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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Politics
1:37 pm
Fri May 29, 2015

Agenda Texas: The End of the 84th Legislative Session

Liang Shi/KUT News

The Texas legislative session ends Monday, and there's not a bunch left for lawmakers to do between today and next week. No more bills can be voted on. Now it's all about conference committees. Those are the groups made up of five House members and five Senators who will be huddled together in meeting rooms and hallways around the Capitol this weekend, trying to come to an agreement on bills that the House and Senate each passed different versions of.

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Politics
4:27 pm
Thu May 28, 2015

The Ticket: Carly Fiorina & Writer Chris Cillizza

This week on The Ticket: We continue our review of presidential contenders with an analysis of the Carly Fiorina campaign on Stump Interrupted. And with candidate announcements falling from the sky like rain from a Texas thunderstorm, we talk with Washington Post writer and The Fix blogger Chris Cillizza about how the 2016 race is shaping up.

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Small Town Texas
10:10 am
Wed May 20, 2015

Will Regional Growth Wake Up Sleepy Horseshoe Bay?

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

Horseshoe Bay sits on the southern end of Lake LBJ in the Texas Hill country. Like every other Hill Country town, it has beautiful views, amazing wildflowers and a relaxed atmosphere. But the similarities end there: Horseshoe Bay isn’t like any other Hill Country town.

The median home price is $525,000. Fifty-three percent of the town is at least 60 years old. Only about 25 percent of the town lives there full-time, and most of the homes in town are second, or even third, homes.

Older folks with money in a sleepy lakeside town — but there might be more to Horseshoe Bay than meets the eye.

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Politics
12:40 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

The Ticket: Marco Rubio and Gearge Seay

Credit Screenshot courtesy ABC News

This week on The Ticket: We break down the presidential campaign announcement by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and chat with Rubio supporter George Seay, who was Rick Perry's state finance chairman in the 2012 campaign.

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Texas
11:36 am
Mon May 11, 2015

With Less Than a Month Left in Session, Deadlines Approach for State Lawmakers

The last day of the 84th state legislative session is June 1. As that day approaches, lawmakers begin to face hundreds of bills and various deadlines.
Liang Shi/KUT News

Less than a month remains in this year's legislative session, and Texas lawmakers face hundreds of bills and several procedural deadlines this week.

Today is the last day House committee members can vote on bills that originated in the House, which means it's the last day a House bill has a chance of being placed on the calendar for the whole chamber to hear.

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The Ticket
1:05 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

The Ticket: Hillary Clinton and Garry Mauro

This week on The Ticket: We'll break down the presidential announcement video from Hillary Clinton and interview Garry Mauro, a 4-term Texas Land Commissioner, state campaign director for multiple presidential candidates, and unofficial (for now) worker on the Clinton 2016 campaign.

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Texas
11:08 am
Tue May 5, 2015

House Approves Bill That Will Break Down Vaccination Exemption Data by School

Cooper Neill/Texas Tribune

The Texas House gave final approval Monday to a bill that would change how schools report how much of their student body is vaccinated. The bill passed, 98 to 40, but only after a loud and long debate.

Right now school districts anonymously collect data on how many kids are vaccinated and then report that data district-wide. Austin Independent School District has an overall vaccination exemption rate of 1.6 percent, for instance. The bill that passed out of the House Monday would break down the data for individual schools.

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2016 Election
10:00 am
Thu April 30, 2015

The Ticket: Episode 2

The Ticket, produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune, is our new podcast focused on the 2016 presidential race.

In the second episode of The Ticket, KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root break down the presidential campaign announcement speech of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in another edition of “Stump Interrupted.”

They also talk with Mathew Dowd, who directed President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

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2016 Election
5:14 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

The Ticket: A Presidential Podcast

The Ticket, produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune, is our new podcast focused on the 2016 presidential race.

In the pilot episode of The Ticket, KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root bring back the Tribune's “Stump Interrupted” feature to break down Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential announcement speech at Liberty University last month and talk with former Texas GOP Chairman and current Rand Paul campaigner Steve Munisteri.

Agenda Texas
11:24 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Agenda Texas: Here's a Look at This Session's Buffet of Tax Cut Proposals

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

There's a buffet of tax cuts lying before state lawmakers this session, and cut supporters say the state wins no matter what gets put on its plate.

Lawmakers have served up plans to cut business franchise taxes, slice sales tax rates and even nibbled around the idea of a proposal to phase out property taxes entirely. While some of these proposals won’t make the plate this session, the state is prepped to approve billions in tax cuts before the legislature’s regular session gavels out in six weeks.

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Agenda Texas
11:02 am
Fri April 10, 2015

Gov. Abbott's 5 Emergency Items: Where Are They Now?

Gov. Abbott laid out his call for this session's emergency items in his State of the State speech.
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The Texas constitution requires lawmakers to pass one bill each session: the state budget, which was under (rather lengthy) discussion last week in the House and in the Senate this week. But governors can push their own to-do list at the start of each session in the form of emergency items.

In February, newly minted Gov. Greg Abbott named five of those priorities during his February State of the State speech, and today we're going to see how those bills are doing, by ranking their legislative progress so far this session.

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Election 2016
7:50 am
Wed April 8, 2015

In Anticipation of Likely Presidential Run, Perry's Image Gets an Upgrade

Rick Perry is expected to run again for President. Since his last try, he's undergone a few changes.
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune; Screenshot from Fox News

First there was Ted Cruz. Then yesterday, Rand Paul joined the mix. Eventually, former Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to announce his run — his second — for the Republican Presidential nomination. His first run, in 2011-12, didn’t end well.

But the former Texas Governor and his team have been working to undo past damage and build a better Perry: Perry 2.0.

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2016 Presidential Election
11:42 am
Fri April 3, 2015

3 Surprising Things About Ted Cruz's Campaign

Ted Cruz meets voters in Des Moines.
Ben Philpott/KUT News

Texas Senator Ted Cruz heads to South Carolina today on the next leg of his presidential campaign. KUT’s Ben Philpott has been following his first week on the campaign trail. While much of the week was predictably standard fare for Cruz – and presidential candidates in general – there were a couple things that stood out.

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Election 2016
9:01 am
Thu April 2, 2015

Ted Cruz, Still the Sole Official Presidential Candidate, Courts Young Voters in Iowa

Sen. and 2016 Presidential candidate Ted Cruz campaigns in Iowa. He and other Republicans are expected to focus on winning the youth vote this election.
Ben Philpott/KUT News

Seventy percent of young adults who voted in 2012 voted for President Barack Obama. Some post-election analysis said Republican nominee Mitt Romney could have won if he had split that vote in a handful of key states.

So expect to see a heavy push towards the youth vote from Republicans this election. That includes Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who's campaigning in Iowa this week. How's his message being received by young voters on the campaign trail?

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2016 Presidential Election
11:19 am
Mon March 30, 2015

Are New Hampshire GOP Primary Voters Tired of Texas Candidates?

Ted Cruz speaks in New Hampshire; Rick Perry appears on Fox News earlier this year.
Ben Philpott/KUT News; YouTube screenshot

From George W. Bush to Ron Paul to Rick Perry — and now Ted Cruz and, presumably, Perry together — the New Hampshire Republican Presidential Primary has had a Texan on the ticket for a while. And while Republicans in Texas may say that with pride, how do the people of New Hampshire feel about Texans in the race?

By and large, most New Hampshire residents said they weren’t feeling the “Texas fatigue” one might expect with the continual stable of Lone Star candidates. In the case of Cruz, who was there last weekend kicking off his campaign, his proposals outshone any regional biases. In the case of Perry, some primary voters showed surprising support for a candidate who placed sixth in the 2012 contest.

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2016 Election
8:11 pm
Sat March 28, 2015

Ted Cruz Wraps Up New Hampshire Trip

Sen. Cruz speaks to the Young America's Foundation dinner in Nashua, NH
Ben Philpott/KUT News

Texas Senator Ted Cruz ended his first official week as a Presidential candidate in the snow in New Hampshire. As the skies spit small flakes, the kind that shut down most Texas towns but are barely noticed in New England, Cruz turned up the heat indoors with a rousing 40-minute speech that drew six standing ovations.

Tom Fergus was in the crowd of more than 200 people attending the brunch at the Portsmouth Country Club. While national media and some Republican pundits have said Cruz's campaign doesn't have the broad appeal needed to make a successful run, Fergus says Cruz's message fits right in with the "rugged individualist Yankees that we are."

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2016 Election
12:21 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

Cruz Kicks Off Presidential Run in New Hampshire

Sen. Ted Cruz takes his official campaign to New Hampshire this weekend.
KUT News

First came the announcement: Sen. Ted Cruz launched his Presidential run on Monday in front of the student body of Liberty University.

Then it was time to make some money. Cruz had a big online push and headed to New York for a couple of days of fundraising.

Now it's time for him to meet the people as an official Presidential candidate.

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Election 2016
9:25 am
Tue March 24, 2015

What Might Ted Cruz’s First and Only Run for Office Tell Us About his Presidential Campaign?

Ted Cruz celebrates on Election Night 2012.
Michael Stravato/Texas Tribune

Reporters and political pundits across the county are scrambling to handicap Ted Cruz's chances of winning the Republican Presidential nomination. But unlike most other expected candidates, Cruz has little campaign experience to review. He rose from relative obscurity to win his 2012 U.S. Senate race.

So what can that race tell us about Cruz’s Presidential chances?

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KUT News
3:59 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

KUT News Takes Top Honors in Texas AP Broadcaster Awards

The KUT Newsroom received several first place honors in the 2015 Texas Associated Press Broadcasters awards announced today. Topping the list, reporter Joy Diaz was named Best Reporter, with Mose Buchele taking second place in the category.

Also receiving first place recognition:

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Agenda Texas
10:31 am
Fri February 20, 2015

Timeline: Texas' First Legal Same-Sex Marriage

Suzanne Bryant (l) and Sarah Goodfriend (r) speak to the press at the celebration of their marriage, the first legal marriage of a gay couple in Texas.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

Thursday morning at about 9:15, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple.

You may have already heard about the marriage, but do you know what happened in the hour before that ceremony or the hours that followed?

Let’s spend a few minutes explaining what happened, and perhaps more importantly, what happens next.

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