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The Brief: Dec. 14, 2015

Today marks a red-letter day in Texas politics, the deadline for political hopefuls in 2016 to file for a place on their respective party primary ballots.

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The Big Conversation

Today marks a red-letter day in Texas politics, the deadline for political hopefuls in 2016 to file for a place on their respective party primary ballots.

The Tribune's Ross Ramsey has an overview of what the ballot looks like heading into the final day of filing. He writes that today will solve the lingering mystery of whether Donald Trump will follow through on a threat (implied, for now) of mounting an independent candidacy — in Texas, at least.

Trump, Ramsey writes, has already filed as a Republican, which prevents "him from running a Texas race as an independent unless he changes that filing by the close of business today."

By the end of today, we will also know how many supporters of House Speaker Joe Straus will face challenges in the primary from candidates allied with those seeking to oust Straus.

"Members of the anti-establishment wing have boasted they will elect enough new state representatives to turn over the management of the House, where Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is serving his fourth term as presiding officer," Ramsey writes. "Straus is seeking re-election to his seat and has said he will run for speaker again in January 2017; his supporters will be busy for the next 11 weeks trying to defeat some of the rival faction."

Elsewhere, the Tribune's Abby Livingston previews the upcoming Texas congressional primaries where a wide-open contest will happen in the West Texas district being vacated by Lubbock Republican Randy Neugebauer.

On Sunday, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said he would file to run once again for the Senate seat that he lost to José Menéndez last year in a special election. The Tribune's Morgan Smith wrote, "Martinez Fischer's supporters have argued that his defeat was the result of low turnout and Republican crossover voters — factors that shouldn't come into play during the upcoming race, a March primary in a presidential year. But Menéndez now has the advantage of incumbent status, and the donors Martinez Fischer needs to court to fund his challenge may be reluctant to antagonize a sitting senator."

The decision by Martinez Fischer also opens up a vacancy in his House District 116, which is sure to attract some new filers today.

The Tribune's Aman Batheja had one more news item Sunday on a candidate seeking statewide office: former Democratic Fort Worth state Rep. Lon Burnam filed to run for a spot on the Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas. 

Trib Must Reads

Texas Commission to Weigh Historical Racing, by Luqman Adeniyi – Texas gambling regulators will decide Tuesday whether to continue a standoff between the state's racetracks and its top political leaders, with a vote on whether to outlaw a new form of gambling at the tracks.

Trump on Cruz: "A Little Bit of a Maniac", by Patrick Svitek – Donald Trump is expanding his criticism of Ted Cruz, once his closest ally in the Republican race for the White House.

Turner Wins Nailbiter of a Mayor's Race in Houston, by Patrick Svitek – State Rep. Sylvester Turner narrowly won the Houston mayoral runoff Saturday night against former Kemah Mayor Bill King, keeping Texas' largest city under Democratic control.

In Paris, Negotiators Ink Historic Climate Accord, by Kiah Collier – Negotiators from nearly 200 nations, including the United States, struck an unprecedented climate agreement on Saturday that could have big implications for Texas — and also face big pushback from state leaders.  

Cruz Surges To First Place In New Iowa Poll, by Morgan Smith – Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has edged closer to cementing his frontrunner status in the crucial early state of Iowa after claiming the top spot in a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll.

Mock Shootings, Sex Toys Mark UT Gun Protests, by Jordan Rudner – Gun rights activists held a mock shooting at the University of Texas Saturday to protest new rules for carrying weapons on campus, while counter-protesters waved sex toys and made farting sounds to try to ridicule them.

After Sound and Fury, Planned Parenthood Still Funded, by Alexa Ura and Edgar Walters – Almost two months after Texas Republican leaders announced they would kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid, the organization is still receiving funds to provide health care for about 13,500 low-income women a year. 

The Day Ahead

•    Today is the deadline for candidates to file to appear on the March primary election ballot. 

•   Gov. Greg Abbott will honor the Texas Teacher of the Year during a ceremony at 1 p.m. at the Capitol. 

Elsewhere

Cruz Campaign Credits Data, Analytics for Success, The Washington Post

Lives in Balance, Texas Leads Scrutiny of Bite-Mark ForensicsThe New York Times

Cruz answers Trump insult with a song, Politico

Zimmerman’s lawsuit over Austin fundraising rules heads to court Austin American-Statesman

Mother hopeful son's death in Texas jail won't be repeated, The Associated Press

Donald Trump’s outspoken Texas spokeswoman likely will be around for awhileFort Worth Star-Telegram

On eve of Sandy Hook anniversary, Capitol marchers call for gun limitsAustin American-Statesman

Bullets that killed 4 bikers in Waco shootout match caliber of rifle used by police, The Associated Press

Turner reflects on mayoral campaign, plans ahead for the officeHouston Chronicle

Fikac: Ted Cruz. Likable enough?San Antonio Express-News

UT audit finds Longhorns staff used prime seats to play favorites, help ticket brokersAustin American-Statesman

Once-popular golf course falls victim to controversial border wall, drug cartel battlesSan Antonio Express-News

Today in TribTalk

Trump's Muslim proposal will only strengthen terrorists, by Karen Hughes — Playing into the terrorists’ worldview and thus strengthening the terrorists’ position is exactly what Trump’s dangerous and misguided proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States has done.

Criminalizing moving apps hurts Texas, by Dan Isett — The criminalization of the web-based moving business model represents little more than the use of government to strangle innovation and job creation in the crib and prevent competition before it gains a toehold in the marketplace.

Quote to Note

"I don’t think he’s qualified to be president because I don’t think he has the right temperament. Well, you look at the way he’s dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a — you know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac."

– Presidential candidate Donald Trump on U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a TV appearance Sunday.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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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