The Brief: Top Texas News for June 17, 2013

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston on May 3, 2013.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston on May 3, 2013.

The Big Conversation

As two Texans eye a 2016 presidential bid, one has already emerged as an early front-runner among the state's Republicans.

In a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll of self-identified GOP primary voters, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz leads the 2016 Republican primary field comfortably, garnering a quarter of the vote. Nearly as many respondents, 21 percent, said they had no opinion yet in the race, but Cruz still outpaced every other high-profile Republican contender, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, with 13 percent of the vote; U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, with 11 percent; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, at 8 percent.

Cruz, whose fiery debut in Congress this year has set off speculation about his presidential ambitions, also handily outpolled Gov. Rick Perry, who received 10 percent of the vote. 

"What you’re seeing here with the Cruz number is that he has become the pre-eminent rising conservative in Texas," said the poll's co-director, Jim Henson. "What we’re witnessing in the numbers is Cruz running ahead and reaching back for the baton, and Rick Perry has the baton. The only question is whether Rick Perry is ready to hand it to him."

Whether Perry has lost appeal with the state's GOP, however, is less clear. Though nearly 40 percent of all voters say they would vote against him if he sought a fourth term as governor, he leads Attorney General Greg Abbott 45 percent to 19 percent in a hypothetical 2014 primary — virtually unchanged since earlier this year.

"As we go into the 2014 cycle, you have both the track record of the presidential run, which is clearly negative, and you’ve got Ted Cruz very much on the stage and as a viable figurehead for the party, and you’ve got Greg Abbott waiting in the wings," Henson said.

Republicans, meanwhile, mostly haven't tuned into the 2014 race for lieutenant governor. Though incumbent David Dewhurst leads three potential primary opponents — state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples — six out of 10 voters haven't made up their mind.

Read the full story for more detailed results and a look at the presidential contest (or lack thereof) on the Democratic side.

Culled

•    Perry Issues More Than Two Dozen Vetoes (The Texas Tribune): "Gov. Rick Perry, taking aim at a powerful but embattled Travis County Democrat, used his line-item veto power Friday to eliminate millions of dollars in state funding for the prosecutors who investigate public corruption cases in the state capital. … Among the other measures wiped out by his veto pen Friday: Senate Bill 17, a $10 million measure, backed by conservatives, that would have provided state training for armed classroom teachers; HB 950, the state Lilly Ledbetter Act, designed to prevent wage discrimination against women; and Senate Bill 219, which would have required Texas railroad commissioners, who oversee the oil and gas industry, to resign before running for another state office. … The governor's veto of a higher education oversight bill, SB 15, was not entirely unexpected, but it generated plenty of heat Friday night."

•    Video: Perry Confuses Libya With Lebanon in Speech (The Texas Tribune): "In his prepared remarks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition 2013 conference on Saturday in Washington, D.C., Gov. Rick Perry had another 'oops' moment when he mistakenly said last year's deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi occurred in Lebanon, not Libya."

•    In Senate, an Immigration Bill Savior or Saboteur? (The New York Times): "One week into the Senate’s immigration floor fight, Senator John Cornyn of Texas has emerged as one of the most polarizing figures on the issue: a Republican leader from a border state brandishing a border security plan that he says is meant to salvage the measure but that is seen by others as a surreptitious attempt to scuttle it."

•    Ted Cruz, Bill Flores back North Texas valedictorian who defied speech policy to thank Jesus (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas lawmakers and other conservatives are rallying behind Joshua High School’s valedictorian after his principal allegedly threatened to sabotage his academic career at the U.S. Naval Academy. The alleged threat came after the student, Remington Reimer, deviated from the school-approved script at graduation June 6, thanking Jesus and denouncing educators for censoring him. … Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called Reimer last week to laud his courage in standing up for his free speech rights and religion. On Facebook, he called Reimer a 'true patriot.' U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, who recommended Reimer for a spot at the Naval Academy after meeting him at several Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps events, also took to social media to express support."

Quote of the Day: "What really infuriates me is his staff doesn't know how to read the legislation. He got bad advice." — State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, on Rick Perry's veto of his gun training bill for school employees

Must-Read

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