This year, the state was one of the first to quash mask warrants and block local Covid-19 vaccine requirements. Over the summer, Democratic state lawmakers fled Texas for a month to delay GOP voting legislation, which was passed shortly after their return. Laws allowing the carrying of a firearm without a license, penalizing cutting police budgets in large cities and limiting discussions of systemic racism in classrooms came into effect on September 1.
And other times, big events in Texas have taken center stage: A massive winter storm exposed the state’s weak energy infrastructure in February, and the southern Texas border has been front and center in the news. this month.
Even for a large state, Texas has received inordinate political attention as conservatives attempt to innovate, developing decades of GOP control and a national political environment that leans toward Republicans. Two other key trends are also behind the attention-grabbing political campaign: The Republican governor prepares to face the main challengers in his 2022 reelection race and potential presidential bid, while strife multiply between various liberal cities and the government of the state dominated by the Republicans. reflecting the same tensions that drive national politics.
“You put all of these things together, and I think there has been virtually no way markers for Republicans in this session,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, which conducts polls. opinion in the state. “They are very confident about the 2022 election given recent precedents and… a Democrat in the White House, so there has been no natural control.”
Former President Donald Trump’s influence still looms large in state policy – as shown in his open letter to GOP Governor Greg Abbott last week. Trump has asked the state legislature to pass Bill 16, which would allow state officials to request an election audit for future elections as well as for 2020.
Despite Trump’s nearly 6-point victory over Biden in Texas last year, the Secretary of State’s office quickly announced a “full and comprehensive forensic audit” of Collin, Dallas and Tarrant counties in the region. from Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as Harris County to Houston. . The statement did not provide any details, but said the agency expects the state legislature to fund the effort.
Former Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, who previously called the 2020 election “simple and secure,” resigned in May when the state Senate did not accept her nomination. The Texas Secretary of State’s office is currently headed on an interim basis by a former Abbott staff member.
In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Abbott said election audits by the Texas Secretary of State’s office had already started “months ago.”
“There are audits of all aspects of government,” Abbott said when asked about the potential waste of taxpayer dollars. “Why do we check everything in this world, but people raise their hands in concern when we check the elections, which is fundamental to our democracy?” “
But senior leaders in three of the four counties called the move unnecessary: ”It’s time to move on,” Tarrant County Republican Judge Glen Whitley told the Texas Tribune.
After thousands of Haitian migrants fled to Del Rio this month, Abbott asked hundreds of state soldiers and members of the Texas National Guard to create a “steel wall” with patrol vehicles to keep more people out of the country. The state budgeted more than $ 3 billion over the next two years for border security, adding nearly $ 2 billion of that funding earlier this month.
“Because the Biden administration refuses to do its duty to enforce the laws of the United States, it has left Texas in no position other than for us to step in and do what we have to do,” Abbott said of his decision to force arrest and jail the migrants this month.
“As much as these issues are in the national news, they are very, very local,” said GOP State Representative James White. National attention after recent border struggles, for example, could “move the discussion to where we need it.” … Maybe things are moving [Biden] to really resume his game.
The past few months have also sparked new engagement among Democrats, said Democratic State Representative Ron Reynolds, one of more than 50 lawmakers who left the July first special session to meet with federal lawmakers in Washington.
“All of these things play out, people really get like, ‘Oh, isn’t that normal? You mean other states don’t do that? ‘ Said Reynolds. “It helps the laity understand that this is not just politics, it is not normal.”
The scale of conservative policies has “been a game-changer” for the voters of Democratic state representative Erin Zwiener, she said. Legislation like Senate Bill 8, which allows virtually anyone to sue someone who has witnessed an abortion after six weeks, has not had as much noise in the regular legislative session of this. year because of the basic trust in Roe vs. Wade.
The mix of suburban and campaign voters in his district didn’t feel they needed to vote on issues like these, Zwiener added. Abbott’s assault on agenda items on gun control, voter rights and other priorities hasn’t helped, she said.
“It is difficult for anyone to decide what to pay attention to when there is a new crisis every day,” the state official said. “People just had a hard time knowing what they should be mad at that day.”
As for the governor’s seat, many in the state are still skeptical about the possibility of ousting Abbott, especially since alleged candidate Beto O’Rourke has yet to even make an announcement. Reynolds said if O’Rourke maintains a centrist message, he might be in a good position to convince moderates and vulnerable independents who are increasingly disappointed with Abbott’s performance.
While some state Democrats are cautiously hoping for a change in the tide, Zwiener said it would take a much more concerted effort to prove Texas is more of a swing state than others assume.
“The Democrats have been over-organized by the Republicans, and we’re not going to start winning and winning in a sustainable way until we get them to organize this organization and think beyond the next election,” Zwiener said.