The Brief: Stakes Are High as Voters Go to Polls Today

Reserved parking places awaited voters at the Hays County Government Center in San Marcos on Feb 25, 2016.
Reserved parking places awaited voters at the Hays County Government Center in San Marcos on Feb 25, 2016.

The Big Conversation

Texas voters go to the polls to vote in primary elections that are the biggest prize of the dozen or so Super Tuesday nominating contests being held today.

Indications are that turnout will be high. More than 1.1 million ballots were cast in the early voting period that concluded Friday. About 60 percent of those ballots were cast in the GOP primary, which could become a make or break moment for Texas’ junior senator, Ted Cruz.

"I think this is the year of chaos, uncertainty and breaking all the political rules," Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican strategist based in Austin, told the Tribune's Patrick Svitek. "I think that’ll be true in Texas. ... You’re going to see things that are totally opposite of each other because it’s just a huge, new electorate that is weighing in."

Cruz is caught in a struggle with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio over who can emerge as the alternative to GOP front-runner Donald Trump. Svitek reported that polls indicate Cruz has the advantage in his home state but that he is unlikely to win a majority of the vote and thus take all the delegates available. With roughly two-thirds of voters saying they don’t support Trump, Cruz was positioning himself Monday as the best option to defeat the Democratic nominee in the fall.

In an address Monday at Houston Baptist University, Cruz told supporters, "If you're one of those 65 percent in Texas or the other Super Tuesday states, if you recognize Donald Trump should not be our nominee, that the consequences will be catastrophic, then I will point you to the undeniable fact that our campaign is the only campaign that has beaten and can beat Donald Trump."

 

Cruz wasn’t the only politico barnstorming Texas on Monday. Former President Bill Clinton made stops in Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio to drum up votes for his wife, Hillary Clinton, who’s looking today to establish a clear upper hand in the race for the Democratic nomination.

And if you’re a Republican in Presidio County and forgot to cast an early ballot, you’re in luck. The party there had initially decided to forego setting up a polling place for today’s election but on Monday reversed course.

The Tribune’s Jim Malewitz revealed how the party will advertise the polling place set up on the Marfa county courthouse lawn.

“Put a big sign on Main Street,” Presidio County's GOP chair Todd Beckett said. "Small town.”

And if you’re looking for results after the polls close tonight, go ahead and bookmark the Tribune now. We’re planning comprehensive coverage of the presidential contests as well as those for statewide, judicial and legislative races.

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: For Some Voters, the Top Race is the Only Race, by Ross Ramsey — Many voters don't care about the length of the ballots in Tuesday's Democratic and Republican primaries — they'll vote in the presidential race and skip the rest. 

Garcia, Green Leave It All on the Field in Democratic Primary, by Abby Livingston — In the heated race for Congressional District 29, U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, and former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia both say they're encouraged as the Democratic Party contest wraps up.

UT System Drafts Sexual Assault Investigation Training, by Jordan Rudner — Acknowledging that survivors of sexual violence often behave differently than victims of other crimes, researchers at UT Austin released an expansive report Monday the UT System will use to train hundreds of officers who handle campus sexual assault.

 

UT Regents Approve Tuition Hikes Across System, by Matthew Watkins — The University of Texas at Austin and all seven other schools in the University of Texas System won approval to increase tuition Monday, a move that will eventually tack on between $148 and $361 to the cost of students' schooling each semester.

Benson Named President of UT-Dallas, by Matthew Watkins — Richard Benson, the dean of the engineering school at Virginia Tech University, has been named the next president of the University of Texas at Dallas.

Texas Sues EPA Over Wilderness Haze Regulations, by Madlin Mekelburg — In the state’s first lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2016, Texas is suing the agency for rejecting parts of a seven-year-old state proposal targeted at reducing haze in wilderness areas.

Across Texas, Bill Clinton Makes Final Pitch for Hillary, by Jamie Lovegrove and Jordan Rudner — Former President Bill Clinton made the closing pitch to Texas voters on his wife’s behalf Monday, making stops in Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio in the final hours before Super Tuesday.

Cruz Presses for Release of Tape of Trump Talking Immigration, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz is pressing for the release of a tape that reportedly captures Donald Trump saying he is not as opposed to illegal immigration as he claims to be.

High Turnout Has Some Wondering if GOP Congressmen in Danger, by Abby Livingston — With signs pointing toward record high turnout in the Republican primary, some close watchers of the congressional delegation are warning that the re-election bids of four U.S. House members may be in trouble.

In the South, Cruz Targets Rubio and Trump on Guns, by Patrick Svitek — As many Southern states prepare to vote, Ted Cruz is opening a new front in his battle against Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, zeroing on an issue near and dear to many in the South: the Second Amendment.

The Day Ahead

•    Today is your last chance to cast a ballot for who you would like to see on your party’s ticket in November. You can vote today 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at your local polling place.

Elsewhere

Second case of Zika virus confirmed in Travis County, KXAN

Familiar Foes Face Off in San Antonio Senate Race, Texas Observer

Building coalitions for November, Houston Chronicle

Anti-establishment fever aimed at some state and local races, too, Houston Chronicle

At Ted Cruz’s hometown finale, love and anxiety ahead of Super Tuesday, The Dallas Morning News

The big guns focused Monday on Texas, San Antonio Express-News

Donald Trump 2016: Inside Trump’s Texas Insurgency, Politico

Judge: Gary Cobb is eligible to run for DA, Austin American-Statesman

Kocurek returns to bench after recovering from November shooting, Austin American-Statesman

Trump says he’s got former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s vote, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"Tomorrow will set all records for Republican votes in a Texas primary. A million more people are coming, and I fully believe they are coming out to support their favorite son."

— Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to reporters before a Ted Cruz rally in Houston on Monday

Today in TribTalk

Abbott's constitutional wish list, by Lino Graglia — There is much to be said for Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a new convention to revise the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, ours is the most difficult to amend in the world, making his proposal more of a wish list than a practical program.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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 Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner on March 10 at the Austin Club

•    How High is the Water? A Data Visualization Party on March 13 at Umbel Corp

•    A Conversation with Reps. Craig Goldman, Stephanie Klick and Ramon Romero Jr. on March 29 at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

•    A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on April 13 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston

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