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The Brief: Efforts Within the Anti-Trump Camp Gain Urgency

Efforts by anti-Donald Trump elements to consolidate around Ted Cruz seemed to take on a new urgency on Thursday.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at the GOP debate in Miami, Florida on March 10, 2016.

The Big Conversation

Efforts by anti-Donald Trump elements to consolidate around Ted Cruz seemed to take on a new urgency on Thursday.

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek reported on a morning meeting of conservative activists and leaders. "The group, which is calling itself 'Conservatives Against Trump,' issued a statement after the meeting calling for a 'unity ticket' to put up against Trump," Svitek wrote. "The statement did not mention Cruz, but those involved in the meeting indicated the Texas senator was a frequent topic of discussion — and a likely part of any ticket they support."

The prominent conservative group Club for Growth also indicated Thursday it might become more explicitly pro-Cruz in its messaging. Until now, it was focused on broadcasting an anti-Trump message.

Politico, meanwhile, was reporting Thursday that Cruz's former rival for the GOP nomination, Marco Rubio, was possibly close to endorsing Cruz as part of the effort to deny Trump the nomination. Rubio "told reporters 'I don’t have any announcement on that today' when asked about a Cruz endorsement," Politico's Marc Caputo wrote.

"Rubio indicated, though, that he might have something to say soon. 'There’s time to prevent a Trump nomination, which I think would fracture the party and be damaging to the conservative movement,' Rubio said."

The anti-Trump forces have their next shot on Tuesday with nominating contests on tap in Utah and Arizona. Politico also wrote on Thursday that a super PAC backing Cruz is spending nearly $600,000 on ads in Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Tucson ahead of those contests.

Trib Must Reads

Students Pitch In More as Texas Colleges' Athletics Costs Climb, by Matthew Watkins — As the cost to run a top-level college athletics department increases, there's a growing trend of Texas schools reaching into their students’ pockets to help pay for their athletic ambitions. This story is part our "Ballpark Figures" project.

Analysis: Three Extra Special Texas Republican Delegates, by Ross Ramsey — Three Texas Republicans could have golden tickets to their national political convention this summer; unlike their colleagues, they’ll be allowed to vote for any presidential candidate they choose.

More Kids Sleeping in State Offices Amid Foster Shortage, by Edgar Walters — The number of children sleeping in Child Protective Services offices shot up after an internal policy change at the agency limited child placements, according to state data released Thursday.

Accusations Fly in Senate Runoff Over 911 Call, Health Records, by Edgar Walters — Sealed medical records related to the mental health of state Rep. Susan King, R-Abilene, became a flash point in the Republican primary runoff for Senate District 24 on Thursday.

State Officials Note Significant Drop in Texas Abortions, by Alexa Ura — The number of abortions performed in Texas dropped 14.2 percent in 2014, with almost 9,000 fewer procedures in the state compared to the year before.

State Contractors Must Use E-Verify, AG Says, by Julián Aguilar — State agencies and the companies they contract with must use the E Verify system to screen for undocumented workers, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an opinion Thursday.

Judge: DPS Needs Better Reason To Delay Sandra Bland Lawsuit, by Terri Langford — A federal judge on Thursday said attorneys for the Texas Department of Public Safety haven't yet offered a good enough reason to keep a civil rights lawsuit filed by the mother of Sandra Bland from moving forward.

Judge Throws Out Attempt To Cap Paxton Prosecutors Fees, by Morgan Smith — A Collin County court tossed out an attempt to stop payments to the special prosecutors appointed to pursue the financial fraud case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Thursday.

The Day Ahead

•    U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is in New Braunfels today to receive the Texan of the Year award at the 50th Annual Texas Legislative Conference. In a keynote address, he is expected to highlight the Senate’s accomplishments on transportation, crude oil exports, and ongoing efforts to promote criminal justice reform.

Elsewhere

Oklahoma lawmakers deny inviting Sid Miller on taxpayer-funded trip to Oklahoma City, Houston Chronicle

New Cruz ad features father of man shot by illegal immigrant in Arizona, The Hill

Broken promises: How Texas fails farmworkers, Austin American-Statesman

Congressional action on immigration an 'attack on Latino community,' Hinojosa says, The Associated Press

After tough talk on security and immigration, Ted Cruz will visit the border Friday, The Dallas Morning News

Trump candidacy inspires Mexican immigrants to scramble for citizenship, The Dallas Morning News

Regulators propose stricter offshore drilling air pollution rules, Houston Chronicle

Houston's $3 Billion of Debt Cut by Moody's After Oil Drop, Bloomberg

SeaWorld announces end to orca breeding, San Antonio Express-News

New memorial planned to mark 50th anniversary of UT Tower shooting, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

“I prefer John Kasich; Cruz is not my first pick by any choice. But I don’t see how John Kasich can mount the opposition that Ted Cruz can to stop Donald Trump from getting 1,237 (delegates).″

— U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., employing some remarkably tepid language in becoming the second senator to back his colleague, Ted Cruz, for the GOP presidential nomination

News From Home

•    The Texas Tribune has launched “Ballpark Figures,” an app that offers a detailed look at the finances of the eight public Texas universities that play in the top level of college football. Today we have a story on the increased reliance on student fees at several college athletic departments.

•    Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT. KUT’s Ben Philpott and the Tribune's Jay Root educate themselves about what could happen at a contested convention by taking Convention 101 with teacher and former Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri.

•    In this week's Roundup, Alana Rocha talks about how Ted Cruz still thinks he can surpass frontrunner Donald Trump to secure the GOP presidential nomination. Plus, a new report on arsenic in Texans’ drinking water and a look at which sports make money for state universities.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    The Price of Admission: A Conversation on the Top 10 Percent Rule on March 31 at Austin Community College Highland Campus

•    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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