The (Next-to-Last!) Election Hotlist for the 2016 Texas Primaries

For our list of the most competitive races in Texas congressional and legislative elections, we lifted the color scheme from the inventors of the federal terror watch, ranking races by the threat to each incumbent, to the incumbent party, or just by the level of interest and heat generated.

Yellow means there's trouble on the sidewalk. Orange is trouble on the front porch. Red is trouble walking in the door.

Incumbents' names are bolded. This is certainly and intentionally subject to argument, and we'll revise and adjust and argue and debate as the March 1 primary approaches. Let us know what you think.

Changes this week: We elevated Supreme Court Place 9 to Orange and took two races off the list altogether, including CD-27 and HD-121 (yes, that's the speaker's reelection race).


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

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.

A new national poll released Wednesday shows Ted Cruz with a narrow lead over Donald Trump among Republican primary voters. The poll conducted for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal has Cruz up by two points, 28 percent to 26 percent.

This marks the first time that Cruz has held the advantage over Trump in a national poll.

Cruz acknowledged the poll as he took the stage Wednesday evening at a rally in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

"For the first time in many months, there's a new national frontrunner on the Republican side," Cruz said to cheers, rattling off how he fared in the survey compared to Marco Rubio and Trump. "The sound you're hearing is the sound of screams from Washington, D.C."

The poll results are a significant change from the January numbers in which Trump held a 13-point lead over Cruz — 33 percent to 20 percent. The margin of error on the survey, which polled 400 GOP primary voters, is a relatively high 4.9 percent, though, meaning Cruz’s lead is not statistically significant.

The current survey was conducted Sunday through Tuesday, or entirely after Saturday’s contentious debate in South Carolina.

Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who helped conduct the survey, told NBC, “So, one poll post-Saturday debate can only reflect there may have been a 'pause' as Republican voters take another look at Trump. This happened earlier this summer and he bounced back stronger. We will have to wait this time and see what voters decide.”


Cruz on Thursday afternoon took a pass on wading into the remarkable war of words between Pope Francis and Trump, saying he’ll let the two men settle their differences.

The conflict between the billionaire and the pontiff erupted Thursday morning, when Francis suggested Trump was not a Christian for wanting to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump fiercely pushed back, calling it “disgraceful” for a religious leader to cast doubt on someone’s faith. 

“Listen, that’s between Donald and the Pope,” Cruz told reporters, briefly stopping before walking into a barbecue restaurant. "I’m not going to get in the middle of that. I’ll leave it to the two of them to work that out.”

Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas, also supports building a border wall.


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, meanwhile, will return to the campaign trail for Cruz with a weekend trip to South Carolina planned ahead of Saturday's pivotal primary there. He arrives Friday in the state capital, Columbia, with a media avail scheduled for that afternoon at the Cruz campaign headquarters.


Also worth noting from Patrick was his decision this week to take to Facebook with an appeal on behalf of Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, who faces a potentially tricky primary contest.

Guzman's primary opponent, Joe Pool Jr., doesn't have a good track record in running for office. Guzman's allies are concerned, though, that because of her surname and lack of name recognition, she could get tripped up in a GOP primary election surprise.

Cue Patrick:

"There is another very important race you need to know about, but may not be as aware of as other high profile races or local races where you know the candidate. ... Justice EVA GUZMAN is conservative and highly qualified to be re-elected to our highest Texas Court. Her opponent, who lost overwhelmingly in two other Supreme Court races, has seldom even voted in a Republican primary. However, he is a perennial candidate who keeps hoping he might get lucky. Please vote for EVA GUZMAN and share this post and sent out e-mails to your family and friends so they know she is the selection of conservatives all across Texas from all walks of life."


The line between "support" and "endorse" is a tricky one to define, but Gov. Greg Abbott's office says they've found it.

He's strongly supporting Justice Debra Lehrmann, the incumbent running against Justice Michael Massengale for Place 3 on the Supreme Court of Texas — so much so that she's included him on her campaign mailers.

Abbott even introduced her at her campaign kick-off event in June. But Abbott has not formally provided an endorsement, according to Abbott spokesman John Wittman.

"I am particularly proud of Justice Lehrmann for the totality of who she is and what she brings to the court," Abbott said in June. She is "flourishing in her position — it is refreshing to see that she is upholding that high standard that we set and we expect for those that serve on the state's highest court."

"She wants your vote, she needs your vote, but to help her get the votes that she needs, she has to have your financial support," Abbott added. "So thank you to those who've given, thank you to those who will continue to give as the campaign progresses, as we work toward reelecting Justice Lehrmann to the Texas Supreme Court."

Wittman confirmed that this did not equate to an endorsement, but declined to elaborate on the distinction. A representative for Lehrmann's campaign, Craig Murphy, said Lehrmann has not asked Abbott for a formal endorsement.


Lehrmann has edged out her primary challenger in a Houston Bar Association candidate qualification poll.

In the survey, 516 bar association members ranked Lehrmann as "qualified" or "well qualified." Another 461 said Massengale, who is from Houston, is “qualified” or well qualified.”

The survey also allowed bar members to say the candidate was “not qualified.” On that choice, 76 voters declared Lehrmann "not qualified," with Massengale racking up 124 “not qualified” designations.

For full results of the questionnaire, click here. The Houston Bar Association notes that the questionnaire results do not constitute an endorsement by the organization.

Hillary Clinton Starts Expansion of Texas Campaign Footprint

Hillary Clinton cheers as she acknowledges the crowd in Carroll, Iowa with daughter Chelsea on Jan. 30, 2016.
Hillary Clinton cheers as she acknowledges the crowd in Carroll, Iowa with daughter Chelsea on Jan. 30, 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign opened a new Austin office Monday morning, dubbing it “Madam President’s Day.”

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, joined former Land Commissioner and Texans for Hillary chairman Garry Mauro.

“I have always been amazed at the level of passion she has for breaking down barriers,” Watson said.

Mauro told the Tribune last week that if there was anywhere in Texas where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders could pose a serious challenge Clinton, it would be Austin.

The campaign now has offices in Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.

Clinton will come to Houston on Saturday for an organizing event following the Nevada caucus. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will campaign for her in Laredo and Dallas next Monday.


Clinton locked down another superdelegate last Friday, as the campaign announced that state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, was formally endorsing her. Anchia joined U.S. Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Marc Veasey at the opening of the campaign’s Dallas headquarters on Saturday.

In January, Anchia said he would wait until closer to the March 1 primary election date before pledging to a candidate in order to encourage more campaigning in Texas.


The congressional campaign of former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia received a boost last week in the form of an endorsement from the Harris County Tejano Democrats.

Garcia, who placed third in last year’s Houston mayoral contest, decided to challenge Gene Green, D-Houston, in the Democratic primary election in CD-29. Green’s district is configured as a Hispanic opportunity district under the Voting Rights Act.

“We voted to support Adrian because this district was created as a Hispanic opportunity district, but after 23 years of Gene Green, Hispanics simply don’t have much opportunity,” said Sandra Puente, past chair of Tejano Democrats, in a written statement. 

The Garcia campaign was also quick last Friday to criticize the decision of California Congressman Xavier Becerra — the highest-ranking Latino member of Congress — to campaign for Green.

Green has taken steps to demonstrate his bona fides with Latino congressional leaders, winning previously an endorsement from the fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In announcing his visit last week, Becerra said in a statement, “I couldn’t be more willing to campaign for him and help get him reelected. He is good to progressives, environmentalists, educators and labor folks — an all around good person who does right for those he represents. We need Gene there with us to fight the good fight."

Garcia spokesman Sergio Cantu responded last Friday with a different take on the Becerra visit. “Instead, they are here to help Gene Green keep our community right where Gene Green has left us — with too much cancer caused by pollution, too much poverty, and too many guns,” Cantu said.This is why people hate Congress — all they do is take care of each other.”

Several Democratic Capitol Hill insiders were stunned that a candidate would address his would-be future colleagues in this manner, especially Becerra, the highest-ranking Latino in the House and the Democratic Party.


U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, rolled out on Tuesday an endorsement from former Gov. Rick Perry, who touts Brady’s anti-abortion record in Congress via video.

Brady has drawn three challengers, including former state Rep. Steve Toth, in the GOP party primary.


GOP SD-1 candidate Red Brown has released an ad touting his qualifications to serve in the Texas Senate — small businessman, school board president and two-star U.S. Army General.

“I’ve led Texas soldiers in some pretty dangerous places. But now’s the time to lead the fight to secure our border, make our schools better, protect our land and water and create jobs for East Texas,” Brown said in the ad. “I know how to get things done.”


GOP SD-1 candidate Bryan Hughes highlights his stances to end funding for Planned Parenthood, end standardized tests and double resources for border security in his new TV ad.


State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, has released the first TV ad for his re-election campaign. The ad, “Getting Things Done for Texas,” points to his record of advocating for abused and neglected children and the elderly.

Uresti’s primary run has drawn greater than average attention with the decision of Helen Madla to challenge him. Madla is the widow of state Sen. Frank Madla, who was defeated by Uresti in the 2006 Democratic primary election.


The Texas Public Policy Foundation is siding with an oil driller in a tax exemption battle that could wipe out the state’s budget surplus.

The conservative think tank on Wednesday filed an amicus brief in support of Southwest Royalties, the Midland-based subsidiary of Clayton Williams Energy, which is suing Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. It argues that metal pipes, tubing and other equipment used in oil and gas production should be exempt from sales taxes.

The Texas Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on March 8 in a case that dates back to 2009.

The exemption in question is for goods and services used in the “actual manufacturing, processing, or fabrication of tangible personal property.”

Hegar says Southwest Royalties’ equipment doesn’t apply. The driller disagrees and has found an ally in the anti-tax foundation.

“Strictly construing a tax exemption against the taxpayer bypasses the legal safeguards that protect Texans from abuse by the taxing power,” Robert Henneke, general counsel for TPPF, said in a statement. “Principles of liberty dictate that the courts presume to resolve all doubts in a tax exemption dispute in favor of the taxpayer.”

Hegar has sounded the alarm that a loss could mean an initial $4.4 billion revenue hit in 2017 and $500 million each year after that, as other companies seek to cash in. Currently, Texas' projected budget surplus sits at $4 billion.

See this Tribune story for more on the big-money case.


The House’s newest representative, John Lujan, was sworn in Monday at 10:30 a.m. Supreme Court Justice Paul Green administered the oath in a ceremony in the House chamber.


And here’s something for the calendar. The Political Science Association at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will hold a debate for the Democratic and Republican candidates running for the open Congressional District 15 race.

The debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 26, which also happens to be the last day of early voting before the March 1 primary elections.

Six Democrats and three Republicans are seeking to succeed outgoing U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Edinburg.

Inside Intelligence: About Those Judicial Selections and Elections...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about selecting the next U.S. Supreme Court justice and choosing Texas judges.

The way the nation and Texas selects its members of the judiciary is making news, whether it's the high stakes confrontation between President Barack Obama and the Republican-led U.S. Senate over how a successor to Antonin Scalia should be chosen or whether an incumbent justice on the Texas Supreme Court could lose her seat to a perennial also ran in the upcoming party primaries.

The Senate Republican leadership has moved quickly to stake the position that the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court should remain unfilled through the remaining 11 months of Obama's presidency. That sets up a conflict that will color the political conversation through the remainder of this year's electoral cycle.

We began by asking if a fight of this nature helps one of the parties over the long term. A slight majority said it helps the Democrats more while the insiders split nearly evenly between it helping Republicans (23 percent) and helping neither party (22 percent).

The question of who succeeds Scalia also brings into focus how high the stakes are in this year's presidential election. We asked next if this hurts any of the current GOP presidential field. Donald Trump was seen by the most insiders (43 percent) as at risk. He was followed by Ted Cruz (27 percent), John Kasich (14 percent), Jeb Bush (10 percent) and Marco Rubio (7 percent).

Fully 30 percent of the insiders, though, thought none of the candidates are put at risk by elevating the issue of the Supreme Court in the minds of the voters.

With the remaining questions, we turned to the Texas system of choosing judges through partisan elections. Justice Eva Guzman's re-election bid against perennial also ran Joe Pool Jr. has attracted the attention of a broad spectrum of elected officials and conservative activists who are warning against an electoral surprise in a race where the candidates lack strong name ID. The oft cited example in recent Texas history is the loss by Justice Xavier Rodriguez to Steven Wayne Smith in the 2002 Republican primary.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, for instance, took to Facebook this week to exhort his followers to vote for Guzman and raise awareness of her primary contest.

We asked the insiders if having a Hispanic surname by itself hurts a candidate in a Republican primary. Nearly three in five of the insiders said the surname hurts with about a third of the insiders disagreeing that a Hispanic candidate is hurt.

We finished things by asking if the state should continue using partisan elections to choose the members of the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals. On that question, nearly seven in 10 thought judges shouldn't be selected in that way while about three in 10 said to keep the system as it is.

We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached. Here’s a sampling:


Does a fight over the next U.S. Supreme Court justice help the Democrats or Republicans?

• "Depends on how it is played. If the President appoints a centrist, then it makes it harder for the R's to object and slow walk the nomination. If the President nominates a left leaning nominee, the R's may have more cover to stall. Either way, the President will have the upper hand in that the country will consider it irresponsible to wait a whole year before a President submits a name."

• "But it doesn't have to if the Rs will stop grandstanding and let the process work. Vetting nominees is the process. So what if it takes until after the election to decide you don't like any of the Obama candidates? If you win the election, great. If not, the choice you have to make may not be any worse."

• "My assumption is that the decision by Obama will be made specifically on what he believes causes the most political damage for the Republican presidential candidate. That would suggest Obama will nominate a Hispanic. The Republicans' rejection of any candidate put forward by Obama will be portrayed by Democrats as racism against Hispanics and motivate minority votes for the Democratic nominee."

• "Republican voters have been waiting for seven years to see their party stand up to Obama while he's run through them like stuff through a goose. It's now or never for the establishment."

• "Dysfunctional government doesn't help anyone."


The next president could alter the partisan balance of the U.S. Supreme Court. Which candidate(s) does that put at risk?

• "This would hurt Cruz or Trump in the GENERAL election because they are generally perceived to be ideologically extreme. That same perception probably hurts Bush, Rubio and Kasich in the primary."

• "Cruz and company will use this as a reason for voters to pick him over Trump. He has the most to gain by shifting the focus to gun rights, etc., showing Trump is out of touch with the conservative views. None of the others benefit or lose because they're not in the race yet."

• "Who knows who Trump would appoint — and Kasich is the kind of guy who could appoint a squish. Ironically, voters know they can't trust these two very different guys with the Supreme Court appointment. No worries about the other 3."

• "None of the above or below. In the long run, the only thing that matters is keeping an Obama appointee off the court."

• "The Court doesn't have a 'partisan balance.' It definitely has an 'ideological balance.' Witness Earl Warren, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Anthony Kennedy."


It's commonly said that a Hispanic surname hurts a candidate in a GOP primary in Texas. Is that true?

• "It didn't hurt Cruz, and as long as a Latino is riding along the fringe with the Tea Party then he/she will get elected in Texas, even in a GOP primary."

• "A Hispanic surname only hurts in a Republican primary if voters are not informed. Victor Carrillo ran a bad campaign. Xavier Rodriguez ran a bad campaign. Ted Cruz ran a great campaign. Two losses, one win. And Cruz is the most popular politician with the Texas Republican base."

• "It's commonly said by Democrats and uninformed simple minded reporters that are too lazy to come up with any original ideas. How about as a question like this? Is the media biased and does it show when they ask stupid questions like this?"

• "That's nonsense. I'm EXCITED about Weston Martinez for RRC."

• "Really? Republicans have led on having minority statewide electeds - Hispanic or otherwise. To imply that Republicans are anything other than accepting of all races is flat out wrong."


Should Texas continue to use partisan elections to select members of the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals?

• "A partisan elected judge is nothing more than an activist judge."

• "Even if they ran independently from the partisan elections, candidates would still run ads as 'Conservative' or 'Progressive.'"

• "Anyone who can take your liberty, money or, ultimately, your life should never be appointed to anything."

• "Texas courts are more accountable to the people because they're elected. Appointed — or appointed with retention elections — are NOT as successful for the electorate. Instead, they work for who appoints them, making their decisions POLITICAL, rather than PRINCIPLED."

• "All candidates should be required to file in both primaries. That will double the parties' filing fees, force candidates to run as judges and not politicians, and permit judges who win both primaries to end their campaigns in the Spring, when they are not susceptible to party 'sweeps.'"

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Clyde Alexander, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Walt Baum, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Snapper Carr, Elna Christopher, Kevin Cooper, Denise Davis, June Deadrick, Glenn Deshields, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Gay Erwin, Tom Forbes, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Eric Glenn, Jim Grace, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Steve Holzheauser, Deborah Ingersoll, Richie Jackson, Bill Jones, Mark Jones, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Dale Laine, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Jason McElvaney, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Nelson Nease, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, A.J. Rodriguez, Grant Ruckel, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Bruce Scott, Ben Sebree, Nancy Sims, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Colin Strother, Sherry Sylvester, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, David White, Seth Winick, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Friday, Feb. 19

  • Last day to apply for a mail-in ballot for the party primary elections
  • Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce Executives Leadership Conference with luncheon keynote speaker Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton; DoubleTree by Hilton Hobby Airport, 8181 Airport Blvd., Houston (8 a.m.-2 p.m.)

Saturday, Feb. 20

  • Presidential nominating contests: South Carolina primary (Republican only), Nevada caucuses (Democratic only)

Monday, Feb. 22

  • Eight-day pre-election campaign finance reports due with the Texas Ethics Commission

Tuesday, Feb. 23

  • Presidential nominating contest: Nevada caucuses (Republican only)

Wednesday, Feb. 24

  • Harris County Republican Party's 2016 Lincoln-Reagan Dinner with featured speaker U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Bayou City Event Center, 9401 Knight Road, Houston (6 p.m.)

Thursday, Feb. 25

  • Republican presidential debate, presented by CNN, Telemundo, Google and the Salem Media Group; Moores Opera Center, The University of Houston, 120 School of Music Bldg., Houston (7 p.m.)

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.

Quotes of the Week

It's kind of what we used to call 'The Man,' when you are against The Man. The establishment has become 'The Man.'

Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report, on why nobody in the 2016 presidential field wants to carry the "establishment" mantle

It has been 80 years since an election-year vacancy has been filled and the politics of the court has changed drastically since those days.

Shannen W. Coffin, former counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, to The New York Times on the challenge in finding a replacement for the late Antonin Scalia

After I did my job, yes, I kept playing it over and over in my mind and thought, ‘Oh my God. History is being made in Presidio County.' It’s something I’ll never forget.

Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara to WFAA on being the official asked to pronounce Justice Antonin Scalia dead on Saturday

It appears this is fixing a tough law by cutting it with a serrated knife.

Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen Texas to the Houston Chronicle on efforts by those involved in municipal bond sales to change new disclosure requirements on government contracts

So we've killed OPEC. It's gone.

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, telling CNN that Congress lifting the export ban on oil breaks OPEC's ability to control the market by curtailing production