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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Agenda Texas
9:33 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Women's Clinic Closed in Wake of Texas Law Offered More Than Abortions

Cadence King stands at the gate of the now closed Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan.
Ben Philpott for KUT News

A handful of clinics in Texas have closed, or are planning to, just weeks after a controversial bill restricting abortions passed the state legislature.

Planned Parenthood says the closures will hurt the women who came to the clinics for general healthcare services. Anti-abortion groups say there are other doctors for the women to go to. So who's right?

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Agenda Texas
10:41 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Has 'Cruz-Mania' Made Senator Cornyn an Afterthought?

Is Ted Cruz essenailly the Sr. Sentor from Texas?
Gage Skidmore Texas Tribune

Texas Senator John Cornyn has been in office since 2002. He’s currently the GOP minority whip. And yet, based on media appearances and general buzz, you might think Cornyn was the state’s junior Senator – second fiddle to Tea Party favorite and conservative media darling Senator Ted Cruz.

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Agenda Texas
2:26 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Can MoPac Be 'Fixed?'

New tolled lanes are coming to MoPac - but so are thousands more motorists. Accounting for projected growth, some traffic experts say maintaining MoPac’s current level of congestion would be a success.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

About a thousand people a day move to Texas. And if you’re driving on the MoPac expressway at rush hour, it might feel like every one of them is commuting with you.

That's how Sara Robertson feels most days. She's been commuting on MoPac for about eight years. “And every year it gets longer and longer,” Robertson says.

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Agenda Texas
8:50 am
Tue August 27, 2013

Some Texas Democrats Waiting on Davis Before Joining 2014 Races

Davis appears to be the key for Democrats in 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Wendy Davis Watch continues in Texas politics. The Fort Worth state senator is expected to announce in the next few days whether she will or won’t run for the Democratic nomination for Governor. But Democratic activists aren’t the only ones waiting.

So are potential Democratic candidates, as state-wide races up and down the ticket, so far, remain empty. 

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Agenda Texas
6:00 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Controversial Texas Lesson Plans Debated This Weekend

The lesson plans may be gone...but those for and against the plans continue to fight.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

You may not know it, but tomorrow, the lucky people of Tyler, Texas will have the chance to witness one of the most anticipated confrontations since Rocky III, when Rocky Balboa took on Clubber Lang.

Ok, maybe State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) debating State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant) over something called CSCOPE isn’t all that scintillating. But those lesson plans created by Texas teachers were one heck of a political football during the 2013 legislative session. 

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Politics
4:56 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

OMG: Attack Websites Begin Trashing 2014 Texas Candidates

Web attacks designed to go viral, like Dan Patrick's "Dewfeed," kick off the 2014 campaign season early.
dewfeed.com

It may be too early to start running attack ads on TV and radio for the 2014 Texas general and primary elections. But it's apparently never too early to launch an attack website.

So to give you something to do heading into the weekend, we've compiled a list of some of the most prominent attack sites out there at the moment. The number will certainly grow as we get closer to the primaries in March.

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Wendy Davis
1:23 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Democrats Crank Up Pressure on Wendy Davis to Run for Governor

With the launch of a draft-style website, pressure is building for Sen. Wendy Davis to make gubernatorial run in 2014.
wewantwendydavis.com

Update: Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa has released a statement explaining the new website gathering support for a Davis run for Governor.

"We know she can win this race. Wendy has faced long odds before – and they've never stopped her. But before she decides to run, we need to show her that we have her back."

Original post (12:04 p.m.): Texas Democrats appear on the fence over whether Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, should run for governor in 2014 – much like the candidate herself.

But with nobody else on the ballot so far, the minority party is ramping up its efforts to make sure their new rising star will have money and manpower – just in case.

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Agenda Texas
3:45 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Wendy Davis Looks Back at Filibuster, Ahead to 2014 Elections

Sen. Wendy Davis says she feels “encouragement” from fellow Dems to seriously consider a run for higher office.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

With about 1,500 bills passed during its four legislative sessions, the 83rd Texas Legislature could be remembered for a number of things.

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Politics
11:15 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Gov. Perry Blasts Health Secretary Sebelius' Visit

Texas lawmakers including Gov. Perry (l) continue to fight implementation of the Affordable Care Act, administered by H&HS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius.
Perry photo KUT News

In case you didn't know, Gov. Rick Perry doesn't think much of the Affordable Care Act - aka Obamacare.

He lead the charge to make sure Texas didn't participate in the voluntary expansion of people eligible for Medicaid coverage. And he was an early -- and often vocal opponent -- of the state creating a healthcare exchange under the ACA.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

The Abortion Debate is Affecting Texas Politics, Left and Right

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is one of a handful of Texas politicians using their recognition from abortion debates this legislative session to further upcoming campaigns.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Last week, the Texas Senate passed  House Bill 2, restricting abortions in Texas. Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign it in coming days, and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services is already gearing up to start implementing the changes. But even with that battle lost, some Democrats have dared to dream about what the abortion battle could mean for the 2014 elections.

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Politics
3:55 pm
Sun July 14, 2013

Greg Abbott Announces Run for Texas Governor

Attorney General Greg Abbott begins his run for Governor in San Antonio.
Bob Daemmrich ,Texas Tribune

Long-time Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is running for the GOP nomination for governor in 2014. His official announcement has been anticipated in the days after Gov. Rick Perry announced he would not seek re-election.

A few hundred friends and supporters came to Plaza Juarez in downtown San Antonio to hear Abbott announce his run. A video shown at the announcement and his speech that followed focused on his life in office and on the accident 29 years ago that left Abbott paralyzed.

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Agenda Texas
5:30 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

Abortion Bill Hogs Spotlight from Other Session Priorities

Based on stories coming out of the Texas Capitol, you might think the current 30-day special legislative session is about one thing, and one thing only: abortion.

But there are actually two other subjects on the agenda for this session:

  • Transportation Funding
  • Juvenile Justice
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Agenda Texas
5:30 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Rick Perry's Announcement and the Political Domino Effect

Both Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (left) and Attorney General Greg Abbott will be affected by the domino effect following Gov. Perry's decision.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, as you’ve no doubt heard, announced Monday he won’t seek a fourth term in office.

Gov. Perry will stay in office until his replacement takes over in January 2015. But the scrambling to be that replacement – and the dominoes falling into place – has already begun.

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Politics
10:00 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Audio: Filibuster Fallout and Gov. Perry's Exciting Future Plans

The Tribcast Crew review the week's big political moments
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

TribCast: Filibuster Fallout and Exciting Future Plans by KUT News

On this week's Texas Tribune Tribcast, Reeve Hamilton, Evan Smith, Ross Ramsey and KUT's Ben Philpott discuss the fallout from last week's filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), the Voting Rights Act, the effort to impeach a university regent, and Governor Rick Perry's coming announcement of "exciting future plans."

Agenda Texas
12:42 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

What's In the Texas Abortion Bill

Tuesday night's committee hearing was the latest opportunity for people on both sides of the bill to show support.
Veronica Zaragovia

The battle over abortion legislation in Texas has gotten lots of national attention --from a filibuster to record-breaking crowds of protestors on both sides, it’s the noise about the bill that’s taken center stage.

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Politics
6:00 am
Tue July 2, 2013

After the Rally, What’s Next for Texas Legislature's Abortion Debate

Sen. Wendy Davis speaking yesterday. “For years too many Texas politicians have tried to boost their careers by bullying women who need help with their health care," Davis said.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Texas lawmakers are back in Austin for a second special legislative session. The first one ended last week with protests and a late night filibuster to block abortion legislation. And the short time off between sessions has only galvanized activists on both sides of the issue.

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Agenda Texas
8:41 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Rules Fight Looms Over Texas Legislature's Latest Special Session

Se. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, addressing abortion-rights supporters after Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster. Lawmakers will head back to the Capitol on Monday to continue the debate of controversial abortion regulations that ended the first special session.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is fond of special sessions. Since 2000, he's called for 11 special sessions as governor. And, after the legislative fireworks in the final hours of the last special session, Gov. Perry called yet another special session, bringing lawmakers back to Austin to address transportation, criminal justice and abortion regulations not covered last session's call.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Perry Calls New Special Session: Abortion, Transportation & More

Protesters hoped Tuesday night would be the end of the GOP's latest bill restricting abortion in Texas - but now it doesn't look that way.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Just hours after Senate Democrats were able to use parliamentary procedure and loud advocates to block passage of an abortion bill, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has announced he's calling lawmakers back to Austin for a second special session beginning July 1st.

On the agenda so far, abortion legislation that regulates the procedure and clinics, transportation funding and the creation of a life with parole sentence for juveniles convicted of capitol murder.

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Politics
2:34 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

What's Next for SB 5, the Abortion Bill in the Texas Legislature

Abortion rights advocates blanketed the Capitol in orange this weekend. Protests and hours of debate will come down to a final vote in the Texas Senate.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

You're probably aware of Sunday night's marathon hearing on an omnibus abortion bill in the Texas Legislature.

The bill would restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require all clinics to be certified as ambulatory surgical centers and require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. After a vote this morning, that bill is out of the House and in the Senate, where a few things could happen to either pass or block the bill before the special session ends midnight Tuesday. So let's go over a couple of the scenarios:

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Agenda Texas
8:58 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Texas House Passes Restrictive Abortion Bill (Update)

Republicans mill around empty House floor after marathon abortion debate. Democrats could show back up later this morning.
Ben Philpott

Update: House members voted 95 to 34 to pass Senate Bill 5. Now it’s back to the Senate, which already approved the bill, but will have to vote on it again – because its initial version didn’t include the abortion ban after 20 weeks.

Lawmakers are running out of time to take action during this special session. It ends tomorrow at midnight. There’s talk of a filibuster in the Senate to run out the clock.

Update: House gaveled in just after 9 a.m. A handful of Democrats have showed up.

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