Vol 33, Issue 6 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

With fewer than three weeks until the Texas primary, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign unveiled new endorsements and the expansion of the campaign's state organization. Backing the senator are 11 state senators, 43 state representatives, seven GOP members of Texas' congressional delegation and four current and past statewide officials — former Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and railroad commissioners David Porter and Ryan SittonThe newly expanded Texas Leadership Team also includes 57 chairs and co-chairs covering Texas' 36 congressional districts, as well as 462 chairs and co-chairs across the state's 254 counties.

With a deadline for action looming, Texas regulators are struggling to make up their minds about the finer points of the Ray L. Hunt family’s $18 billion proposal to buy and reshape Oncor, the state’s biggest electric utility. One sticking point — should Oncor be allowed to charge customers hundreds of millions of dollars for federal taxes that the company wouldn't actually have to pay?

With the New Hampshire primary behind him, Ted Cruz is setting his sights on a string of mostly southern states that could test two central arguments of his campaign: that the map favors his deeply conservative brand — and that he is the only contender with both the money and organization to capitalize on it.

Texas A&M University is conducting an investigation after students visiting campus from a Dallas high school were harassed Tuesday with racial slurs.

A week after his win in the Iowa caucuses, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was jockeying for third place in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night, finding himself among a pack of GOP also-rans swamped by real estate magnate Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is boasting the added support of more than 40 Texas officials as it continues to increase its focus on the Lone Star State.

CNN announced Wednesday that the University of Houston will still get to host the Feb. 25 GOP primary presidential debate. The university's status had been called into question after NBC News was removed as the organizer of the event.

In 2012, Inocente “Chente” Quintanilla decided to forgo re-election to the Texas House. Now his efforts to return are being dismissed by state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, who says Quintanilla just missed "being part of the Austin life."

University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven said Wednesday that the eight universities under his authority need to raise tuition in order to stay competitive. If approved, the increase would cost students at UT-Austin $152 per semester.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday to block President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan has helped state Republicans — at least temporarily — dodge major action on climate change.

The Texas State Bar was ordered last week to launch a disciplinary probe into Attorney General Ken Paxton’s conduct following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage — an investigation that could end with Paxton getting disbarred.

On Wednesday, a day after coming in third in New Hampshire's Republican primary, Ted Cruz stormed into the next early voting state with a frontrunner's message: I'm the only who knows how to beat Donald Trump. "You cannot beat Donald Trump coming from the left," Cruz told reporters before a rally in South Carolina's Myrtle Beach.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are increasingly looking to the March 1 Texas primary as a pivotal contest in their race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Clinton camp is hoping for a decisive win in Texas, while Sanders' supporters are vying to overcome — or at least blunt — Clinton’s built-in advantages.

The State Auditor's Office is investigating whether state Rep. Dawnna Dukes improperly required legislative staffers on the state payroll to help work on an annual event she sponsors through a nonprofit group that she founded, a Capitol source told The Texas Tribune on Feb. 5.

Two former staffers for state Rep. Dawnna Dukes say they found their work a hectic balancing act, fitting in legislative work with the Austin's lawmaker's ever expanding list of personal errands — picking up her favorite blueberry smoothie at McDonald's, taking her dogs to the vet and often babysitting Dukes' daughter.

Three of seven Republicans vying for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission are in favor of tightening at least one regulation — on the commissioners themselves. Ron Hale, Weston Martinez and Lance Christian say they would support a proposal barring commissioners from accepting political donations from parties doing business before the commission.

A federal judge has once again denied Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's efforts to keep the federal government from resettling Syrian refugees in the state.

The Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals Monday upheld the disbarment of former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta Jr. for professional misconduct in the capital murder case of Anthony Graves.

Unprompted and in the final days of his New Hampshire primary campaign, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said it was “nuts” to draft women into military combat.

Sandra Bland's mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, has added 10 Waller County officials in a federal lawsuit over her daughter's 2015 death in the Waller County Jail. Reed-Veal originally sued the Texas Department of Public Safety trooper who arrested Bland, his agency, Waller County and two of its jailers. A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Feb. 18 in a Houston federal court.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz apologized to Republican rival Ben Carson for a second time at Saturday night's GOP debate for what Carson has described as "dirty tricks" during last week's Iowa caucuses. Carson dismissed Cruz's explanation as "Washington ethics."

Both Cruz and Rubio have appearances planned in the Houston area for the day before the Feb. 25 presidential debate. Rubio has a fundraiser scheduled while Cruz will address the Harris County GOP Lincoln-Reagan dinner.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. The University of Houston was a corporate sponsor of the Tribune in 2013. Oncor was a corporate sponsor in 2012. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Political People and their Moves

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility announced on Monday its endorsement of Ted Cruz for president.

One of the Republican challengers to House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, in the CD-32 primary election is touting a big get from grassroots conservative group Citizens United. The group’s affiliated PAC announced its endorsement of Russ Ramsland and gave $2,500 to the challenger’s campaign.

GOP Railroad Commission candidate John Greytok announced late last week that he has the backing of Rhonda Lacy, a conservative activist in Midland and State Republican Executive Committee member.

Weston Martinez, a Republican running for Texas Railroad Commission, unveiled a new set of endorsements Monday — a list of various conservative activists from around the state. The endorsements include three State Republican Executive Committee members: Tanya RobertsonMark Ramsey and Janet Jackson.

Former Democratic state Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth unveiled a slew of new endorsements for his bid for the Railroad Commission, including: the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats (executive committee), Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Harris County Young Democrats and the Muslim Democratic Caucus of Texas.

Former Gov. Rick Perry has issued another primary endorsement for the Texas Supreme Court — this time, for Justice Michael Massengale, who is challenging incumbent Justice Debra Lehrmann to be the Republican nominee for Place 3.

The Texas Civil Justice League PAC announced it is backing all three incumbents running for re-election to the Texas Supreme Court. Debra Lehrmann, Paul Green and Eva Guzman have all drawn opponents in the March 1 party primaries. That has led to some degree of worry that a surprise could happen in one or more of these races, which typically generate little publicity.

The tandem of Jared Woodfill and Cathie Adams, who are running for chair and vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas, touted on Monday an endorsement from Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly.

Republican SD-1 candidate Bryan Hughes on Tuesday announced a set of endorsements from public safety groups, highlighted by nods from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), the Texas Municipal Police Association, the East Texas Police Chiefs Association and the DPS Officers Association PAC.

HD-2 state Rep. Dan Flynn was busy on the endorsement front this week, announcing backing from former state Rep. Suzanna Hupp, the Texas Municipal Police Association, the Austin Firefighter's Relief and Retirement Fund and the Austin Firefighters Association.

Blake Rocap, who is one of the Democratic hopefuls running for the open HD-49 seat in Austin, announced on Monday endorsements from five prominent abortion rights supporters: Sarah Weddington, Heather Busby, Susan Hays, Rita Lucido and Amy Hagstrom Miller.

One of Rocap’s HD-49 rivals, Huey Rey Fischer, said on Monday that he has the endorsement of the University Democrats, emphasizing his youth while doing so.

The Austin Firefighter's Relief and Retirement Fund and the Austin Firefighters Association announced on Thursday their endorsement of state Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, for re-election the to Central Texas HD-73 seat.

The Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC announced on Friday an endorsement of state Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock, in his bid for re-election in HD-84.

GOP HD-92 challenger Scott Fisher said on Monday that he has the backing of the Bedford Municipal Police Association. Fisher is trying to unseat incumbent Jonathan Stickland in the Tarrant County-based House district.

HD-126 GOP candidate Kevin Roberts announced endorsements this week from the political arm of the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Conservative View PAC and the Texas Alliance for Life PAC, the U.S. Anesthesia Partners of Texas PAC and the Texas Society of Anesthesiologists, P.O.L.I.C.E. Inc. and the Houston Association of Realtors.

HD-127 state Rep. Dan Huberty announced endorsements this week from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund, the Texas Municipal Police Association, the Houston Realty Business Coalition and Conservative Republicans of Texas.

HD-130 GOP hopeful Tom Oliverson touted on Thursday endorsements from the Houston Realty Business Coalition and the Houston Association of Realtors.

John Tintera, former executive director at the Texas Railroad Commission, has a new gig with the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. Tintera, a consultant with the industry group since 2012, was named executive vice president for government relations. The group also appointed Gloria Leal as its general counsel and Bill Stevens as chief lobbyists.

The Texas Civil Rights Project introduced on Tuesday Mimi Marziani as the group’s new executive director. Marziani succeeds Jim Harrington, who is stepping down 25 years after founding the group. She most recently served as legal director for Battleground Texas and prior to that was counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

Jackson Walker LLP has added to its Austin office, hiring Denise Rose as a governmental affairs consultant working in the firm’s health care and legislative practices. She most recently was assistant vice president for legislative affairs for Texas A&M Health Science Center. She worked previously for the Texas Hospital Association and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Richard Evans, currently president of Texas Lobby Solutions, is going in-house with AstraZeneca as Director of State Government Affairs covering Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri.

Deaths: Michael Brick, 41, who reported for The New York Times, Esquire and, most recently, reported on the impact of the shale oil boom for the Houston Chronicle. He also mentored student journalists as adviser to the Daily Texan at the University of Texas at Austin.

Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association, the Texas Children's Hospital, the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, the University of Texas at Austin and the Houston Association of Realtors are corporate sponsors of the Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.