Runoffs, border camp, Capitol chaos, Trump verdict: This Week in Texas Politics

This Week in Texas Politics was dominated by the recent May runoff elections and the fallout, but there were several other big stories this week.

FOX 7 Austin's chief political reporter Rudy Koski and our panel of political analysts break down the big headlines.

RUDY KOSKI: Let's get the headlines from our panel, and we'll start first with Patrick Svitek with The Washington Post. Patrick, what's your headline for the week? 

PATRICK SVITEK: The Speaker survives, but more incumbents lose. 

RUDY KOSKI: Political analyst Mark Wiggins, your headline for the week. 

MARK WIGGINS: The return of the speaker. 

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

BRIAN SMITH: Ken Paxton's revenge train derailed: Dade Phelan holds on to his seat. 


RUDY KOSKI: The school choice/impeachment revenge tour really scored some victories on Tuesday night, but Speaker Phelan survived. The GOP civil war did not end. And Patrick, there are two House members right now saying they're going to take on Dade Phelan. 

PATRICK SVITEK: You know, he is going to have to explain to members all these incumbent losses that he presided over. The knock on him is that he had to focus on his race and he wasn't able to spread as much money and resources around to help all these other incumbents who were those caught in pretty heated primaries. 

MARK WIGGINS: You know, the folks are putting their name in the ring here. I think they see an opening. But if the speaker is able to retain his core of support, they're going to be a real trouble. 

BRIAN SMITH: He only had three challengers in 2023, so this is nothing new for him. The big difference, of course, is the caucus has moved, Right. So, the coalition that elected him last time isn't there. 

RUDY KOSKI: Governor Greg Abbott did do an actual real victory lap on Friday down in Eagle Pass. He welcomed the first 300 Texas National Guard soldiers to his newly built border base camp, Mark, that, of course, is a clear political win. 

MARK WIGGINS: Yeah, I've said it before, border security continues to poll as a top issue for Republicans and Democrats in the state of Texas. It's one where Republicans feel like they can show a favorable contrast with the Biden administration, and the governor is going to want to make sure he keeps the spotlight on that. 

RUDY KOSKI: One of the things that was settled Tuesday night also involves Brant Hagenbuch. He was endorsed by Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick. He won the Senate District 30 seat despite claims that he didn't meet residency rules. Newly minted Texas GOP Chairman Abraham George on Thursday said he will not consider the complaint that was filed, indicating voters made the call in that race. So, Brian, certainly the first big test for the new GOP chairman. 

BRIAN SMITH: Yeah, this was the first big test. And he sidestepped it nicely by saying, let the voters make the call. He's got bigger problems with the caucus, that's fractured in many ways. And if he gets into the weeds right now, they'll never get out of them. 

RUDY KOSKI: Now, there were some notable developments regarding two congressional seats. Congressman Tony Gonzalez surviving a runoff with a Republican YouTube personality. And we learned that Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar will face a House ethics investigation regarding the bribery indictment against him. Patrick, on Capitol Hill what's the feeling up there? Which one is the hot seat? 

PATRICK SVITEK: Honestly, I think the focus has been more in the political world on Tony Gonzales' prospects. I mean, you know, this was a race that I think really was emblematic of some of the divides we've seen among House Republicans on Capitol Hill. Some of Gonzales' own Republican colleagues endorsed or campaigned for his challenger, Brandon Herrera, and it ended up being a legitimate political scare and close call for Gonzalez, who had a lot going for him. He had a huge financial advantage. And when the dust settled on primary runoff election night, I think he only won by a point or two. You know, I think it has to be a humbling experience for Gonzales, who is someone I should note likes to publicly boast about how much of a political animal he is and how he likes to confront his political opponents.

RUDY KOSKI: Believe it or not, some legislating actually did happen this week. The Senate State Affairs Committee discussed concerns about voter ballot security and if Delta 8 and Delta 9 hemp products need more state regulations, both have potential for pushback. Mark, which one is the bigger political landmine? 

MARK WIGGINS: You know, I have to say, the one that has the most profound impact on all of us is going to be the election security issue. And I'd be interested to see if the legislature continues looking at some sort of tort reform to curtail some of these frivolous election laws. 


RUDY KOSKI: No surprises in the Texas reaction to the conviction of President Trump. Outrage and joy split right down party lines. I think the January chaos in the House went to the back burner Thursday. And the maybe we just saw the first wave of a November tsunami starting, maybe. What do you think about that? 

BRIAN SMITH: Well, this definitely changes the entire complexion of the race. 

MARK WIGGINS: There's been extensive polling done on the question of whether a conviction makes voters less likely to support him. And it does. 

RUDY KOSKI: He certainly is a bear that's been poked. 

PATRICK SVITEK: Clearly, there is a short-term political gain for him to be had here, at least in terms of energizing his base supporters. 

RUDY KOSKI: Let's end it there and wrap up the week with one word and we'll start with Brian. Brian, what's your word for the week? 



MARK WIGGINS: I'm going to go with Survivor, back in the runoffs. 

RUDY KOSKI: And that is This Week in Texas Politics.

A longer discussion about the week can be found on the FOX 7 Austin YouTube channel.