The Big Conversation:
The Texas primary is still eight weeks away, but that hasn't stopped Rick Santorum and Ron Paul from already trying to scoop up delegates here.
As the Tribune's Jay Root reports, while it remains unclear whether Texas will play a significant role in the nomination process, Santorum and Paul have begun working to flood the state convention in June with their supporters.
In the past, the delegate selection process in Texas has started on the night of the primary, when voters could attend post-primary caucuses to select delegates to send to state and national conventions. But because of primary delays this year due to redistricting, the delegate selection process is already under way.
Most of the GOP delegate selection conventions will be held April 14 or April 21, when the delegates who will attend June's state Republican convention in Fort Worth will be selected.
“The Ron Paul campaign is very engaged, inquiring how the process works, organizing turnout,” said Texas Republican Party chairman Steve Munisteri. “I see the Santorum people putting together a very active team, and they are working on getting people to turn out to the conventions.”
Munisteri added that he'd seen "no sign" of Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich making plays yet for delegates, though a Romney spokesman said that the candidate has started organizing in the state and that the campaign will soon begin announcing high-profile Texas endorsements.
Though Republican delegates in Texas will be awarded to candidates proportionately based on the percentage of the vote they receive in the primary, nuances in the delegate selection process allow some delegates to ultimately back whomever they want.
The state GOP's three so-called superdelegates — Munisteri and two other top party officials — can vote for any candidate at the national convention. Unbound delegates will also be awarded to the "uncommitted" vote, which Republican primary voters can select on their ballots. Additionally, the state GOP voted in February to allow delegates to switch their vote at the national convention after the first round of voting.
Paul has long staked his viability on amassing delegates in smaller caucuses states and at state and local conventions in bigger states. According to NBC News, Paul, looking to boost his campaign after a sluggish couple of months, has made a statewide TV ad buy in Texas for next week and plans to speak at five state conventions. Over the next 40 days, he'll also hold rallies at 16 college campuses across the country, most in Texas and California, which votes June 5 and where he's also planning to compete.
“We are going to push real hard to let them know they have a strong, fiscal conservative Texan in the race," said Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton.
- State Reps. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and Vicki Truitt, R-Southlake, filed two formal complaints on Tuesday accusing influential conservative leader Michael Quinn Sullivan of ethics violations, the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports. The lawmakers claimed that Sullivan lobbied in 2010 and 2011 without filing the required lobbyist disclosures and that Empower Texans, the group Sullivan leads, didn't file required campaign finance disclosures for the last six months of 2011. Some context: Sullivan tried to unseat Truitt in 2010, sponsoring robocalls criticizing her and providing yard signs supporting her opponents. Sullivan said Tuesday after learning of the complaints from a Tribune reporter, "I think this is just typical incumbents trying to throw around power and throw around big fancy words when, you know, at the end of the day, they just don't want to talk to people about their record."
- Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department urged a federal panel in Washington on Tuesday to deny the state's request to keep Texas lawmakers from testifying in the state's voter ID case, according to the San Antonio Express-News. In a court filing last week, the department said it should be allowed to “depose those legislators believed to have had the most active role in drafting, introducing, and advocating for" the voter ID bill. Abbott has said state privilege should protect lawmakers — and their communications over the law — from figuring in the case.
- As the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports, Tom Suehs, the state's health commissioner, said Tuesday that Texas could find money to fund the embattled Women's Health Program by seeking newly available federal block grants for other state programs. The savings, Suehs said, could be used to fund the Medicaid program, which has lost federal financing over state Republicans' efforts to exclude Planned Parenthood from the program. State Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston, the leader of the House Democrats, said in a statement that the plan was "fiscally irresponsible" and would "rob state funds and federal block grants that were set aside for one program to pay for services that would have already been funded."
“He’s expecting to do well in his home state, but mark my word, Wolf, Texas will be a critical state in this primary process. Keep an eye on Texas, that’s going to be important." — Rick Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday
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- Travis County considers terms for Apple to receive up to $7.4 million in incentives, Austin American-Statesman
- Storify: State Officials React to North Texas Tornadoes, The Texas Tribune
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