Ben Philpott

Senior Editor

Ben Philpott is the Senior Editor for KUT. He’s also co-host of  the upcoming KUT podcast, The Ticket 2020, which will cover 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., Ben graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

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Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

From the campaign trail to election night victory speeches to promises in the halls of the Texas Capitol, property taxes are the top priority for lawmakers. Depending on which metric you use, the state generally ranks in the top 5 nationally for having the highest property taxes. Lawmakers say they have to do something to lower those bills.

But what is that something?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Facing a major budget shortfall and declining enrollment, the Austin Independent School District says it's working on a plan to close or consolidate schools that could be finalized as soon as this summer.

Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott delivered his State of the State address today before the Texas Legislature. He kicked off the speech with a long list of platitudes about the state: from leading the nation in job creation to having the fastest growing economy in the U.S. to hitting its lowest recorded level of unemployment ever.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

GOP leaders say a list of 95,000 names of suspected non-U.S. citizens on state voter rolls is proof of voter fraud in Texas.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Julián Castro is the first Democrat to officially launch a bid for the 2020 presidential nomination. While others are expected to quickly follow, he’s got a few days’ head start to make his mark on the field.

So, what are Castro’s top campaign issues? Let’s start at the top.

Presidential candidates always have a couple of big issues to talk about during their hundreds of campaign stops, but there’s usually one issue that becomes a signature goal.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, announced Saturday that he is running for president.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) is the new speaker of the Texas House. The 150-member body selected him 147-0 shortly after being sworn in for the 2019 legislative session Tuesday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Texas Legislature heads back to work today. While you may know the body's main objective is to pass laws – especially the next state budget – you might not know much else.

That's not a criticism! The legislative process can be complex, so let's go over the basics of what the Legislature is and how it works.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

During the weeks leading up to next session of the Texas Legislature, we're examining some of the state's most pressing issues – and the bills lawmakers have filed to address them.

First up, guns. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The top three elected officials in Texas are the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House. But you didn't find that last official on the Nov. 6 ballot, because we, the voters of Texas, don't get to vote for speaker.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin area has five Senate Districts. Since state senators have staggered four-year terms, only three of them are up for election this year. 

District 5 | District 14 | District 25

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

In Central Texas, there are three state House seats that are uncontested by the GOP:  Democratic incumbents Donna Howard (HD 48), Celia Israel (HD 50) and Eddie Rodriguez (

Liam James / NPR

These are the congressional races we're watching in Central Texas.

District 10 | District 17 | District 21 | District 25 | District 27 | District 31 | District 35

Julia Reihs / KUT

Tomorrow is finally Election Day. After months of campaigning and dozens of polls, voters get the final say. Past elections tell us the vast majority of Texas voters cast their ballots during the state’s two-week early-voting period. With almost all those votes waiting to be counted, political analysts and pundits are doing their best to glean what they can from the turnout.

But what can we tell from those still-secret ballots?

Julia Reihs / KUT

We here at KUT spend a lot of time reminding you about the down-ballot races in an election. This season, we hosted City Council forums because local elections really affect your life the most.

But we know the big shiny races at the top of the ticket get more attention. So, here's what you need to know about the races everyone in the state gets a chance to vote on.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The U.S. Senate race is taking up almost all the oxygen in Texas politics, but there are some state Senate races worth consideration as well.

The Austin area has five Senate Districts. Since state senators have staggered four-year terms, only three of them are up for election this year.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The 2018 midterms have turned into one of the most competitive elections across the country, with more candidates running in more places. That's certainly been true in Texas, as the state's Democrats have come off the mat to field candidates in all congressional and statewide races.

Liam James Doyle / NPR

Ninety-three percent of eligible voters have registered in Travis County and are ready to vote in the Nov. 6 elections. Now comes the hard part: actually going to vote.

We've put together this list of candidates running for Congress in Central Texas. To find out what's going to be on your ballot, including what congressional district you live in, go here and type in your address.  

Montinique Monroe for KUT

Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and his Democratic challenger, Congressman Beto O'Rourke, will debate tonight one final time before early voting begins Monday.

Montinique Monroe for KUT

There are five Austin City Council seats up for grabs in the November election, along with a race for mayor. To help get you ready to vote, KUT is publishing overviews of each race.

Here are the candidates running for District 9, which runs through Central Austin from the Hyde Park neighborhood to the Oltorf Street area.

Emree Weaver for KUT

There are five Austin City Council seats up for grabs in the November election, along with a race for mayor. To help get you ready to vote, KUT will publish overviews of each race. We kick off with District 1.

This race is wide open because City Councilwoman Ora Houston decided not to seek re-election. Six candidates have jumped at the chance to replace her.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Laura Buckman / The Texas Tribune

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his closest challenger, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, take the stage in Austin tonight for the first and only debate between the candidates.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A couple weeks back, KUT and other NPR member stations in Texas started asking for your questions about the 2018 elections. Some people wanted to know where different candidates stand on various topics. Others just asked about the nuts and bolts of how to vote in Texas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT (O'Rourke); Montinique Monroe for KUT (Cruz)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) kick off the first of three debates tonight in Dallas. Tonight's debate at the SMU campus, like the one in Houston on Sept. 30, will focus squarely on domestic policy. Their final debate on Oct. 16 in San Antonio will split time between domestic and foreign policy.

The race is expected to be the closest we've had in Texas since the 2002 race for lieutenant governor. So both sides head into the three debates hoping to change just enough minds to eke out a victory on Nov. 6.

Montinique Monroe for KUT; Julia Reihs/KUT

You've probably heard about the “blue wave” that’s forecast to sweep U.S. elections this November. Some expect it to flip dozens of congressional seats from red to blue, turning control of the U.S. House over to Democrats. And there’s even a slight chance that Democrats could win enough seats to take control of the U.S. Senate.

Montinique Monroe for KUT / Julia Reihs, KUT

The traditional start of the election season is Labor Day – but it feels like everyone has been campaigning for about four years now. Part of that could be the current state of politics. The large crop of 2016 presidential hopefuls kicked off their campaigns way back in 2014 – if not earlier. The race for 2018 began about 20 seconds after Donald Trump was declared the next president. And let's be honest, the race for 2020 has already begun.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon (left) / Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday challenged Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera to a debate over immigration.

Julia Reihs / KUT

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.

Julia Reihs / KUT

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.

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