The Brief: Top Texas News for July 22, 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

A conspicuous visit to Iowa has sparked a new round of speculation about U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's political ambitions.

Cruz, in Des Moines over the weekend with fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky for a conference of evangelical pastors, batted away persistent rumors that he's considering running for president in 2016.

"I’m not focused on the politics," he told ABC News. "I’ve been in the office all of seven months. The last office I was elected to was student council, so this has been a bit of a whirlwind."

Asked, however, whether he would be eligible to run for president, Cruz — who was born in Canada — said: "My mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She is a U.S. citizen, so I’m a U.S. citizen."

"I’m not going to engage in a legal debate," he added. "The facts are clear."

Cruz's visit — his first — to the crucial caucus state also included a stop at an Iowa Republican Party fundraiser, where he was greeted by a group of protesters, as The Dallas Morning News reports.

But he drew raves for his speech at the pastors' conference, where he told the crowd, "Belief — saying I believe in something — is not sitting there quietly doing the golf clap."

Bob Vander Plaats, a high-profile Christian conservative activist in Iowa, tweeted on Friday: "If Senator Cruz continues communicating and leading as he currently is, the 2016 field will narrow quickly."

Culled

•    New abortion law's effects on Houston clinics unclear (Houston Chronicle): "Officials at Planned Parenthood for Choice in Houston said it is too soon to know how many more patients could seek care at their clinic now that the governor has signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. The organization expects two clinics will be left to perform abortions in Houston by September 2014 … because they already meet the law's mandate for abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers. Eight other clinics probably would need costly renovations, relocate or close because of stricter clinical requirements, the organization says."

•    Davis calls for fast action to crack down on hospital perils, saying Gov. Perry, others have 'broken faith' (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas Sen. Wendy Davis is calling for quick action by Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to help investigate government oversight failures that allowed a chain of hospitals to jeopardize patients over the last four years and engage in potential fraud."

•    George P. Bush starts small amid high expectations (The Associated Press): "George P. Bush is running for state land commissioner, a post unfamiliar to most Texans, because he says it best suits his skills, not because it could launch him to bigger things in the largest Republican-leaning state. 'It's a legacy that I embrace and that I'm not going to run away from,' Bush told The Associated Press in an interview during a recent visit to the affluent Dallas suburb of Frisco. 'But certainly, in this campaign, I have to identify myself and talk about my own track record.'"

Quote to Note: "You'll see a slate start forming as soon as Wendy makes a decision." — Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, to the San Antonio Express-News on which Democrats will run for statewide office in 2014

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