This Week in Texas Politics: Looking towards 2022 election

The week in Texas politics has been dominated by the governor's race, which heated up Monday with Democrat Beto O'Rourke tossing his hat into the ring

However a new development late this week in the campaign for a down ballot office may turn out to be the sleeper race of the 2022 election. 

Also some political musical chairs under the dome may signal a Red Wave may already be developing for the Texas GOP.

FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski talks with his panel of political analysts on this week in Texas politics:

RUDY KOSKI: It's been a week in Texas politics dominated by the governor's race. Let's get right to it and talk to our analyst, Scott Braddock with the Quorum Report. What's your headline for the week?

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Oh, certainly we do have a governor's race and a party switch in Texas.

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

MARK WIGGINS: Beto enters the arena?

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

BRIAN SMITH: Beto returns, 2022 is now about guns.

RUDY KOSKI: And Patricks Svitek with the Texas Tribune. May I ask what your headline was for the week?

PATRICK SVITEK: I hate to be redundant, but it's got to be the governor's race and Beto O'Rourke launching his campaign. 

RUDY KOSKI: And let's get right into that. Patrick, you had a chance to talk with the candidate. It seemed like that he's trying to do a little backtracking from his previous campaigns that the governor has really started his past words. What's the sense that you got from those conversations?

PATRICK SVITEK: I think there's a degree of reinvention, but one of the things that was interesting, I think coming right out of the gate was how, you know, narrowly focused his platform was around, you know, a couple of key contrasts with Governor Abbott, and it seems like a much maybe tighter pitch that we than we saw from him in the 2018 Senate race.

BRIAN SMITH: Right when we look at Abbott. Abbott loves having O'Rourke as a challenger because that way he can really showcase his conservative credentials by having somebody who is more moderate. Abbott would have some trouble.

SCOTT BRADDOCK: But it was interesting to talk to Democratic professionals across the state. People in politics who said, you know, wasn't anything really new about Beto. There's no real reinvention here or anything like that. It's sort of like he's a known quantity. And the real difference in the race is who he's up against.

MARK WIGGINS: It's also a very different political environment. Beto had a Democratic tailwind in 2018…the 2022 midterms are shaping up to be perhaps the opposite of that.

RUDY KOSKI: Brian, the Land Commissioner’s race has been kind of below the radar, but all of a sudden a new player has emerged as running for it. That is Jay Kleberg, who is a member of the King family that owns the King Ranch. Does that change the dynamics for the Land Commissioner race now?  

BRIAN SMITH: Yeah. The more candidates that are raised, the more likely you are to go to a runoff. And by having a bigger field, it means that people are going to start paying attention to it because there's going to be a lot of money thrown around. And it's a very important position here in the state of Texas in something more unique to Texas than any other state.

PATRICK SVITEK: Yeah, he's campaigning very heavily on climate change. And whether you think that that's, you know, a political winner in Texas. I think it is interesting to see at least we have now at least two Democratic statewide candidates who are running. I don't want to call them single issue campaigns because that sounds dismissive, but who are running campaigns focused on very narrowly on one issue.

RUDY KOSKI: We have some people who left politics saying they're not going to run again. Some that are going to be running again, like John Whitmire in the Senate and then another who flip flopped, like State Rep. Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City). Scott, how big are these moves?

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Well, it's interesting that you have Democrats, you know, kicking off their statewide campaigns. You know, a lot of fanfare. But what Republicans are doing in the meantime is the work of actually expanding their power. You have Ryan Guillen from South Texas who you mentioned, who flipped from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, said that the values of the Democratic Party no longer line up with the people in his district. And at the very same time, the very next day, a Republican who won a special election, John Lujan in Bexar County, was sworn in as a new state representative. So Democrats talking a big game, and that's what they should do, and they're kicking off their campaigns. But Republicans are actually expanding their power at the Capitol as we speak.

BRIAN SMITH: One of the things when parties realize times are going to be bad, sometimes it's better to get out of office than lose office. And that's the first sign of a big tsunami for the Republicans.

PATRICK SVITEK: You know, I think, the split screen that we saw this week with the fanfare around Beto O'Rourke's campaign launch and Ryan Guillen switching parties. That's a split screen that I think the Republicans in Texas heartily welcome could have worked out better for them, I think in some ways.

MARK WIGGINS: On State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) and Sen John Whitmire (D-Houston), these are two members with a huge amount of institutional knowledge of the Legislature. Whitmire has been in the Legislature since the mid ‘70s. And Chairman Coleman, his loss is going to be a huge loss of institutional knowledge. And one of the really important things that Chairman Coleman has done over the years is to guide the Legislative Study Group, which provides policy analysis for members of the House.

RUDY KOSKI: All right, let's wrap up this week with one word we're stuck with. Mark your word for the week?


RUDY KOSKI: Brian, your word?

BRIAN SMITH: Retirements.

RUDY KOSKI: Patrick, your word?

PATRICK SVITEK: Governor, or if I get two words, hell and yes, because it would be hearing that a lot.

RUDY KOSKI: And Scott, your final word for the week?

SCOTT BRADDOCK: Party switch.

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

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