Ben Philpott

Senior Reporter, State Politics and Policy

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT. 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 has been named Radio Journalist of the Year by the Houston Press club three times.

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.

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Texas
4:51 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Remembering Former Lawmaker Ray Farabee's Life of Service

Credit KUT

The Texas Capitol will take on a somber mood Friday, as friends and family take time to honor the life of Former Texas State Senator and KUT Board Member Kenneth "Ray" Farabee. A memorial will be held in the Senate chamber Friday, December 5 at 2 pm. Farabee died at his Austin home on November 20. He was 81.

Farabee was born and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the base of the High Plains.

But it was in Austin where he would make his mark, first as a leader in student government at the University of Texas at Austin and later in the Texas Senate.

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Border & Immigration
12:54 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Executive Action on Immigration: The View from Texas

President Obama's likely announcement of an executive order to advance immigration reform could expand benefits for migrant workers, but Texas lawmakers at the legislature and in Congress could push back on the reforms.
Ben Philpott/KUT

Republicans in Washington and Texas are set to fight President Obama on his expected executive order on immigration. But how will the order affect life in the Lone Star State?

The biggest change would obviously be for the people who qualify for work permits the president is expected to announce tonight. Co-Director of the UT Law School Immigration Clinic Barbara Hines says not only will those people no longer live in fear of deportation, it should also improve their financial situation.

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Health
3:41 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

KUT Presents: Texas and the Affordable Care Act, Year Two

What's the future of the ACA in Texas?
Courtesey of Dell Medical School

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act starts Nov. 15. In Texas, questions remain about the law and its effects.

On Nov. 18 at 6 p.m., KUT will host a discussion on how the law is changing health care in Texas and what's ahead for the second year of the health insurance marketplace.

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2015 Legislative Session
12:24 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Bill Filings Begin: Four Things to Look for in the 2015 Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 13, but what will lawmakers be considering?
Liang Shi for KUT

It's that time of the biennium.

The 84th Texas Legislature is just a few short months away, and state lawmakers are already filing their bills for the first Rick Perry-less session this side of the millennium. So far, the bills include legislative pet projects like texting and driving bans, open carry initiatives and tax cuts. Other proposals target tougher statewide issues like transportation funding and state budgeting.

You can find a roundup of issues that state lawmakers are considering below.

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2014 Texas Elections
10:30 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Biographies Collide in Race for Texas Comptroller

Mike Collier (D) and Glenn Hegar (R) each believe their work experience will make them a good Comptroller.
via Texas Tribune

The Texas Comptroller has the very important job of telling lawmakers how much money they have to spend in each 2-year budget. Getting that answer wrong can lead to millions or billions in unnecessary budget cuts.

The top two candidates running this year both say they'll be the person to make the office better.

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2014 Texas Elections
9:00 am
Tue November 4, 2014

The Invisible Campaign for Texas Attorney General

Democrat Sam Houston (left) has been alone on the campaign trail, as Republican Ken Paxton (right) has made few public appearences.
Texas Tribune: Michael Stravato / Cooper Neill

Texas is a Red state. All things being equal, if two candidates have equal access to money and equal get out the vote efforts, the Republican is going to be favored and might even win by double digits.

The 2014 race for Texas Attorney General is setting up to be a pure representation of that Republican advantage.

The GOP nominee, State Senator Ken Paxton, has refused to speak to the press, has made almost no public campaign appearances. He has admitted to violating state securities law, and hasn't released a campaign ad since his GOP primary. And yet, recent polls have him 20 points ahead of Democrat Sam Houston.

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2014 Texas Elections
7:00 am
Tue November 4, 2014

The Race for Texas Lieutenant Governor

State Senator Dan Patrick (left) and state Senator Leticia van de Putte.
Credit Bob Daemmrich / Alyssa Banata/Texas Tribune

It's known as the most powerful office in Texas government. And for the first time in 12 years, this Election Day, Texans will choose a new Lieutenant Governor to run the Texas Senate.

Republican nominee state Senator Dan Patrick defeated the incumbent David Dewhurst in a rough GOP primary, where the candidate who won the title as the 'most conservative' won the voters' favor.

Patrick has taken up the mantle of Tea Party crusader in the Texas Legislature. If elected, he has promised to do things that the most conservative activists have wanted to see for years. He's pushing for the elimination of a Senate rule that requires a bill to have support of two-thirds of senators before it can come up for vote.

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2014 Texas Elections
6:15 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Central Texas Boasts Many Legislative Races, Little Intrigue

Credit Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis have criss-crossed the state and spent millions on who will be the state's next governor. But here in Central Texas, the local races for state office have left little to no intrigue.

Now, we're not the Associated Press; we're not calling races. And KUT doesn't endorse candidates. But, there are a number of races where, barring an upset of historic proportions, we already know who's going to win.

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2014 Texas Elections
5:05 am
Tue November 4, 2014

A Lyrical Guide to Austin's Long Election Day Ballot

A ballot this long can have all the drama and emotion of a night at the opera.
flickr.com/photos/philippeos/

It's finally Election Day.

After months of campaigning, thousands of commercials, and tons of ads stuffing your mailbox, statewide and local races will be decided today. But be warned, with Austin’s city elections moving to November, this year's ballot is LONG.

But luckily, KUT's Ben Philpott is here with a lyrical guide to getting through the ballot.

2014 Texas Elections
4:32 am
Tue November 4, 2014

In Davis vs. Abbott, Hopes For a Competitive Race for Texas Governor

State Senator Wendy Davis (left) and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (right).
Credit Laura Buckman / Bob Daemmrich

This year's governor's race was billed as the first actual competitive race for Texas governor since Ann Richards lost to George Bush in 1994. Current Governor Rick Perry was stepping down, making way for Attorney General Greg Abbott to take the GOP nomination. Newly-minted national political celebrity State Senator Wendy Davis made a run for Democrats.

But unless something unexpected happens today, the race could be a repeat of the GOP 12 point win in 2010.

The race opened with Abbott finally stepping out of Governor Perry's nearly 14 year shadow. Perry announced he would not seek a fourth full term on July 8th. Less than a week later, after years of waiting...and raising a bunch of money, Abbott finally announced his run for the governor's office.

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2014 Texas Elections
2:40 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Texas Candidates Release Last Second Ads

Glenn Hegar's recent ad.
screen capture of Glenn Hager video

Early voting wraps up today. Candidates have spent the last two weeks focused on get-out-the-vote efforts, making sure supporters don't forget to cast a ballot. But campaigns have also released final campaign videos, maybe in hopes of winning the votes of those few remaining undecided Texans.

These ads can take many different forms, from traditional television ads to testimonials from supporters. So for your viewing pleasure, we've compiled a short list of ads from the state's top races that have been released in the last week.

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Texas Governor's Race
6:00 am
Fri October 31, 2014

Before You Vote: 5 Things to Know About the Texas Governor's Race

Abbott and Davis have filled the airwaves explaining their plans for Texas.
Mark Graham / Cooper Neil via the Texas Tribune

Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis are in the home stretch of their battle to become the next Texas Governor. And by now, the candidates have done pretty much all they can to make sure voters know who they are and what their plans for are for the state. But just in case you weren't sure, here's a look at the differences, and similarities, between the two on 5 specific issues.

Let's start with education, specifically K-12 public schools.

Here, and you might see a pattern throughout this story, both candidates say they want Texas to have an elite public school system.

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2014 Elections
10:47 am
Thu October 30, 2014

Comptroller Candidates Talk Oversight and Incentives in Debate

via Texas Tribune

The race for Texas Governor has received much of the attention this fall, but last night it was the Comptroller’s race that took center stage.

Republican candidate Glenn Hegar and Democratic candidate Mike Collier met at the debate moderated by Time Warner Cable’s Paul Brown, discussing the state’s incentive policy and the role of the comptroller in the state’s budgeting process.

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2014 Elections
10:46 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Some Low-Profile Local Races Go Unnoticed at the Bottom of the Ballot

Get comfortable at the polls, voting could take a while.
Photo by Marjorie Cotera for the Texas Tribune

There’s been plenty of attention this election season at the top of the ballot – to the governor’s race. But some local ballots in Texas can be up to 4 pages long. And voter attention spans drop off dramatically after checking the box for governor.

In 2010, the gap between those who voted for governor and lieutenant governor statewide was more than 44,000. That's 44,000 people who walked into the voting booth, check governor, and said, "I'm done."

It's what Rice University political scientist Mark Jones calls "drop-off."

So, why's it so hard for voters to completely fill out a ballot?

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2014 Elections
10:44 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Ahead of Elections, Perry Channels the Gipper in Reagan Library Speech

Gov. Perry at a press conference announcing the state's infectious disease task force on October 7, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Gov. Rick Perry was at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California last night, talking about next week's elections.

Perry's speech played off a 1964 speech by Reagan called – perhaps fittingly, in light of Perry’s presidential aspirations – “A Time for Choosing,” which launched the career of the “Great Communicator” and future president.

However, presidential allusion aside, the speech wasn’t Rick Perry throwing his hat into the ring for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

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2014 Elections
9:51 am
Mon October 27, 2014

Block-Walking Ramps Up as Election Season Winds Down

Canvassers Mark Sterling (left) and Christopher Nicholson (right) are hitting the pavement to raise awareness for the Wendy Davis campaign this week before the end of early voting on Friday.
Ben Philpott/KUT

We're finally in the home stretch of the 2014 elections. And while you're likely to see dozens of campaign ads on TV this last week...it's a knock on a door that may determine the outcome of several elections. The "get out the vote" campaigns being run by Republicans and Democrats are ramping up before the end of early voting this week.

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Politics
11:01 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Why Texas' Next Governor Will Be Weaker Than the Current One

Gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis (D) and Greg Abbott (R)
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune, Laura Buckman / Bob Daemmrich

Early voting for the November election starts today. And to arm you with information before you head to the polls, KUT's Nathan Bernier and political reporter Ben Philpott have been highlighting the candidates in a few key state-wide races, and letting you know just what the offices they're running for can and can't do.

Nathan: So, I guess we've saved the best for last: let's talk about the governor's race and have a quick rundown of the governor's powers, as well.

Ben: The Texas governor is traditionally considered to be a weak office. And there's a reason for that. When Texans were writing up their constitution after the civil war, the LBJ school's Sherri Greenberg says they were eager to limit any and all powers of any so-called carpetbaggers from reconstruction.

"So when Texans wrote the Texas constitution, this very populist document, with as much power as possible vested in the people and at the lowest, most local, level of government," Greenberg said.

Of course, it wasn't just Texas. Decentralizing government power was a broader trend across the country in the 1800’s. And that action in Texas left us with what's considered a weak governor.

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Politics
4:44 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Why is the Lieutenant Governor the Most Powerful Office in Texas? And Who Wants That Power?

Lieutenant Governor candidates Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D) and Sen. Dan Patrick (R)
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune: Jennifer Whitney / Michael Stravato

Early voting starts Monday for the November 4th election. And to help you head to the polls with as much information as possible, KUT's Nathan Bernier and political reporter Ben Philpott have been giving you a rundown of some of the state's key races, along with telling you just what the offices in question actually do.

Today, they talk about the office that some people say is the most powerful one in the state of Texas: the lieutenant governor.

Ben: So here's what a lieutenant governor can do, and why those powers are considered so important. First up, the lieutenant governor gets to be governor if the governor dies and even if the governor just leaves the state for a few days.

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Politics
1:49 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

What Does the Attorney General Do? And Who's Running to be the Next One?

Attorney General candidates Sam Houston (D) and Ken Paxton (R)
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune, Michael Stravato and Cooper Neill

You probably already know that Texans will be electing a new governor next month. But the absence of Governor Rick Perry from the ballot has had a domino effect on other state-wide offices.

Meaning we'll also be electing new people to all 7 of the top state-wide offices. That includes Attorney General. KUT's All Things Considered host Nathan Bernier and Political Reporter Ben Philpott will help explain what the office does and who's running to be the state's next top lawyer, 

Ben: This office, like many, can take on the personality and priorities of the office holder. Especially, if you've been in that office for more than a decade, like current Attorney General Greg Abbott.

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Politics
4:33 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Who's Running For Texas Comptroller? Also, What the Heck is a Comptroller?

Comptroller candidates Mike Collier and Glenn Hegar
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune

Early voting starts Monday for the November 4th elections.

But before you head to the polls, KUT wants to make sure you know what you're voting on. Not only on who's running, but on what the office they're running for actually does. To do just that, All Things Considered host Nathan Bernier is going to spend the rest of the week talking with KUT's political reporter Ben Philpott.

Ben: I guess we should start with how the office is pronounced. Some people hit the letters M and P when they say "Comptroller." Others pronounce it like the word "Controller." The state's spelling, Comptroller, comes from the Old English spelling. When American governments were getting set up, they often took the Old English spelling. But what about the pronunciation?

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