he would candidly talk about the adult diapers that these senators must wear while filibustering.
Why you should care: Your senator wants to shut down your government in a bid to be your president. This is big.
Though the Associated Press reported yesterday that state and Democratic party officials have confirmed that Davis will run governor, she still has not officially announced. She takes the stage at 10:30 am Sunday with Smith.
What we think will happen: We will be really surprised if the first question from Smith isn't "Are you running for governor?" After that, expect a biography of her work in the senate. Davis' biggest obstacle heading into the race for governor is that aside from the HB 1 filibuster, not many Texans know what she stands for.
What we wish would happen: We hope she'll answer the question about running for governor (she won't).
Why you should care: Davis represents a cultural shift felt in the growing big cities of Texas. Attacking her looks, the good ol' boys are playing politics as usual when the women of Texas made it pretty clear this summer that this kind of behavior isn't going to fly anymore.
Aside from these four political heavyweights, Texas first lady Anita Perry will also be in attendance. She'll most likely talk about her husband's legacy and health care, an issue she is very passionate about. Expect to hear even more buzz around the Castro brothers, both of whom are, arguably, this state's best chance for any real shift from red to blue-ish over the next decade.
Also expect some civil discourse on issues like transportation, water, border security and our state's shifting demographics (one panel is titled "Texas in 2050: It's All Over for the Anglos").
Let the political freakout commence!
The Texas Tribune Festival runs September 27-29. For a full schedule or to purchase tickets, please go here.