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The Brief: Dec. 4, 2015

The presidential campaign of Donald Trump is in the middle of a new challenge, translating the energy seen at large rallies in Dallas and Beaumont into a sustainable candidacy capable of success in the March primary.

Republican Presidential contender Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Sept…

The Big Conversation

The presidential campaign of Donald Trump is in the middle of a new challenge, translating the energy seen at large rallies in Dallas and Beaumont into a sustainable candidacy capable of success in the March primary.

As the Tribune's Patrick Svitek reports, Trump's state director, established GOP political consultant Corbin Casteel, is getting some help in the form of added paid staff. Svitek writes:

Joining Casteel on the campaign payroll in Texas are three other staffers: Joshua Jones, who is assisting on statewide efforts; Kayla Hensley, a Houston-based field director; and Eric Mahroum, North Texas field director. Based in the Vaughn Building in downtown Austin, the state campaign is still hiring, specifically with an eye on Central Texas and South Texas. 

The staffers are overseeing a statewide organization that includes at least one coordinator in all 36 congressional districts, an important milestone this cycle because most Texas delegates will be selected by district. Casteel said the campaign also has tapped county chairs in the more than 50 counties in the state that make up 70 to 80 percent of the primary electorate. 

The Trump campaign had previously made headlines when it hired Dallas-area Tea Party activist Katrina Pierson as its national spokeswoman.

To win in Texas, though, Trump must still overcome Ted Cruz on his home turf. Casteel indicated to Svitek that he's willing to take the fight to Cruz.

"What we're hearing from the Cruz supporters who are with us, who are supporting Mr. Trump, is that 'we really want him to continue being our senator in Texas. We feel Mr. Trump's more ready to be president,'" Casteel said.

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: Taking a Position Without Saying a Word, by Ross Ramsey – Until you hear otherwise from the man himself, it’s probably safe to say Gov. Greg Abbott has some big questions about how the state should pay for retirement benefits for its 310,000-plus employees.

Believe It or Not, Upgrade Planned for Alamo, by Madlin Mekelburg – The state's most venerated shrine has been swallowed by downtown San Antonio, and its neighborhood resembles a cross between carnival midway and Bourbon Street. Plans for an upgrade are in the works.

GOP Lawmakers Still Targeting Sanctuary Cities, by Julián Aguilar – During an interim Senate committee hearing on border security, Republicans left no doubt they are hell-bent on passing state-based immigration measures when lawmakers return to Austin in 2017.

Heidi Cruz Files to Get Husband on Texas Ballot, by Patrick Svitek – Heidi Cruz, the wife of GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, on Thursday submitted the paperwork to get her husband on the ballot for the Texas primary.

Judge Approves Energy Future Holdings' Bankruptcy Plan, by Jim Malewitz A federal bankruptcy judge has signed off on a plan break up key pieces of Energy Future Holdings — a major step in the conglomerate’s effort to shed tens of billions of dollars in debt.  

Republican Shreds Cruz at GOP Jewish Event, by Abby Livingston – U.S.  Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, on Thursday declared fellow GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz unelectable in a general election because of the Texas senator's stance on abortion.

The Day Ahead

•    The Tribune hosts a lunch hour conversation at Houston Community College's West Loop Campus on the impact of the digital divide in a state with a fast-growing and rapidly changing population. Our panelists include state Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston; Juanita Budd, executive director of Austin Free-Net; Becky Garlick, director of the Schulenburg Campus, Blinn College; and Will Reed, president and CEO of Technology for All. For those unable to attend in person, we will livestream the event, beginning at noon.

•    The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders plans to deliver its petitions to get the name of the Vermont senator on the ballot in Texas. There will be a rally for the event at 11 a.m. at the Capitol. 

Elsewhere

Jeb Bush’s New Show of Confidence Is Failing to Connect With Republicans, The New York Times

Senate OKs Republican bill unraveling health care law, The Associated Press 

In historic shift, all combat units will be open to women, Houston Chronicle 

How They Got Their Guns, The New York Times

Paxton drops contractors on tech project that’s $100 million over estimated cost, The Dallas Morning News

Texas effort to ban Syrian refugees panned by law experts, Austin American-Statesman

Syrian refugees diverted to New York ahead of ruling on Texas lawsuit, Houston Chronicle 

Ex-CEO sues for costs related to Paxton indictment, Houston Chronicle 

Quote to Note

"We're always worried. We're always working hard."

Heidi Cruz, after being asked if any of the other presidential candidates worry her in Texas. She was in Austin Thursday filing paperwork to get her husband, Ted, on the state's ballot.

Today in TribTalk

Congress must expand the Excellence in Mental Health Act, by Danette Castle – A lack of ready access to mental health treatment results in nearly insurmountable problems when our emergency rooms, nursing homes, homeless shelters and prisons take on that role in addition to their primary responsibilities.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A daylong symposium on Cybersecurity and Privacy on Dec. 9 at the University of Texas at San Antonio

•    A conversation about Houston & the Legislature: What's Next? on Dec. 15 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston

•    A conversation with former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove on Dec. 17 at the Austin Club

•    A conversation with state Reps. Celia Israel, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman on Jan. 14 at St. Edward's University in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin

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