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The Brief: Utah, Arizona Give Cruz Chance To Be the Anti-Trump

Ted Cruz rolls into today’s nominating contests in Utah and Arizona as close as he’s been this cycle to a two-man race with billionaire Donald Trump.

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz rally in Texas prior to the 2016 Texas primary.

The Big Conversation

Ted Cruz rolls into today’s nominating contests in Utah and Arizona as close as he’s been this cycle to a two-man race with billionaire Donald Trump.

The Tribune’s Patrick Svitek writes today, “Cruz's campaign believes he is poised to win Utah — hopefully with more than 50 percent of the vote, which would allow him to collect all 40 of the state's delegates. That could happen, according to a poll released Saturday that found Cruz easily leading the GOP pack with 53 percent. (Ohio Gov.) John Kasich had 29 percent, while Trump was last with 11 percent.”

Svitek adds that the Cruz camp is not as confident about his chances in Arizona but that the campaign has spent considerable resources there, with pro-Cruz super PACs spending $380,000 on TV ads as well.

The fly in the ointment could turn out to be Kasich, who could potentially hold Cruz below the winner-take-all threshold in Utah, Svitek writes.

In other Cruz news, Politico reported Monday evening that the Cruz campaign has been exploring a “unity ticket” with former GOP presidential rival Marco Rubio.

Politico’s Alex Isenstadt wrote, “It’s unclear whether Cruz’s campaign brass views a partnership with Rubio as realistic or quixotic. In Rubio’s orbit, according to three sources, it’s seen as an outright nonstarter — with Rubio telling his team he isn’t interested.”

Trib Must Reads

Sandra Bland Case: Fired DPS Trooper to Appear in Court Tuesday, by Johnathan Silver — When former Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia steps into a Waller County courtroom on Tuesday for his arraignment, he will move forward with one of three battles he is fighting since he arrested Sandra Bland last year.

Cuban Refugees Flocking to Texas Border, by Julián Aguilar — Even as President Obama moves to normalize relations, Cuban refugees continue pouring into Texas through Laredo in record numbers.

Execution Set For Man Courts Recognize as Mentally Ill, by Jolie McCullough — Adam Kelly Ward, whom appeals courts have recognized as mentally ill, is set for execution Tuesday evening in the 2005 shooting death of a code enforcement officer.

Cruz Nicks Trump, Makes Case to Pro-Israeli Group, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz made his case Monday to a powerful group of American allies to Israel, while also taking some shots at his chief rival for the GOP nomination.

Courts Rebuff Texas Bid to Slow Foster Care Reform, by Edgar Walters — A federal appeals court on Monday rejected Attorney General Ken Paxton's efforts to block the appointment of special masters to oversee reforms in the state's troubled foster care system.

Pro-Cruz Groups Spent Nearly $30 Million as GOP Primary Began, by Patrick Svitek — Groups supporting Ted Cruz spent close to $30 million last month as the first presidential nominating contests got underway and the U.S. senator from Texas sought to position himself as the GOP's chief alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump. 

The Day Ahead

•    The House Select Committee on Mental Health meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol extension to hear invited testimony on children’s mental and behavioral health.

•    Members of the House Business & Industry Committee will hear invited testimony and discuss potential reforms to state agencies under the committee’s oversight. Also on tap are discussions of the designated doctor process and the adequacy of benefits for injured employees in the Texas workers’ compensation system. The hearing is set to start at 1 p.m. in the Capitol extension.


With an Orthodox focus, Ted Cruz reaches out to Jewish donors and voters, The Washington Post

As judge moves toward changing Texas foster care, Abbott installs longtime aide atop CPS, The Dallas Morning News 

Austin police fire officer who fatally shot naked teen David Joseph, Austin American-Statesman

Rice among schools facing questions over massive endowments, Houston Chronicle

Raising the Bars for Texas Criminal Justice Reform, Texas Observer

SMU fraternity gets shut down, but no one’s saying exactly why, The Dallas Morning News 

DPS: troopers not enforcing immigration, El Paso Times

Firm linked to A.G.’s legal troubles is fined $90,000, San Antonio Express-News

John Cornyn ripped for handling of Supreme Court nominee, Austin American-Statesman 

Quote to Note

"We get to election day, there’s going to be a lot of votes cast for candidates who aren’t in the race. Those people are going to wish they had their votes back."

Constantin Querard, Sen. Ted Cruz's Arizona state director, talking about the uncertainty of Cruz winning Arizona because of early voting.

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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