Inside Politics: How conservative is enough for Texas?

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AUSTIN — After a decade of building a solidly Republican resume, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is finding it more difficult than expected to make the next step to higher political office.

The man considered the likely choice to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison finds himself under attack in the Republican primary.

Mr. Dewhurst is fending off criticism that he’s not conservative enough despite a record of restricting abortion, cutting spending and advancing other conservative policies in the Legislature.

His top challenger, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, has been gaining in the polls and could force Mr. Dewhurst into a runoff.

The campaign illustrates how Republican politics in Texas has moved to the right since the tea party movement took root in the state.

MINNESOTA

Lawmaker says Vikings stadium not in plan

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Senate’s top Republican says a financing plan for a new Vikings stadium won’t be part of a construction projects package.

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said Thursday that a GOP stadium proposal first floated Tuesday is now separate from the construction bill because of complications related to using state borrowing to pay for a stadium.

Mr. Senjem says that method of financing is running into snags. Instead, he says, lawmakers are now considering user fees on items such as tickets and concessions to pay for the stadium, possibly with a gambling expansion — a proposal that has been met with resistance from rank-and-file Republican legislators.

IOWA

Democrats in GOP-leaning races may aid Obama

DES MOINES — Republican-leaning areas in states vital to President Obama’s re-election campaign are drawing top-tier Democratic congressional candidates who, even if they lose, could help voter turnout and boost the Democratic president’s chances of winning a second term.

Perhaps the best example is former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, a Democrat, who is challenging Republican Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. Other key matchups are in Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

Mr. Obama hopes to defend states he won in 2008 in part by cutting into likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s edge in key swing-state districts.

IMMIGRATION

Democrat Nelson open to Rubio plan on illegal kids

TAMPA, Fla. — Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, said Thursday that he is open to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s plan to let young illegal immigrants remain in the U.S., but he questioned whether it would solve the nation’s immigration problems.

In a roundtable discussion with about three dozen students at the University of South Florida, Mr. Nelson said he remains a proponent of the Dream Act, which would grant a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military.

Mr. Rubio, a fellow Floridian and the son of Cuban immigrants, is crafting a Republican alternative that would permit young illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. with their parents to apply for non-immigrant visas. They could remain in the country to study or work and could obtain a driver’s license. They could apply for legal residency later, but they would not have a special path to citizenship.

Pressed on Mr. Rubio’s plan, Mr. Nelson said he was awaiting the final version of the evolving legislation.

“If that’s the only thing we can pass, then I’m certainly open to it,” he said. “But that’s not going to solve the problem because once the child — or now-grown student — gets through, what’s going to happen to them? Are they going to sit here in legal limbo?”

WHITE HOUSE

Obama invites African leaders to G-8 summit

President Obama is inviting the heads of four African nations to join other world leaders at the Group of Eight summit to discuss food security on the continent.

The White House says the leaders of Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania will attend a discussion session May 19 at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Mr. Obama abruptly announced earlier this year that he was moving the Group of 8 summit from his hometown of Chicago to Camp David. The White House said the move was aimed at facilitating a more informal and intimate discussion among leaders.

The president will still host the NATO summit in Chicago immediately following the G-8.

JUSTICE

Government seeks more than 1,700 secret warrants

The Justice Department made 1,745 requests to a secret court for authority to wiretap or search for evidence in terrorism and espionage investigations last year.

That’s according to an April 30 letter to the Senate.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court meets in secret to hear classified evidence from government attorneys. The court did not reject any of the requests, though judges did require some modifications.

It’s an increase over 2010, when the department made 1,579 requests.

The FBI also made 16,511 national security letter requests for information, regarding 7,201 people, last year. The letters allow officials to collect virtually unlimited kinds of sensitive, private information such as financial and phone records.

That’s down from 2010, when 24,287 requests for information regarding 14,212 people were made.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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