This Week in Texas Politics: Omicron surges, 2022 election ramps up

This week in Texas politics began with watching if a promise concerning Texas' power grid would hold true as a cold snap moved in.

Following that, a hot debate ensued over how the January 6 attack on the US Capitol should be observed, the campaigns for Gov. Greg Abbott and Beto O'Rourke are ramping up and gubernatorial candidate Don Huffines involving the Dallas Cowboys in his latest political ad.

FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski and a panel of political analysts discussed those topics and how they may continue to influence Texas politics into this New Year.

RUDY KOSKI: And we're back in the LBJ penthouse to talk about the week in Texas politics and this week in Texas politics started the new year with a little carry-over from the previous year 2021. So let's get our headlines now from our panel, and we'll begin with consultant Mark Wiggins. Mark your headline for the week.

MARK WIGGINS: Little carry-over from the previous new year Omicron spoiling the New Year.

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

BRIAN SMITH: Don Huffines causes Democrats to consider rooting against the Cowboys.

RUDY KOSKI: Steven Dial with FOX 4 Dallas. Steven, what's your headline?

STEVEN DIAL: Insurrection a year later, cut you off there?

RUDY KOSKI: And Patrick Svitek with the Texas Tribune. What's your headline?

PATRICK SVITEK: Yeah, we've got most campaigns beginning to ramp up with less than two months to the March 1st Primary.

RUDY KOSKI: All right. And with that, it seems like everything this week had some type of election push and tone and theme to it, even the January 6th anniversary of the Capitol attack. Patrick, have you noticed how the Republicans here seem to be waffling on how to deal with it, and the Democrats seem to be wanting to use it as a rallying cry for their agenda?

PATRICK SVITEK: And in fact, we saw a storyline this week that kind of went in the other direction. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, during a Congressional proceeding, referred to it as, I think, a "violent terrorist attack". And he spent the next 24 to 48 hours having to clean up those comments because the pushback he got on his right for describing it that way.

STEVEN DIAL: I think the backtrack was, was more interesting. And I mean, Thursday, January 6th, it seemed like we were just in two different worlds. I mean, we are super divided.

BRIAN SMITH: General elections far away. But we're going to see videos of Jan. 6th reappear. The Democrats are going to use them to try to remind voters this is what might happen.

MARK WIGGINS: Yeah, I was just going to mention that Rudy, there's a candidate in North Texas who was indicted in the coup attempt. He assaulted a cop and he's bragging about it. So I think Democrats will rightly tar every insurrectionist as, as un-American. But there is an element within the GOP that is immune to that attack because they embrace it.

RUDY KOSKI: The week began with the cold snap moving across Texas, and so everyone was looking at the Texas grid. So Brian politically, did the Texas grid pass the test?

BRIAN SMITH: Again, it has one job: provide electricity. I grade papers all the time. It gets a C because it did what it was supposed to. But no, no A-grade.

STEVEN DIAL: Until we see some record cold again. I'm not really giving a grade on the power grid just yet.

RUDY KOSKI: Patrick, you wrote about the big push for the governor, 60 locations and 60 days. How does the COVID surge play into that and where's Beto O'Rourke?

PATRICK SVITEK: Well, I don't think the COVID surge plays into that at all. I think Abbott is going to campaign like he's governed in recent weeks, which is basically act like everything is good. And there's no problem with COVID. As far as Beto O'Rourke is concerned. He's taken a bit of a break, but I don't expect him to, you know, I expect him to ramp up pretty quickly once he gets back on the campaign trail, starting Saturday in El Paso,

RUDY KOSKI: The state Appeals Court gave Governor Abbott a loss by ruling against his ban on mask mandates, but now it goes to the state Supreme Court. New fight there. How critical is this in regards to where we go next? Mark, it's really gotten ugly on the local level.

MARK WIGGINS: You know, I don't think anyone doubts that the Texas Supreme Court is going to ultimately side with Abbott and Paxton, but Texas is such a huge state and I think that you're going to find every school district is going to have a different experience with Omicron. And that's what we're talking about as this school district requirements.

BRIAN SMITH: The mask mandate, I don't think is going to drive voter turnout. I think what's going to drive voter turnout are the traditional things, especially in the primary.

STEVEN DIAL: A lot of people do agree that there shouldn't be a one size fits all. El Paso may not need to be under the same regulation that Dallas-Fort Worth is under. And so there are some just not vocal who are supportive of the governor who believe that there should just be local decisions.

RUDY KOSKI: Mark, do (Allen)West and (Don) Huffines push Abbott even farther right?

MARK WIGGINS: I think he's going to take them seriously, and he's going to, that's why you're seeing this massive aerial assault that is about to launch across the state.

RUDY KOSKI: Stephen, Huffines made the Dallas Cowboys political (in his new campaign ad). How did that play up there?

STEVEN DIAL: Yeah, I was sitting at a bar watching the game and it popped up. I don't know if Abbott is going to go any more right than he's already been pushed right?

PATRICK SVITEK: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it was successful. If you accept that the point of that ad was to get people talking. I mean, that was to me that exemplified the classic ad of an underdog candidate who is not getting where he needs to go after a period of time and needs to try to scramble the conversation a little bit and get people talking about it more.

MARK WIGGINS: Short of getting an endorsement from EIGHT beer with, was that Troy Aikman's new beer? It's got to be nice. It's, you know, just trying to grab any headline anywhere you can at this point.

RUDY KOSKI: All right, with that, let's grab our one word for this week, and we'll start off with Brian. What's your word for the week, Brian?


RUDY KOSKI: Mark, your one word.

MARK WIGGINS: Groundhog Day.

RUDY KOSKI: Patrick, your one word for the week?


RUDY KOSKI: And Steven, what's your one word for the week?

STEVEN DIAL: Omicron surge.

RUDY KOSKI: And with that, we are wrapping up our Week in Texas Politics. 

Federal appeals court to hear challenge to Texas abortion law on Friday
Texas secretary of state defends ongoing 2020 election audit effort
Texas to sue over vaccine mandate for National Guard after requesting federal aid
SUBSCRIBE: Daily Newsletter | YouTube
FOLLOW: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter