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The Brief: June 22, 2015

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is now the leader in Texas among 2016 Republican primary rivals, the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll finds.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at Citizens United Freedom Summit in South Carolina on May 9, 2015.

The Big Conversation

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is now the leader in Texas among GOP 2016 presidential candidates, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

In February, the poll had found Cruz's numbers close to Gov. Scott Walker's of Wisconsin, but as the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, Cruz has now jumped ahead among those registered voters who would vote in the GOP primary:

Walker was running neck-and-neck with Cruz in February, when his entry into the race was making daily news, but the Texans’ home-field advantage is showing again. Cruz had the support of 20 percent of registered voters, followed by (Rick) Perry at 12 percent, Walker at 10 percent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 8 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 7 percent.

Poll co-director Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, said the results reflect a “native son effect” in Texas that boosts the performance of candidates who are from here in comparison with their showings in national polls...

And although Cruz has the lead, it’s not a commanding one. Three more candidates — author and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — each were the choice of more than 5 percent of those who said they would vote in the GOP primary. Eight others had the support of 3 percent or less. 

Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin, said there's a "clear front-runner here, but not a winner."

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, had 53 percent support from registered voters who said they planned to vote in the 2016 Democratic primaries.

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

Trib Must-Reads

3 Texas Congressmen Anticipating Tea Party Challengers, by Abby Livingston — Six months out from the filing deadline, Texas political operatives on the right and the even farther right are analyzing the state's congressional map in an attempt to identify vulnerable members of the delegation.

Abbott OKs Ousting Planned Parenthood From Cancer Program, by Alexa Ura — Gov. Greg Abbott has signed off on a budget provision that will oust Planned Parenthood from a state cancer screening program for low-income women.

Abbott Wields Veto Pen in Final Days of Decision Period, by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott has issued 42 vetoes in the aftermath of the 84th legislative session.

Law Increasing Unemployment Taxes Gets Abbott's Signature, by Jim Malewitz — The new law will give tax breaks to a small group of businesses but slightly increase taxes across the rest of the state. 

Abbott Vetoes Spousal Loophole, by Jay Root — Gov. Greg Abbott has vetoed legislation that would have opened up a new loophole allowing elected officials to cloak assets held by a spouse. State Rep. Sarah Davis, whose bills contained the controversial amendment, said she wound up adding her voice to those calling for a veto.

Day After "Accident" Remark, Perry Strikes Somber Tone, by Abby Livingston — A day after stirring controversy for referring to the Charleston shootings as an "accident," former Gov. Rick Perry at an event in Washington on Saturday repeatedly called the massacre a “hate crime."

Perry's "Accident" Incident, by Patrick Svitek — Former Gov. Rick Perry, who is seen as having a thin margin for error in his second bid for the White House, apparently misspoke Friday, calling a shooting massacre in South Carolina an "accident."

Prosecutors Take Pot Cases Into Their Own Hands, by Terri Langford — Texas lawmakers may be reluctant to ease up on punishing small-time pot smokers, but local prosecutors across the state are increasingly looking for ways to keep two-bit toking cases from clogging court dockets.

5th Circuit Won't Halt New Texas Abortion Restrictions, by Alexa Ura — A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a request from Texas abortion providers to temporarily put on hold a ruling that could leave Texas with nine abortion facilities.

Field Takes Shape to Replace Fraser in SD-24, by Patrick Svitek — Potential and declared candidates are lining up to replace Troy Fraser in Senate District 24.

Abbott Signs Grand Jury Reform Legislation, by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott is officially getting rid of the state's controversial "pick-a-pal" system, signing legislation reforming the selection of people who serve on grand juries in Texas.

Court: Texas AG Cannot Halt Same-Sex Couple's Divorce, by Terri Langford and Alexa Ura — As Texas waits on the U.S. Supreme Court to rule, the state highest civil court ruled Friday that the Texas attorney general's office tried too late to stop a divorce between a couple married in Massachusetts. 

Abbott OKs Venue Change for Political Corruption Cases, by Jay Root — Ignoring calls for a veto, Gov. Greg Abbott signed controversial legislation this week that will allow elected officials and bureaucrats to bypass local prosecutors when they are accused of public corruption.

Abbott Vetoes Four Criminal Justice, Public Safety Bills, by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed four criminal justice and public safety bills, bringing to eight the total number of vetoes he has issued in the aftermath of the 84th legislative session.

Elsewhere

Ted Cruz’s Father Fires Up Campaign Rhetoric, Wall Street Journal

Rick Perry defends Texas health coverage, Politico

Texas may be tea party heaven, but activists aren't happy, The Associated Press

Left-leaning lobbyist in Austin is a rebel without much of a chance, The Dallas Morning News

Texas abortion law teed up for Supreme Court review, The Associated Press

Lawmakers make a mad dash for cash, San Antonio Express-News

Abbott vetoes business tax break bill, The Dallas Morning News

Improvements expected with contracting reforms, San Antonio Express-News

SPLC monitors dozens of hate groups across Texas, Houston Chronicle

Lawyers come from afar to represent immigrant mothers, San Antonio Express-News

Dallas police, and nerves, stretched thin after HQ attack, The Dallas Morning News

Mayoral candidate calls for investigation of Meyerland flooding, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

"If there’s going to be an incumbent that goes down in Texas, I think Blake Farenthold would be No. 1."

Drew Ryan of the Madison Project to the Tribune's Abby Livingston on which GOP members of Texas' congressional delegation might see a primary challenge.

Today in TribTalk

How to accelerate the Texas economy, by Mustafa Tameez — Lawmakers have found more funding for our roads and highways, but it’s not enough. A temporary gas tax increase pegged to the price at the pump would fill that hole — and help put laid-off Texans back to work.

News From Home

•    Check out our Texas Legislative Guide to see all the bills that escaped Gov. Greg Abbott's veto pen and became law. Want to see a list of the vetoed bills? We have that, too.

•    By the end of the 84th legislative session, state lawmakers reached many compromises on the 2016-17 budget and tax cuts. See what lawmakers decided — and how they got there — with our Texas Legislative Guide.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation About Health Care and the 84th Legislature on June 24 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio

•    A Conversation About Houston and the 84th Legislature on June 29 at George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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