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2016 Year in Review

The 10 best Texas Tribune events of 2016

Ken Starr, Mike Morath, Konni Burton, Wendy Davis and — duh — Ted Cruz: Here are the Texas Tribune conversations that made 2016 the newsiest news year in ages.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is interviewed by Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 24, 2016.

2016 Year in Review

For those obsessed with Texas government and politics, 2016 was filled with big news, from the somber (the ambush of police officers in Dallas) to the absurd (University of Texas students toting dildos to protest the new campus carry gun law). And then there was the election. Here's our roundup of the year's most memorable Texas stories.

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In 2016, The Texas Tribune produced more than 50 events — an average of one per week. They were lunchtime conversations with lawmakers on college campuses back in their districts; early morning one-on-ones with movers and shakers a few blocks from the Capitol at the Austin Club; daylong deep dives into single topics like urban public ed and transportation; a handful of previews of the 85th Legislature; and of course, the annual three-day government geek-out known as The Texas Tribune Festival.

I had the great fortune to be a participant in nearly all of these events (check the tread on my tires), and while I loved every one of them to some degree, a handful stood out as truly memorable and exceptional. They were newsworthy, or they were revelatory, or they were beyond the usual level of compelling, or sparks flew. Or all of the above.

Here, in order, are my 10 favorite Trib events of 2016.

1. Ted Cruz, Sept. 24

At The Texas Tribune Festival, the junior U.S. senator from Texas and runner-up for the Republican presidential nomination talked at length for the first time about his decision to endorse soon-to-be President-elect Donald Trump after months of holding out.

2. Ken Starr, Sept. 24

Also at TribFest, the former Baylor University president and chancellor raised eyebrows — to say the least — when he asserted that former football coach Art Briles was a victim in the sexual assault scandal that continues to rock its Waco campus to this day.

3. Konni Burton, April 29

At our symposium on the Texas economy, the state senator from Fort Worth took on a fellow lawmaker, the head of the state's top business group and anyone who dared cross her path over the question of tax breaks and other incentives for corporate relocations.

4. Mike Morath, Jan. 22

Only a few weeks into his new job, the state's fresh-faced education commissioner opened up about himself and his aspirations for the schoolchildren of Texas.

5. Sid Miller, March 10

The controversial and colorful — to name two words beginning with C — agriculture commissioner on, well, being Sid Miller.

6. Steve McCraw, Jan. 19

The head of the Department of Public Safety was bracingly candid about the Sandra Bland traffic stop and its aftermath.

7. Joe Straus, Nov. 29

At our daylong preview of the upcoming legislative session, the speaker of the House pumped the brakes on the so-called bathroom bill by pronouncing it not "urgent."

8. Beto O'Rourke, Nov. 4

The two-term congressman, an El Paso Democrat, brazenly hinted he'd challenge Ted Cruz or John Cornyn in an upcoming U.S. Senate race.

9. Wendy Davis and Susan Combs, Sept. 24

At their TribFest face-off, the former Democratic candidate for governor and the former comptroller of public accounts found the rarest of all things in Texas — bipartisan common ground — on the question of whether women get a raw deal here.

10. Michael Young, Dec. 1

The Texas A&M president made headlines by only semi-answering a question about the status of head football coach Kevin Sumlin.

Read more year-in-review stories here.

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