Republicans continue to run the Texas Statehouse, but that doesn’t mean they all see eye to eye.
Texas Monthly political writer R.G. Ratcliffe told Texas Standard that he expects intraparty rivalries to flare this legislative session, signaling a continued creep of Washington-style politics into the Lone Star state.
A face-off between Abbott and Cruz?
Ratcliffe says both Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz are eyeing possible 2024 presidential campaigns, which would pit Abbott against his former coworker.
“Greg Abbott, who was an attorney general, hired Ted Cruz as his solicitor general. And so now you may have a situation where the mentor and the mentee face off with one another in a national run for the Republican presidential nomination,” Ratcliffe said.
Tension between “traditional” and Trump-era Republicans
Just like in Washington, the Republican members of the Legislature are divided by these two visions for their party. That’s caused trouble for Abbott, whom Ratcliffe considers traditional because he prioritizes low taxes and business expansion. But Abbott’s vision has been at odds with many in his party who are more focused on socially conservative issues like reigning in abortion and LGBTQ rights. The pandemic has fueled that divide. Many conservative Republicans have scorned the governor for lockdowns, face-mask rules and more.
“He’s made them mad on coronavirus restrictions. And oddly enough, he made them mad by extending early voting, which has always benefited Republicans in Texas,” Ratcliffe said.
Fissures among Republican leadership
Similar fault lines exist between top Texas Republicans. In a previous legislative session, Abbott didn’t help champion Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s signature cause, the so-called bathroom bill. It never made it to the House floor for a full vote. And this session, newly elected House Speaker Dade Phelan has already been called a “traitor” by Republican Party Chair Alan West for forming a bipartisan leadership team in the House.
“They try to downplay it, but there’s definitely fissures there,” Ratcliffe said. “You have a large portion of the Republican Party who is playing this, like, Washington-style partisan politics.”