Political pivots, walk-offs dominate This Week in Texas Politics

This Week in Texas Politics was one with a lot of movement. 

Gov. Greg Abbott’s migrant bus trips continued to Washington, DC and there was a major campaign pivot by Beto O’Rourke. 

State Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), a top political leader, decided to walk away from his party job. 

An endorsement fight is also brewing between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Abbott, which may be more about a presidential bid than school choice. 

FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski and a panel of political analyst discussed the topics that dominated This Week in Texas Politics.

KOSKI: And here we are back in the LBJ penthouse to talk about this week in Texas politics, and let's get right to it with our headlines, and we'll start off with Gromer Jeffers, Dallas Morning News. Gromer, what's your headline for the week

JEFFERS: Race for governor heats up and property tax appraisal soar.

KOSKI: Brian Smith with St. Edward's University. Brian, what's your headline for the week?

SMITH: Beto goes Libertarian on gambling and drugs.

KOSKI:  Mark Wiggins, political consultant. Mark, what's your headline for the week?

WIGGINS: Despite all the promises, Texans are still getting taxed out of our homes.

KOSKI: And let's start off with Beto O'Rourke. His messaging seems to be changing a little bit. Gromer, you were at his event recently, just a few days ago. What struck you? Was it the messaging or the people showing up?

JEFFERS: A little bit of both? It was an older crowd and his message was, look; he was trying to blame Greg Abbott, the incumbent governor for inflation, and at the same time, trying to develop ideas that would be of interest to those voters, including Medicaid expansion. And one quick note in Sherman, close to Oklahoma, Oklahoma has Medicaid expansion under a Republican governor, as well as a legalization of marijuana item on the ballot before voters.

KOSKI: Mark, you're shaking your head. Is this the pivot that Beto needs to at least make this race competitive?

WIGGINS: You know Rudy, Beto had to get off of border security where he's underwater, and his campaign's been struggling to find a popular message. And I think he wisely keyed it on property taxes this week. Just as we're all getting these appraisal notices that have skyrocketed, and Beto's fixes are other popular things, like legalizing gambling and marijuana. Marijuana in particular, heavily, heavily supported by Texans. In every poll that's been conducted well,

SMITH: He's been trying everything and it hasn't been working. So why not go with an issue that affects everybody? And that's the economy, and if he makes it about the economy, and Greg Abbott's in trouble.

KOSKI: Speaking of Greg Abbott, his border bus trips to DC continue. I believe we're approaching 10 trips now. Mark, does this become a little border bus fatigue? And how much longer does this drive out?

WIGGINS: The Governor needs a distraction right now from that catastrophic truck inspection blunder. How long does this go? I think it's tough to tell as long as he feels like he's getting some mileage out of it. We can expect those busses to keep rolling.

KOSKI: It (the truck inspections) got the Mexican governors to the table to do something.

JEFFERS: Well, both can be true, but at the same time, border security is such a hot button issue what Republican voters and some general election voters that he wins even as he's as he's losing.

SMITH: We know that isn't a policy solution, but it's a great way for Abbott to hold Biden's feet to the fire. But if it starts having the backlash that Gromer talked about, he's going to have to back off on it.

KOSKI: We're seeing a lot of change under the Capitol dome, and one of the biggest changes being announced this week that Chris Turner, state representative who is also the House Democratic Caucus Chair, deciding he won't run for reelection for that position. That is a big leadership shift.

JEFFERS: It's probably time for Turner to go. But the question is what kind of new leader will Democrats now get?

WIGGINS: You know, Chairing the Democratic caucus, though, is a thankless job. It's a diverse group. It's got several internal caucuses with unique priorities. It can be tough to get everyone on the same page, so they're going to need to find a leader who can get the caucus together and then work with Republicans who are also tired of all of the theater.

SMITH: I don't see anybody coming in who's going to reverse that, but we might see a change in tactics that the Democrats, you know, maybe try to make it fun by bipartisanship or make it fun by stopping the Republicans in other ways.

WIGGINS: I want to get a bumper sticker. Make it fun by bipartisanship.

JEFFERS: Yeah, they have one good year 2018. Twelve seats in the House went from 55 to 67.

SMITH: Yeah. And if you are the leader of the caucus, you do have to accept some responsibility for your party not advancing.

KOSKI: The Republicans are also somewhat fractured. A good indication of that. The runoff races that are coming up. Governor Abbott picking his endorsements. Ted Cruz picking his endorsements. And it seems that there's a separation. On the surface, it's all about school choice. But guys, is this really more about a preset for 2024, Mark?

WIGGINS: I think Cruz is just kind of giving away the game with his endorsements here.

SMITH: Cruz is going to have an uphill battle because if he decides to run for president in 2024, he's going to have to figure out what to do with his Senate seat. He's up for reelection.

JEFFERS: It's fascinating because they're inside battles going on. You mentioned Abbott/Cruz, but you also have Abbott/DeSantis and then you have Trump with his endorsements.

KOSKI: And with that, let's wrap up our week in Texas Politics with our one word. Mark, what's your one word for the week?

WIGGINS: The tax man cometh.

KOSKI: Gromer. What is your one word for the week?

JEFFERS: Inflation.

KOSKI: And Brian, your word for the week?

SMITH: Legalization.

KOSKI: And with that, we're wrapping up another week in Texas politics.