Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick Steer Texas Far to the Right

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Different successful benignant and background, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick person travel together, for antithetic reasons, to propulsion an uncompromising blimpish agenda.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, left, and Gov. Greg Abbott are down  1  of the astir   far-right turns successful  caller    Texas history.
Credit...Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

Reid J. Epstein

July 17, 2021, 3:00 a.m. ET

One is simply a erstwhile State Supreme Court justness who acts with a lawyer’s caution; the different a Trumpist firebrand who began his governmental vocation successful the world of blimpish speech radio. They person sparred astatine times, astir precocious this wintertime implicit the deadly failure of their state’s electrical grid.

But together, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the 2 astir almighty men successful Texas, are the driving unit down 1 of the hardest close turns successful caller authorities history.

The 2 Republicans basal agreed astatine a pivotal infinitesimal successful Texas politics, opposing Democrats who person near the authorities for Washington successful protestation of the G.O.P.-controlled Legislature’s effort to overhaul the state’s predetermination strategy — blocking Republicans from advancing immoderate bills to Mr. Abbott’s desk. Any argumentation differences betwixt the politician and lieutenant politician person melted distant successful the look of the realities of today’s Republican Party, with a basal devoted to erstwhile President Donald J. Trump and insistent connected an uncompromising blimpish agenda.

“The lieutenant politician reads disconnected the playbook of the acold right, and that’s wherever we go,” said State Senator Kel Seliger, a mean Republican from Amarillo. “The politician little so, but not overmuch little so.”

Now, if Mr. Abbott and Mr. Patrick anticipation to prolong momentum for Texas Republicans — and if the ambitious 2 men anticipation to fortify their vocation prospects — they indispensable navigate a governmental and nationalist relations conflict implicit voting rights involving an aggravated base, restive Republican lawmakers and a mostly absent yet outspoken Democratic delegation.

Mr. Abbott, 63, a lawyer who has held oregon been campaigning for statewide bureau since 1996, has shifted to the close arsenic helium prepares for a re-election bid adjacent twelvemonth that volition impact the archetypal challenging Republican superior helium has ever faced. While Texas voters broadly o.k. of his enactment and he is sitting connected a $55 cardinal warfare chest, far-right activists and lawmakers person grumbled astir his perceived governmental moderation. And Mr. Abbott is viewed by immoderate successful Texas arsenic eyeing a imaginable statesmanlike tally successful 2024, which could further sway his governmental calculations.

Mr. Patrick, 71, who started 1 of the nation’s archetypal chains of sports bars earlier becoming a vigor big and the proprietor of Houston’s largest blimpish speech station, holds what is possibly the astir almighty non-gubernatorial statewide bureau successful the country, overseeing the Senate nether Texas’ antithetic legislative rules. His years of tending to the blimpish basal are paying disconnected for him now: He is moving unopposed for renomination, aft starring Mr. Abbott and the authorities down a much blimpish way than the politician has ever articulated for himself.

Both leaders are highly cognizant of what the Republican basal wants: Stricter termination laws. Eliminating astir weapon regulations. Anti-transgender measures. Rules for how schools thatch astir racism. And supra each determination is Mr. Trump’s apical priority: wide-ranging caller laws restricting voting and expanding partisan lawmakers’ powerfulness implicit elections.

Republicans proceed to clasp astir of the cards, but they look the imaginable of appearing toothless amid frustrating delays and rising calls from conservatives to instrumentality harsh enactment against the Democrats.

The divergent styles of the politician and lieutenant politician could beryllium seen successful however they reacted to the quality connected Monday that Democrats were leaving the state. Mr. Abbott told an Austin TV presumption that the lawmakers would beryllium arrested if they returned to the authorities and pledged to support calling peculiar sessions of the Legislature until they agreed to participate. Mr. Patrick — whose societal media instincts could beryllium seen arsenic acold backmost arsenic 2015, erstwhile helium began his inaugural code by taking selfies with the crowd — mocked the Democrats by posting a photo of them en way to the Austin airport, with a lawsuit of brew connected the bus.

“They can’t clasp retired forever,” Mr. Patrick said of Democrats during a Fox News quality Thursday. “They person families backmost home, they person jobs backmost location and beauteous soon their wives oregon husbands volition say, ‘It’s clip to get backmost home.’”

For the moment, Mr. Patrick has acold much powerfulness successful shaping and moving bills done the State Senate than the politician does. While Mr. Abbott convened the peculiar session of the Legislature and dictated the topics to beryllium discussed, helium is not an arm-twister and, with the Democrats gone, determination are nary arms to beryllium twisted.

“The lieutenant politician is riding precise precocious successful the Texas Senate and helium has regular appearances connected Fox and I deliberation helium is moving beauteous freely close now,” said Joe Straus, a mean Republican from San Antonio who served arsenic the talker of the Texas House for a decennary until, nether unit from conservatives, helium chose not to question re-election successful 2018. “He is precise influential successful mounting the docket astatine the moment.”

Representatives for Mr. Abbott and Mr. Patrick declined interrogation requests for this article. The Times spoke with Texas Republicans who cognize the 2 men, arsenic good arsenic aides and allies who spoke connected the information of anonymity due to the fact that they were not authorized to talk publicly.


Credit...Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Mr. Abbott and Mr. Patrick person tussled occasionally successful caller years implicit however acold to the close to instrumentality Texas. This winter, Mr. Patrick implicitly criticized the governor’s stewardship of the state’s electrical grid aft a snowstorm caused wide powerfulness failures that led to the deaths of more than 200 people.

But though Mr. Abbott is present aligned with Mr. Patrick against the state’s Democrats, helium is drafting criticism, adjacent from immoderate Republicans, for pushing his docket arsenic a substance of governmental expediency, present that helium is facing a assemblage of superior challengers from the right. His rivals see Allen West, the erstwhile congressman and president of the authorities Republican Party, and Don Huffines, a erstwhile authorities legislator who was an outspoken professional of Mr. Abbott’s archetypal coronavirus restrictions.

The politician needs to triumph astatine slightest 50 percent successful the superior to debar a runoff that would pit him against a much blimpish hostile — a treacherous presumption for immoderate Texas Republican.

“These are issues that the writer roots and the Republican Party person been moving connected and filing bills connected for 10 years,” said Jonathan Stickland, a blimpish Republican who represented a State House territory successful the Fort Worth country for 8 years earlier opting retired of re-election successful 2020. “Abbott didn’t attraction until helium got opponents successful the Republican primary.”

Paul Bettencourt, who holds Mr. Patrick’s aged Senate spot and hosts a vigor show connected the Houston presumption that Mr. Patrick inactive owns, was blunt astir who helium thought was the existent person connected blimpish policy. “The lieutenant politician has been retired successful beforehand connected these issues for, successful immoderate cases, 18 years,” Mr. Bettencourt said.

Mr. Abbott’s allies accidental his priorities person not shifted with the governmental winds. “To maine and anyone who pays attention, it shouldn’t astonishment anyone that Greg Abbott is simply a blimpish and helium is simply a borderline information hawk,” said John Wittman, who spent 7 years arsenic an Abbott aide. The politician is being much heavy scrutinized on issues similar guns and the transgender bill, Mr. Wittman said, due to the fact that “these were issues that bubbled up arsenic a effect of what’s happening now.”


Credit...Smiley N. Pool/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

Mr. Abbott predicted that Democrats would wage a governmental terms for leaving the state.

“All they privation to bash is complain,” helium told the Fox News big Sean Hannity connected Thursday. “Texas voters are going to beryllium highly aggravated astatine the Texas House members for not showing up and not doing their jobs.”

No measure has produced much outrage among Democrats than the proposals to rewrite Texas voting laws, which are already among the astir restrictive successful the country.

The Republican voting authorities includes caller restrictions that voting rights groups accidental would person a disproportionate interaction connected poorer communities and communities of color, particularly successful Harris County, which includes Houston and is the state’s largest.

Democrats are astir disquieted astir provisions successful the Texas bills that would grow the authorization of partisan canvass watchers, who have go progressively assertive successful immoderate states, starring to fears that they whitethorn intimidate voters and predetermination workers.

“We’re seeing backtracking connected the advancement that has been made successful voting rights and entree to the ballot container crossed this country,” State Representative Chris Turner, the Democratic person successful the Texas House, said this week. “There’s a dependable drumbeat of Republican elector suppression efforts successful Texas and besides crossed the country, each of which are based connected a large lie.”

Mr. Abbott, Mr. Patrick and different Republicans accidental the elections authorities volition simplify voting procedures crossed a authorities with 254 counties and 29 cardinal people.

The 2 Republican leaders person been mostly aligned this twelvemonth connected legislative priorities beyond an electoral overhaul. Mr. Patrick has been the driving unit for societal issues that animate right-wing Texans, pushing for caller restrictions connected transgender youths and ordering a authorities past depository to cancel an lawsuit with the writer of a book that seeks to re-examine slavery’s relation successful the Battle of the Alamo, a seminal infinitesimal successful Texas history.

Mr. Abbott utilized an earlier walkout by Democrats implicit voting rights arsenic an accidental to spot himself astatine the halfway of a big of blimpish legislation, including a connection for further borderline information backing during the peculiar league that began past week. This follows a regular league successful which Texas Republicans enacted a near-ban of abortions successful the authorities and dropped astir handgun licensing rules, among different blimpish measures.

Mr. Abbott’s position, however, has near him without overmuch country to maneuver to scope immoderate benignant of compromise that could extremity the stalemate and bring the Democrats location from Washington. So acold helium has vowed to apprehension them and person them “cabined” successful the statehouse enclosure should they instrumentality to Texas — a menace that has not led to immoderate treatment betwixt the 2 sides.

Mr. Straus, the erstwhile State House speaker, said the occurrence illustrated a important diminution of bipartisan contented successful Texas, 1 helium said was evident nether the erstwhile governor, Rick Perry.

“I was talker erstwhile Governor Perry was determination arsenic good and we had immoderate bumps with him too, but helium was ever capable to enactment with the Legislature,” Mr. Straus said. “He was capable to bash this without sacrificing his blimpish credentials. That seems to beryllium missing today, arsenic everyone’s dug successful doing their tough-guy act.”

Manny Fernandez contributed reporting.

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