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Cruz Drops Two New TV Ads Ahead of Utah, Arizona Contests

Also, Ted Cruz creates a new energy policy task force for his campaign and rounds up an endorsement from a prominent voice among House establishment Republicans.

Supporters wait for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to take the stage at the Red Neck Country Club in Stafford TX, on Super …

The Ted Cruz campaign has launched two new TV ads aimed at next week's nominating contests in Utah and Arizona.

The Utah ad highlights Cruz's endorsement by Utah Sen. Mike Lee, highlighting Cruz's stands against Obamacare and against "efforts to undermine" gun rights and religious liberty.

The Arizona ad, meanwhile, highlights an incident in that state where a killing by an undocumented immigrant who had been released from jail on bond but had not been deported.

The contests next week give Cruz his first opportunity to demonstrate his strength after the field narrowed last week with the departure of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. His campaign has high expectations in Utah where he counts on the support of Lee and that, with the closed caucus system there, he could win a majority and sweep the available delegates.

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Meanwhile, Cruz has tapped a Texas regulator and the head of a Houston-based energy investment firm to lead his campaign’s energy policy task force.

The Republican presidential hopeful announced late Monday that Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton and Wil VanLoh, president and CEO of Quantum Energy Partners, would co-chair a group that will advise a campaign that seeks less government involvement in energy sector matters.

“If we do not stop crushing energy producers with burdensome and unnecessary regulations, energy costs will skyrocket, and our most vulnerable citizens will pay the greatest price,” Cruz said in a statement.

“As president I will advocate for every form of energy production, without subsidies or government interference, and unshackle the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of America’s critically important energy industry.”

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The Cruz campaign said last Friday that he’s won an endorsement from Missouri Congresswoman Ann Wagner.

Significant here are Wagner’s bona fides as a member of the establishment wing of the GOP: she is a former state party chairwoman and former RNC chairwoman aspirant who served as ambassador to Luxembourg in the George W. Bush administration.

She’s also a leader among the more junior members of the House Republican conference and among the House Republican women.

Considered a savvy House member, Wagner’s endorsement is worth taking notice as perhaps a sign of things to come: establishment Republicans moving to Cruz as the last chance to stop Donald Trump.

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David Simpson, the Longview Republican in the GOP runoff for the open SD-1 seat, sent out a statement late Thursday night aimed directly at Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick endorsed Simpson’s House colleague Bryan Hughes in late August after initially planning to stay away from endorsements in contested legislative primaries.

Simpson was critical of that as well as Patrick’s public education agenda, which he said did not have the best interests of the residents of SD-1 at heart.

Simpson said, in part:

“We have seen the heavy foot print of the lieutenant governor in this race on behalf of Bryan Hughes. While I respect the lieutenant governor — and there are few issues that divide us — his program to substantially alter public education is not in the best interest of our children, their parents, or the school districts in Senate District 1.

“Two sessions ago when the legislature cut funding for public education by $5 billion, it also preserved $1 billion in corporate welfare. I am in my third term in the Legislature and we have yet to equitably fund public education. Failure to fund our constitutional requirements is one of the primary reasons I have voted against each budget.

“The lieutenant governor may want ‘a reliable vote,’ but what East Texas needs is reliable representation.”

Simpson officially secured his spot in the runoff for the open SD-1 seat on Monday, besting Red Brown by 13 votes.

According to vote totals from Texas GOP spokesman Michael Joyce, Simpson finished with 28,395 votes to Brown’s 29,382.

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Gary Gates, in a Republican runoff for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, sought to capitalize Friday on a Texas Tribune report revealing that former state Rep. Wayne Christian, his opponent, was unclear on the full scope of the agency’s duties.

“Shouldn’t our next Railroad Commissioner actually know what the Commission does?” he said in a statement. “Having an understanding of the Commission’s basic functions and regulatory authority should clearly be a prerequisite if running for this very important office.”

Christian — who served 14 years in the Texas House, some of them on the chamber’s energy committee — has touted his expertise on the campaign trail and knocked Gates, a real estate magnate, for his lack of policy experience.

But the Tribune reported Friday morning that Christian didn’t realize the Railroad Commission regulated natural gas utilities until a reporter told him.

Gates, who has never served in public office and lost four previous Texas Legislature bids, was aware of the commission’s involvement in setting natural gas rates.

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