Vol 33, Issue 7 Print Issue

U.S. Sen. and GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz boards the decommissioned battleship USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, to deliver a speech on foreign policy on Feb. 16, 2016.
U.S. Sen. and GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz boards the decommissioned battleship USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, to deliver a speech on foreign policy on Feb. 16, 2016.

In a First, Ted Cruz Grabs Top Spot in a National Poll

Also, a couple of contested primary races for seats on the Texas Supreme Court heat up further this week as incumbents seek to stave off spirited challenges.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The Texas Racing Commission voted 5-4 on Thursday to repeal rules allowing “historical racing,” ending a months-long deadlock that pitted members of the industry against state lawmakers.

While many Democrats have mixed feelings about the group that helped lead the party's election efforts in 2014, Battleground Texas officials still believe in their long-term strategy to turn Texas blue.

During a whirlwind, one-day visit to Ciudad Juárez on Wednesday Pope Francis delivered poignant remarks on immigration and corruption, keeping intact his reputation as a polite but no-holds-barred pontiff.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday morning at the Cibolo Creek Ranch resort near Marfa, a Presidio County official confirmed.

The next Texas legislative session is almost a year away, but Senate Republicans are already zeroing in on proposals to bolster legal protections for religious opponents of same-sex marriage after its legalization by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

Save for some narrow exceptions, guns will be allowed in classrooms but not in dorms at the University of Texas at Austin next school year under guidelines issued by the university on Wednesday.

Ted Cruz is ratcheting up pressure on his Republican rivals to back up their accusations of dishonesty against his presidential campaign, challenging Donald Trump to follow through with an alleged threat to sue him.

Seeking an advantage in military-heavy South Carolina, Ted Cruz made an aggressive plea Tuesday for rebuilding the U.S. armed forces, promising it could be done without growing the government or involving the country in unnecessary conflicts around the globe.

Thanks to fierce competition in the GOP presidential contest and the ongoing showdown between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, experts are predicting unusually high turnout in this year's Texas primaries.

The feud between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump soared to new heights of animosity Monday as the billionaire and the U.S. senator from Texas traded accusations of dishonesty and desperation.

For months, Ted Cruz has warned audiences across the country about what the 2016 presidential election could mean for the U.S Supreme Court. With Justice Antonin Scalia's death, his case is becoming more salient than ever.

Baylor University Ken Starr informed the university’s board of regents that Baylor would be opting out of Texas’ campus carry law. Baylor is the 24th private college to opt out of the law.

Seeking an advantage in military-heavy South Carolina, Ted Cruz made an aggressive plea Tuesday for rebuilding the U.S. armed forces, promising it could be done without growing the government or involving the country in unnecessary conflicts around the globe.

One week after an Austin police officer shot and killed an unarmed, black 17-year-old, two San Antonio tourists filed a federal excessive force lawsuit against several Austin Police Department officers. 

An open-seat U.S. House race is sure to draw a packed field, and nine candidates — six Democrats and three Republicans — are aiming to succeed retiring 10-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa in the 15th district. With no breakout candidate so far, the contest comes down to making a likely Democratic runoff.

One day after the sudden passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in West Texas, supporters of Hillary Clinton's campaign in Houston talked up the stakes in the race for the White House. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said that Scalia's death highlights what her party is fighting for this election.

Members of Texas A&M University's leadership visited Dallas on Tuesday to personally apologize to the high school students who were harassed and subjected to racial slurs during their visit to campus last week. The student body president also delivered thousands of letters from A&M students expressing support.

The Keep the Promise I super PAC, which is supporting Ted Cruz, announced late Monday it was spending $573,000 in Nevada to air two previously released commercials that tout Cruz as an anti-establishment crusader.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Greg Abbott announced last Friday a staff reshuffle following the departure of some senior staff. Highlighting the changes are the promotion of Ky Ash to Budget Director and Drew DeBerry to Director of Budget and Policy. Constance Allison was promoted to take over for DeBerry as Policy Director. In addition, David Whitley will take over as Appointments Director in mid-March.

Abbott tapped Frank Parker Jr. of Brownsville to serve as presiding officer of the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority. His term expires Feb. 1, 2018.

Abbott has decided to keep Ryan Brannan of Austin as Commissioner of Workers’ Compensation at the Texas Department of Insurance for another term. His term in office is now set to expire Feb. 1, 2017.

Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced Tuesday the appointment of Kara Belew to serve as the Texas Education Agency’s deputy commissioner of finance. She comes to TEA from Abbott's staff where she had served as budget director.

State Sen. Bob Hall has endorsed the tandem of Jared Woodfill and Cathie Adams for chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Republican Party of Texas. Woodfill plans to challenge Tom Mechler for the leadership of the party at the state convention in May.

Former Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri, meanwhile, announced that he is backing Mechler for re-election as party chairman.

GOP SD-1 candidate David Simpson received on Monday the backing of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a group that describes itself as “a grassroots membership organization … promoting the traditional Republican Party values of limited government and individual liberty.”

Former state Comptroller Susan Combs announced last week that she is backing Dawn Buckingham in the SD-24 GOP primary. Combs this week announced that she is endorsing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for president after her previous choice, Carly Fiorina, dropped out of the running.

State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, announced on Monday an endorsement from Royse City Mayor Janet Nichol for his re-election bid in HD-2. Flynn also announced this week endorsements from Munisteri, the political arm of the Texas Farm Bureau and Wills Point Mayor Mark Turner.

State Rep. Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, touted on Wednesday an endorsement by the National Rifle Association for her re-election bid in HD-20, located north of Austin.

Terry Wilson, who is challenging state Farney in the HD-20 Republican party primary, rolled out on Tuesday a set of endorsements from GOP leaders in Burnet County, a list highlighted by Chairman Donna Holland Wilcox and Vice Chairman Mary Jane Avery.

Outgoing state Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, is endorsing John Keating, who is one of three Republicans running to succeed Turner as representative for the Collin and Rockwall county-based HD-33. An Army veteran, Keating currently serves as Frisco’s mayor pro tem.

HD-84 GOP challenger Jim Landtroop announced that he has the backing of a trio of movement conservative leaders — former RPT Chair Cathie AdamsJoAnn Fleming of the tea party group Grassroots America – WE THE PEOPLE, and Conservative Republicans of Texas founder Steve Hotze.

Republican HD-130 candidate Tom Oliverson announced two endorsements on Monday: one from SREC District 7 Committeeman Mark Ramsey and another from the Kingwood Tea Party.

Public education advocate group Texas Parent PAC released its endorsement list on Monday, highlighted by the group's decision to back GOP challengers to Tea Party incumbents in HD-4 (Lance Gooden over Stuart Spitzer), HD-55 (Hugh Shine over Molly White), HD-92 (Scott Fisher over Jonathan Stickland), HD-94 (Andrew Piel over Tony Tinderholt) and HD-115 (Bennett Ratliff over Matt Rinaldi).

Vernie R. Glasson III plans to step down as executive director and chief operating officer of the Texas Farm Bureau in July after 27 years leading the organization, the organization announced Monday.

Deaths: Jim Nichols, 92, who became the first president of civil engineering firm Freese and Nichols in 1977 after serving 21 years as partner. He later served as the firm’s board chairman and chairman emeritus.

Disclosure: The Texas Farm Bureau is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.