The Big Conversation
Today marks another key date along the road to selecting the next president as the first primary contests of the 2016 race take place in New Hampshire.
The Tribune’s Abby Livingston has the scene setter from the Granite State where she describes “a five-man pileup for second place” with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz among that group — which also includes Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich — seeking a strong finish behind Donald Trump.
Cruz, though, is not likely to feel the same urgency as the other top tier candidates as he already can point to a win in the Iowa caucuses to demonstrate his viability in the race.
Livingston writes, “The biggest unknown ahead of Tuesday's primary is how much Rubio and the three other men will split up the establishment vote. Meanwhile, Cruz is betting on the voters who take the state's ‘Live Free or Die’ motto to heart to pull him to a strong finish.”
Even so, Cruz was already on Monday signaling his strength in the south where many of the contests through the March 1 “SEC primary” are taking place.
Texas, of course, is one of those March 1 primary states. The Tribune’s Patrick Svitek, Abby Livingston and Jamie Lovegrove report today that the primary contest could prove pivotal on the Democratic side as well.
Recent campaign events, they write, “symbolize the increasing importance Texas is taking on in this year's Democratic primary race, especially as it becomes clear (Hillary) Clinton will not be able to dispatch with Bernie Sanders in the first few early voting states. The prospect of a longer-than-expected race between the two candidates has both campaigns spending significant time and money around the state ahead of its earlier-than-usual nominating contest — early voting for which starts next week.”
Trib Must Reads
Three Supreme Court Justices Face Challenges, by Jordan Rudner — In all three state Supreme Court seats up for election this year, Republican incumbents face primary challengers on March 1 – but that's where the similarities end.
"Criminal Aliens" Flashpoint of Border Security Debate, by Jay Root — How to deal with, or talk about, foreigners who commit crimes in the United States — the government’s term for them is the politically incorrect “criminal aliens” — has laid bare a bitter divide in the electorate and has prompted heated calls for vastly different solutions.
Railroad Commission Hopefuls Split on Donations, by Jim Malewitz — Candidates Ron Hale, Weston Martinez and Lance Christian say they would support a proposal barring railroad commissioners from accepting political donations from parties doing business before the commission.
Dukes' Staffers Often Babysat, Ran Personal Errands, by Madlin Mekelburg and Terri Langford — Two former staffers for state Rep. Dawnna Dukes say they found their work a hectic balancing act, fitting in legislative work with the Austin's lawmaker's ever expanding list of personal errands.
Judge Again Rejects Texas Bid to Block Syrian Refugees, by Alexa Ura — A federal judge has once again denied Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's efforts to keep the federal government from resettling Syrian refugees in the state.
Video: Houston Slayings Fueled Border Security Debate, by Alana Rocha and Justin Dehn — The murder of 25-year-old Spencer Golvach by an undocumented Mexican national – repeatedly thrown out of the country for multiple criminal convictions – lit a political firestorm over illegal immigration that has not abated.
Video: Texas Congressmen Talk Immigration Policy, by Alana Rocha — Several members of the Texas congressional delegation say the nation must prioritize an overhaul of immigration policy, specifically targeting the nation’s southern border.
Disbarment of Former District Attorney Upheld, by Johnathan Silver — The Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals Monday upheld the disbarment of former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta Jr. for professional misconduct in the capital murder case of Anthony Graves.
The Day Ahead
• The House Corrections Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. in the Capitol extension. Lawmakers will study the cost and incarceration rates for non-violent drug offenses and study the inmate release policies of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
• The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Private Property Rights in Water meets at 9:30 a.m. in the Burleson Independent School District Administration Building in Burleson. Representatives will examine how to supply water while considering the private property rights of landowners and hear invited testimony.
• The House Public Education Committee meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol extension. Lawmakers will review current middle school education policies, review programs that address the needs of high performing students and hear public testimony.
Turner calls for change in transportation philosophy, Houston Chronicle
Covering my first execution, Houston Chronicle
Foster children were relocated to San Antonio, San Antonio Express-News
UT team links school calendar, colds to asthma hospitalizations, Austin American-Statesman
Did A Spy-Turned-Congressman Just Out His Role In Cyber War With Russia?, The Huffington Post
Trump, Bush tangle over eminent domain and Rangers ballpark, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Another Cruz mailer in the cross-hairs, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Hillary Clinton’s Texas campaign gears up as supporters voice concern about Bernie Sanders’ sudden strength, The Dallas Morning News
Study: Defunding Planned Parenthood linked to more pregnancies, San Antonio Express-News
City: Pedestrians won't be on Border Highway, El Paso Times
Michael Brick, songwriter and journalist, remembered, Houston Chronicle
Quote to Note
“OK, you’re not allowed to say and I never expect to hear that from you again. I never expect to hear that from you again. She said he’s a pussy.”
— Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, asking an audience member in New Hampshire to repeat what she called U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz because of his views on waterboarding.
Today in TribTalk
Donald Trump and the end of civility, by Sara Stevenson — It wasn’t long ago that we scoffed at people for “ad hominem” arguments. But now, we are in the age where Donald Trump is a leading presidential candidate.
News From Home
• Over the next year, The Texas Tribune is taking a deep look at the issues of border security and immigration, topics never far from the headlines — or the presidential trail. Part 1 of the Bordering on Insecurity project launches today. Read here about the fallout that comes when violent criminals slip through the cracks of a border policed by overwhelmed or underprepared law enforcement agencies.
Trib Events for the Calendar
• A Conversation with Sen. José Menéndez on Feb. 11 at the Austin Club
• 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
• Live Post-Primary TribCast on March 2 at the Austin Club
• Protecting Houston Before the Next Big Storm on March 3 at San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center in La Porte.
• A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on March 23 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine
• A Symposium on Transportation on March 29 at Texas A&M University in College Station