AUSTIN, Texas - This Week in Texas Politics was dominated by the border, but several other hot topics certainly came up, including pot law fights, flip flops, political revenge tours and the questionable defense of a disgraced former state lawmaker.
FOX 7 Austin's chief political reporter Rudy Koski chats with our political panel for more.
RUDY KOSKI: Let's get our headlines from our panel, and we'll begin first with Brian Smith with Saint Edward's University. Brian, what's your headline for the week?
BRIAN SMITH: As the November election gets closer, the border deal in Washington falls through.
RUDY KOSKI: And Brad Johnson with the Texan news. Brad, what's your headline for the week?
BRAD JOHNSON: 2024 primary enters its mud wrestling phase.
RUDY KOSKI: Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott held a news conference with state lawmakers on the South Texas border, saying that he was planning to ramp up enforcement activities, but he didn't provide any details. The event was like being served a sandwich, I think, with nothing between the bread. But Brian, Abbott is still winning the PR war for what's going on down on the border against the Biden administration, right?
BRIAN SMITH: Yeah, because he can devote all of his time on this issue. Biden has a full agenda of personal and political problems, of which the border's just one. This gives Abbott the upper hand because he can always just drive down there, have a news conference and declare victory.
BRAD JOHNSON: Yeah, certainly. And when he had all those state reps down there, you know, that turned out to be the big announcement. He said, quote, what's important is who's here with me. And it was a who's who, of who he's endorsed in this primary race, you know, advancing school vouchers, school choice.
RUDY KOSKI: Now, a recent poll by the University of Houston on the upcoming primary election with the Republicans found that 60 percent of Republican primary voters may not vote for a statehouse incumbent who voted against school vouchers, school choice. And almost half in the survey don't like those who voted to impeach Ken Paxton. Brian, that poll, certainly went hard right. Did it surprise you?
BRIAN SMITH: Not really, because the people who vote in primaries hold stronger political partisan views. So, when you get a survey of primary voters, they're going to hold those far left and far right views.
RUDY KOSKI: A surprising hot topic that came up this week in Texas politics other than Ken Paxton, other than school choice, other than the grid, was a race that I don't know if a lot of people were really watching very closely. It involves Kyle Biedermann, out in the Hill Country, who's taking on incumbent Ellen Troxclair in the Republican primary. An audio clip was posted on social media this week where Biedermann is heard defending former representative Brian Slaton. Who is Slaton? Well, Slaton was kicked out of the Texas House for having sex with a 19-year-old intern and giving her alcohol. Brad, at first I would say this would hurt him, but after seeing that U of H poll where Republicans responded the way they did, maybe not. What do you think?
BRAD JOHNSON: I think it'll hurt him, especially if the Troxclair Campus is smart and slaps this on a mailer ASAP. I think we can bet your last dollar on that. But another signal, though, that how bad of a PR move this was. You know, Abbott and Patrick both distanced themselves immediately from him, issuing cease and desist directives to his campaign for putting, you know, their images next to his on advertisements.
BRIAN SMITH: Politicians need to be wise with their words as everything's recorded and is going to be tried by the public in the court and social media, and he's out there defending somebody who was the first person removed from the Texas legislature since 1927. You don't do that.
RUDY KOSKI: Now, I mentioned Ken Paxton as he's waiting for his Supreme Court hearing showdown with his whistleblowers later in the month. The attorney general did file several lawsuits against Texas cities that he's targeting, cities that have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Brian, that's an easy prediction. He'll lose in the local courts and win in the state Supreme Court, right? But it does provide another really good distraction for Paxton, right?
BRIAN SMITH: Yeah, we know the needle's moving on marijuana in Texas, but we're still not Colorado or California. And he understands that he can get a legislative victory or, I'm sorry, a judicial victory by asserting the supremacy of the state over local governments. And there's an added bonus, and that Austin's one of the cities is suing. And that always works for the attorney general is going after Austin. But remember, this is going to be something to watch on the agenda in 2025. This is not an issue that's going away.
BRAD JOHNSON: I think it's a pretty easy court win for him, especially considering the arguments made by including one of the defendants in this case, the city of Austin, over the Death Star Bill. They contended that, while the state has power to, enact conflict preemption on a single issue, they do not have the authority to do field preemption, which is what the, quote, Death Star bill was about. So right there, that's a concession that the state has the ability to do this, this weed lawsuit.
RUDY KOSKI: All right. Let's wrap up this week in Texas politics with one word. And we'll start with Brian. What's your word for the week, Brian?
BRIAN SMITH: I'm getting to be a broken record. Border.
RUDY KOSKI: Brad, your word for the week.
BRAD JOHNSON: Wild.
RUDY KOSKI: And that is This Week in Texas Politics.