The Big Conversation
Ted Cruz returns to Iowa today to kick off a six-day bus tour of the key early voting state. He also enters the week, as the Tribune's Patrick Svitek reported Sunday, "as a bona fide frontrunner and all the scrutiny — fair and unfair — that comes with it."
That scrutiny includes attacks by his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination as well as outside groups. Svitek's report singled out attempts by Mike Huckabee and his allies to take swipes at Cruz in an attempt "to undercut his claim to being the purest conservative in the GOP field."
And Donald Trump appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday where he accused Cruz of copying him on advocating building a wall in response to immigrants crossing into the country illegally. Politico reported Trump as saying, "And I was watching Ted talk. And he said, 'We will build a wall.' The first time I've ever heard him say it," he continued. "And my wife, who was sitting next to me, said, 'Oh, look. He's copying what you've been saying for a long period of time.'"
Continuing its attacks on Cruz is the ethanol lobby. Per Svitek's report, "Also not planning to let up on Cruz is the ethanol lobby, which spent most of December hammering the Texas senator over his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard. The pro-ethanol group America's Renewable Future is planning to rev up the attack machine again Monday to coincide with the start of Cruz's bus tour."
Stay tuned today for further reports from Iowa as the Cruz tour begins.
Trib Must Reads
Women Still Underrepresented in Legislative Races, by Alexa Ura — It remains a daunting political reality in Texas. While women make up more than half the state, they are underrepresented in the halls of power, and it appears the 2016 elections will do little to change that.
Analysis: Budget Battle Might Seem Boring, But Don't Doubt Its Impact, by Ross Ramsey — Some of the most important debates in government and politics are complicated — and boring. That gives the combatants some safety from voters who are preoccupied with battles that are easier to understand.
Video: Patrick Hopes for Fewer Barriers to Own Guns, by Abby Livingston — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appeared on national television Sunday morning, saying he hopes to see the day when Americans can have a gun without having "to go through a long ordeal."
Dallas Struggles to Overcome Segregated Legacy, by Neena Satija — Housing and rent subsidy programs in Dallas — like many Texas cities — have long perpetuated segregation by funneling poor renters into poor neighborhoods. New federal rules are aimed at turning that around.
Pro-Cruz Super PAC Plans $4M TV Buy in Iowa, South Carolina, by Patrick Svitek — Not much is known about the Stand for Truth PAC, which so far has focused its efforts on radio and digital ads in the key early voting state of Iowa.
As Open Carry Takes Effect, Officials Predict Lawsuits, by Morgan Smith — The state’s handgun license holders, who previously had to keep their firearms concealed, can now carry them openly. Across Texas, law enforcement officials, city leaders and business owners are bracing for lawsuits.
Stickland Race Heats Up Over Pot, Rape Comments, by Patrick Svitek — Incumbent state Rep. Jonathan Stickland is facing questions from a challenger about comments the Tea Party firebrand made online about drugs and rape years before he took office.
One Year, Two Races: Inside the GOP’s Bizarre, Tumultuous 2015, The Washington Post
Ted Cruz expands horizons beyond Iowa, CBS News
Many See I.R.S. Penalties as More Affordable Than Insurance, The New York Times
Immigration raids begin targeting Central Americans, DHS defends policy, The Dallas Morning News
Longtime county commissioner Lee praised for dedication to community, Houston Chronicle
Bust is taking hold in the oil patch, San Antonio Express-News
In Big Lake, residents are riding out the latest oil bust, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Opening weekend of open carry quiet, Houston Chronicle
Port ready for heavy exports following ban repeal, Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Delay likely for Lewisville Lake Dam repairs set to start Monday, The Dallas Morning News
Texas Department of Agriculture increases 117 fees, Victoria Advocate
Prosecutors getting tough on 'ambulance chasing', Houston Chronicle
Garcia: Carpetbaggers on display in Dist. 120 race, San Antonio Express-News
Quote to Note
"I want to see a day when every American citizen can simply have a gun, does not have to go through a long ordeal or pay a high price."
— Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in a Sunday appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press"
News From Home
• Take another look at our Government Salaries Explorer, home to more than 400,000 Texas employee salaries. Use the explorer to view government salaries by gender, ethnicity, length of employment and more.
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
• A Symposium on Urban Public Education on Jan. 22 at the University of Texas at El Paso
• The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin
• The Ticket: A Live Recording and Democratic Primary Debate Watch Party on Feb. 11 at KUT Public Media Studios in Austin
• A conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville
• A Symposium on Transportation on March 29 at Texas A&M University in College Station