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The Brief: Dec. 28, 2015

The summit in Cisco is part of an effort by the Cruz campaign to consolidate support among a voting bloc key to the candidate's chances of winning the presidential nomination.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz greets supporters Sunday after a rally in Trussville, Alabama. The Texas senator is on a weeklong tour of nine mostly southern states.

The Big Conversation

GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz heads to a ranch today in the West Texas town of Cisco to meet with about 300 pastors and faith leaders.

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek wrote last week that the meeting at the ranch owned by two of Cruz's most generous political donors underscores how important he sees unifying support of evangelical leaders behind his candidacy:

"The meeting is being organized at least in part by Keep the Promise PAC, one of four main super PACs supporting Cruz. Keep the Promise PAC is headed by David Barton, an influential Christian activist and author who formerly served as the vice chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. ... As they have thrown their support behind Cruz, conservative leaders have urged like-minded activists to follow their lead, hoping to avoid previous elections in which their support was diluted among a number of candidates."

Not everyone attending the Cisco summit is already in the Cruz camp. Svitek wrote that Samuel Rodriguez, leader of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, heads to the gathering intending to ask how Cruz plans to broaden his appeal among Hispanics and African Americans.

"Engaging white evangelicals is nice and it's wonderful, but it doesn't get you across the goal line. It doesn't," Rodriguez said. "Ask Mitt Romney and ask John McCain. White evangelical support for the GOP does not equal occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy noted that area of West Texas is also listening to the message being sent by GOP candidate Donald Trump:

"The location is also strategic: Cisco and Eastland County are in a maverick-minded part of West Texas traditionally prone to support outsider candidates such as Trump. This time around, Trump has support, but 'this is pretty much a solid Cruz environment,' said Cisco Republican Zach Maxwell, a Cruz voter and a political adviser to local candidates. ... 'Trump is saying the things everybody is thinking to a tee. He says what the people want to hear, but the question is whether he’d actually act on it.'”

Trib Must Reads

Syrian Refugees, Campus Carry Topped TribTalk in 2015, by Robert Inks — A tumultuous legislative session and the start of the 2016 presidential election cycle got Texans talking this year about everything from politics to pot. Here are six of the most-read columns featured on TribTalk in 2015.

2015 Interactive Features Included Death Row App, Look at Space Race, by Becca Aaronson — Whether it was an immersive look at the space industry in Texas, a project on death row inmates or a redesign of one of our most popular databases, The Texas Tribune's news apps team tackled some our most ambitious projects to date in 2015.

Cruz's Rise, Paxton's Mugshot: The Year in Texas Politics, by Abby Livingston — In 2015, Texans saw their former governor reluctantly exit the political stage as their junior senator emerged as one of the savviest and most consequential Republican presidential candidates. Here are the year’s top political stories.

Democrats Force U.S. House Candidate to Change Name on Ballot, by Jim Malewitz — South Texas voters will no longer be able to choose a Ruben Hinojosa to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa.


‘Total devastation’: Nine tornadoes confirmed; storms leave 11 dead, hundreds without homes, The Dallas Morning News

Open Carry is the law of the land in Texas as of Jan. 1, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Some Texas Tech locations may still be gun-free, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

State-Level Brawls Over Medicaid Reflect Divide in G.O.P., The New York Times

Republicans split on attacking climate science, The Hill

Now it’s even easier for candidates and their aides to help super PACs, The Washington Post

Texas AG's heavily armed white-collar crime unit costing taxpayers millions, The Dallas Morning News

Drug court failing black offenders, Austin American-Statesman

Hispanic teen births: A big problem struggling for attention, Austin American-Statesman

Schools struggle to reduce chronic absenteeism, Houston Chronicle

Costliest college network in the country has lost millions, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

“It’s mind over matter.”

— State Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, on running in next month's World Marathon Challenge — seven marathons in seven days on seven continents — to raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Fallon has never run a marathon before.

Today in TribTalk

Refugee facilities aren't "residential centers" — they're prisons, by Satsuki Ina — Texas' attempt to license these prisons is no less than putting lipstick on a pig. The state is not trying to better the treatment of detained children but to facilitate the federal government's efforts at bypassing the court order by slapping a "childcare license" sign on the door of what is clearly a prison.

In the GOP, two definitions of the ideal conservative, by Mark P. Jones — One thing all these Republican candidates have in common is that they almost to a person consider themselves to be an ideal conservative. They and their supporters differ however in terms of what they consider "ideal conservative" to mean.

News From Home

•    Take a look back at Blood Lessons, a Texas Tribune/Houston Chronicle investigation into whether the nation’s oil refineries learned the lessons of the deadly explosion at BP’s Texas City plant in 2005.
•    We couldn't think of a better gift for you, our generous readers, than our ambitious coverage plans for 2016. Hear from beat reporters, editors, developers, producers and the boss himself on what we've got in store for the coming year.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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

•    A conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

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