KUT-FM: Ben Philpott, KUT News | KERA News

KUT-FM: Ben Philpott, KUT News

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

Political party conventions are always about the future – the next election, to be specific, but also the five- and 10-year plan for growth.

The last couple of decades for Texas Republicans have been pretty rock solid. In 2014, Gov. Greg Abbott won the election by 20 points. And in the 2018 primaries, Republicans set records for voter turnout in an off-year election.

Texas' top Republican lawmakers spent the morning Friday revving up the crowd at their convention in San Antonio. Now the heavy lifting of this biennial event begins.

The delegates vote on a party chairman and then begin debate on the state party platform. The (currently) 38-page document lists the party's priorities, plans and ideals.

Thousands of Republicans are in San Antonio this week for the state convention. They'll bring plenty of red, white and blue clothing – along with elephant hats. But in the midst of the spectacle, there's work getting done by party officials and delegates. Here's a little checklist of what to watch for over the next three days.

The final two candidates running for the Democratic nomination for governor met Friday night in their first and only debate before the May 22 runoff election.

We’re a little bit closer to knowing who will be on the ballot in November. Republicans and Democrats selected most of their nominees for the general election this fall, but statewide, the races didn't quite live up to the hype. Of the highest offices on Texas ballots, only one went to a runoff. 

In a dynasty that dates back over 60 years in American politics, there is just one member of the Bush family left in any state or federal elected office.

Texas land commissioner George P. Bush is the one carrying the torch and facing a stiff primary on March 6, barely two years after his father Jeb's presidential bid failed as Donald Trump took over the Republican Party. To survive, the younger Bush has decided to adapt to — rather than resist — the new direction of the GOP.

Is Texas turning blue? That's the question, dream and lie (depending on your point of view) being discussed across the state.

It's the dream of Democrats, who haven't won a statewide office in Texas since the early '90s. It's a big lie, say Republicans, who argue support for President Trump has been more positive in Texas than in most of the country.

Welcome to the 2018 Elections!

This could be a historic year at the ballot box. Republicans are looking to sweep all the statewide offices again, but Democrats have fielded more candidates for more races than they have in years. To help you navigate through all of this, we’re starting a weekly column. It’ll include not only the politics at play, but also information on the basics, like how to register or find your polling place.

An election in Virginia was decided this morning by luck. Luck of the draw, specifically. The race between Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds for the Virginia House of Delegates was tied after a recount. So, today the State Board of Elections put their names in a bowl and pulled out the name of the winner: incumbent Yancey.

The news around this unorthodox way to pick an elected official got the KUT Newsroom wondering: What would happen if there were a tie in Texas?

The field for the 2018 party primaries in Texas is taking shape. The deadline for candidates to file is coming up, and political strategists have been trying to decipher what Democratic victories in other states mean for Texas. 


November’s election ballot is packed with lots of local items – from city council races to school bonds – but there are also seven proposals to amend the Texas Constitution.

House Speaker Joe Straus has made himself enemy No. 1 among the state’s most conservative voters. His crime? His management style.

State lawmakers are back in Austin to kick off some legislative overtime.

And, as it's been reported over and over and over again, the special session is needed because lawmakers couldn’t pass a bill to keep a handful of state agencies open and operating. That got some of our listeners wondering if lawmakers could’ve spend their time at the Capitol a little more efficiently.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a special session of the Texas Legislature to begin July 18.

"Considering all the successes of the 85th legislative session, we should not be where we are today," he said. "A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the Legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session."

Last week, Texas made national news when state lawmakers got into a shouting match that escalated into shoving and even death threats.

But anger among politicians working at the Texas Capitol had been growing for weeks, and some lay blame for that at the feet of a small group of extremely conservative lawmakers. They call themselves the Texas Freedom Caucus

Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas – its history, how it has changed, whom it affects and its future. 

It's just a week until the start of the 85th session of the Texas Legislature. And, while you've probably heard lots of stories about lawmaker priorities for the 140-day session, it's not always about what bills are being debated, but whether the Texas House or Senate is leading the charge.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently released his top 10 priorities for the 2017 legislative session. And now with several hundred bills filed, we have some glimpses of how he plans to meet his goals.

You've heard it all before. Texas is a red state. Democrats are hoping that shade of red will fade this November as voter registrations increase, but could more voters actually change the outcome? 


By now you've probably heard what Super Tuesday means in terms of the delegate count for the presidential nominating contests. There are almost 2,000 delegates up for grabs across 12 states for the two parties today. But how are those special votes divided up in a primary or caucus?


As he pursues the GOP presidential nomination, a key part of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s Iowa strategy has been to visit all 99 counties in that state — a strategy called "the full Grassley, named after an Iowa U.S. Senator who visits each county every year. 

But, some have criticized the Cruz campaign for spending more time last week in rural parts of the state in an effort to hit every county, instead of going to the Hawkeye State’s population centers.


Gov. Greg Abbott has directed the Texas Health & Human Services Commission's Refugee Resettlement Program to not help place Syrian refugees in the state. No one is questioning his ability to block that state program from working with Syrian refugees. But does his power extend to the non-profits that are using federal money to help resettle refugees in Texas?


Constitutional elections in Texas don't draw many voters. Over the last three elections, no more than 8 percent of registered voters have gone to the polls, and typically, it’s propositions like this cycle's Proposition 5, a statewide vote on constitutionally mandated population limits for road funding, that might keep people away.


The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce wraps up its annual national convention in Houston today. Yesterday the event jumped into the national spotlight, as protestors interrupted a speech by GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.


The State of Texas has yet to file an appeal over a ruling against the state's voter identification law. Last week the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law violated the Voting Rights Act.

But where do things stand now, and does the ruling mean Texans don't have to bring a photo ID when they vote this fall?

Monday is the first day of early voting for the May 27 Democratic and Republican primary runoff elections.

The Republican race for Agriculture Commissioner is between two former state legislators, Stephenville's Sid Miller and Longview's Tommy Merritt. And unlike the other GOP primaries, this one hasn't only focused on who's the most conservative – for the most part.

That's because for Miller, this race is about conservative credentials. And he'll quickly let you know that he's got empirical data on his side.

"You know Rice University took all the votes … and ranked the legislators from one to 50 on how conservative they were. And I was ranked No. 2 and my opponent was ranked the most liberal of the Republicans," Miller says.

Last week’s GOP primary showed the continued strength of the Tea Party in Texas. But it also showed a weakening of another stalwart Republican demographic: the businessperson.

First, a disclaimer: The results don't prove anything definitive. One election does not a trend make. And it's not hard to find people who say the state's business leaders still have a large role in Republican Party politics.

"I think the business community hasn't lost its voice," Rice University Political Science department chair Mark Jones says. "But its influence is much less then it was say 10 years ago."

Pages