AUSTIN, Texas - This Week in Texas Politics featured emotional debates at the Texas Capitol. Campaign swings into Texas, and more hard swings in the ongoing Texas GOP civil war.
FOX 7 Austin's Chief Political Reporter Rudy Koski and our panel of political analysts weigh in on This Week in Texas Politics.
RUDY KOSKI: We have a forecast for cooler temperatures next week. But this week in Texas politics, things certainly got hot. How hot? Let's find out with our headlines from our panel and Brian Smith with St Edward's University. We'll begin with you. What's your headline?
BRIAN SMITH: As the legislature moves forward on immigration, school funding remains stuck in neutral.
RUDY KOSKI: Holly Hansen with the Texas News. Holly, what's your headline for the week?
HOLLY HANSEN: Well, to paraphrase my colleague Brad Johnson, who nailed it this week, Profanities, Priorities, Personalities, and Paxton.
RUDY KOSKI: And political business analysts. Annie Spilman. What's your headline?
ANNIE SPILMAN: More state money for water, Electric Generators, Parks, broadband as Popular, poll finds.
RUDY KOSKI: Republicans in the statehouse push through some very hard right bills this week, outlawing backed mandates by private business as well as passing border bills to build more barriers and to allow local law enforcement to arrest and deport undocumented migrants. Annie is there going to be some business pushback on this one?
ANNIE SPILMAN: Really, right now any good lobbyist is going to have concern that there are rifts among legislators that could create some potential stalemate moving forward, preventing their issues from passing at a later date in a Regular Session.
RUDY KOSKI: Some emotional and heated statements during that state House debate by Democrats. Republicans digging in their heels. Brian, is this all-pre-election theatrics or, you know, is this something that the Democrats can use later, maybe on a statewide race?
BRIAN SMITH: This is certainly something the Democrats are going to use, is going to provide them with two angles of opportunity. First is going to be that legal challenge that's going to happen before the ink is dry on the governor's signature. The second is going to try to take the photo ops from the border to back here to Texas, trying to counter that narrative. The problem for the Democrats, though, is they have these opportunities, but the images under the dome are fleeting. And November 2024 is a long way off.
RUDY KOSKI: Attorney General Ken Paxton keeps on parachuting into our weekly discussions. He did it in the debate in the House on Wednesday, showing up on the House floor during that heated debate. Speaker Phelan, You're out of here, House rules don't permit you to be here. Caused somewhat of a little bit of an uproar on social media. Holly, a recent poll shows that even though he still has high negatives, he had a little bit of a bounce back from that acquittal in the Senate. So, does he just keep on throwing punches?
HOLLY HANSEN: Sure, I think so. So, in the general match up, he only has about a 23% approval rating among all likely voters. But among Republicans, he still touts to 50% approval rating. I do think that visit to the Texas House this week was a little bit of saber-rattling.
BRIAN SMITH: What he was doing is he was really trying to do a victory lap.
ANNIE SPILMAN: Paxton's getting some airtime right now. He knows that this is really going to play well for his base, and he's riding that wave.
RUDY KOSKI: Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi remains tangled up in a scandal involving a Texas PAC and a Nazi sympathizer. He's dodging questions pretty well about that. But in the meantime, he's attacking the House Speaker, continuing those tactics and this week urging voters to reject all bond proposals on the November ballot. Holly, the Speaker has a primary challenger that Rinaldi supports. Is this race this Primary race really about those two guys?
HOLLY HANSEN: I think it's about those two guys. To be fair, You know, this may be, as we talked about earlier, a Speaker's race by proxy. Whether or not it's a, you know, really a Rinaldi/Phelan thing, I think it's indicative of a broader civil war within the Republican Party as they fight over issues like school choice.
RUDY KOSKI: You know, Dan Patrick kind of got pulled back, Brian, from this whole situation. How does this civil war play out?
BRIAN SMITH: Well, right now, the Republicans are airing out all their dirty laundry and candidates are positioning themselves for spring primaries and potential leadership positions.
RUDY KOSKI: Do you see the Republicans coming back united after this Civil War, Annie?
ANNIE SPILMAN: Do I see them coming together? I think we've got a long road ahead of us.
RUDY KOSKI: Where does this end?
HOLLY HANSEN: I think once the primary battles are settled, you're going to see some more unification among Republicans, and they will do everything they can to retain control of what they already have control of.
RUDY KOSKI: Brian, you touched on this. Is there a kumbaya moment? Has Congress really mended fences? Can the House GOP mend its fences here in Texas?
BRIAN SMITH: Well, I think for the Republicans are almost has to be a kumbaya moment simply because they're going to have to also coalesce around whomever their presidential nominee is in fall 2024. And a divided Republican Party makes for easy Democratic pickups.
RUDY KOSKI: All right. Let's wrap up this hot week in Texas politics with our one word. Annie, we will start with your what's your word for the Week?
ANNIE SPILMAN: Disorder.
RUDY KOSKI: Brian, what's your word for the weak.
BRIAN SMITH: With Election Day on November 7th? My word is Vote.
RUDY KOSKI: Holly, wrap it up for us.
HOLLY HANSEN: Drama.
RUDY KOSKI: And with that, we're closing out another week in Texas politics.