Ben Philpott

Senior Reporter, State Politics and Policy

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT. He’s also co-host of The Ticket 2016, a podcast produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune covering the presidential election. Ben 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 four 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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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.

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."

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.

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?

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:

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.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It's about a month into the 84th Texas Legislative session, and this week saw the first cracks in any unified front among the state's Republican leadership.

Just like every Texas legislative session – ever, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House won't always agree on things. And that was highlighted this week in the debate over border security.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

The Texas School for the Deaf sits on 67 acres in between South 1st and South Congress. It looks more like a small college campus than a traditional school building. But then again, says school superintendent Claire Bugen, this isn't a traditional school.

"We serve students from age zero, in our parent/infant program, through home visits. And then when the student is 18 months old, they start to come on campus for part-time services. Now these are local students. All the way through age 22. So our continuum of services is very broad," Bugen says.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Two weeks ago Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick handed out his committee assignments, and, this week, House Speaker Joe Straus did the same. That means the sounds that now fill the House and Senate chambers –  of lawmakers giving congratulatory resolutions – is about to change.

Bills often make the news only to quickly disappear from public discourse. Some, like one that moved in the Legislature this week on open carry, gain attention and momentum. Why do some bills fade away while others don't? The answer sometimes lies with House and Senate committees.

How to Pass a Bill

The journey from bill filing to governor's signature is a long and, about 70 percent of the time, unsuccessful journey.  First up, bill referral, when bills are read for the first time in either the House or Senate and then sent to a committee.

Liang Shi/KUT News

This was supposed to be a fairly quiet week at the Legislature.

For the seventh session in a row, Muslim groups from across the state came to Austin for their regular lobby day, just like the lobby day for doctors, or bikers, or any special interest group. Only this time they were met by about 25 protesters, who yelled and held signs with anti-Islamic slogans and briefly took hold of the mic during speeches.

Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, joined the fray by instructing her staff to ask any Muslims who came into her office if they would “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and announce allegiance to America and our laws.” The council on American-Islamic relations has already sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus to see if those instructions violate House ethics rules.

The legislature also broached another currently controversial topic: the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC).

Todd Wiseman & Stuart Seeger/Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.

Two weeks down in the 84th Texas Legislature. This one was filled with the pomp of Inauguration Day, and the curious circumstance of the Texas Senate's rules for bringing up a bill. But today's Agenda Texas talks about the state budget.

Out of the billions and billions spent, there are two numbers to focus on to help understand it all.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Texas’ new governor and lieutenant governor were inaugurated this morning at the State Capitol. Both delivered remarks, and the two speeches struck very different tones.

For Gov. Greg Abbott, much of the speech focused on thanks and gratitude to the family, friends, and state that allowed him to succeed.

"I am living proof that we live in a state where a young man's life can literally be broken in half, and yet he can still rise up to be governor of this great state,” he said.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.

It's KUT's political podcast that let you know what's happening under the dome, and explain how it hits home.


This week, lawmakers from across the state have returned to Austin for the 84th session of the Texas Legislature. The beginning marked the end, at least for now, of the two long political careers of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry.

Lawmakers will find out this morning how much money they’ll have to work with as they craft the state’s next two-year budget. They’re expected to have plenty of wiggle room, but rapidly dropping oil prices have raised some concerns. Oil and gas prices could affect those numbers.

At the end of 2013, former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said the state could have about $2.6 billion dollars in unspent revenue from the current budget. Some believe that surplus will be even larger when current Comptroller Glenn Hegar delivers his revenue estimate this morning. And that money could be a big help, considering the state's economic future might not be as rosy thanks to falling oil prices.

Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune

The next Lieutenant Governor of Texas has announced the Senate will not restore funding to the Public Integrity Unit. The operation, based in the Travis County District Attorney's office, had its funding vetoed by Governor Rick Perry in 2013. That came after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested and spent time in jail for drunk driving.

The Central Texas based Global Language Monitor is out with its top words for 2014.

The 15 year-old ranking doesn't just pick the most popular words based on what one segment of the English speaking world is doing. A bunch of hits on YouTube, or a single event won't usually give something "word of the year" status.


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.

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.

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.

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.