The new year has brought an intensity to the campaign season and an end (at least for now) of legislative special sessions. With the campaign season now in full swing, fundraising has become the central focus for virtually all candidates/office holders. Even those who are not on the ballot are raising money at an alarming rate, making it a bit more difficult for those who do have races to keep pace with their projected budget needs.

It has become a unique situation where the biggest opponent, certainly in the fundraising realm, to many rural House Republicans is their own statewide office holders, Gov. Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, Attorney General Paxton, and in some cases, Ag Commissioner Sid Miller. If it were not for the opposition support of these current office holders, many of these “targeted” House members might not even have primary opposition. Once the primary season has concluded a large percentage of these members also have general election opposition. This is not unusual in Presidential election years because of the large voter turnout, even in many of these strong Republican districts.

Over the past several days I have had the opportunity to hear from a number of incumbent candidates and those seeking open seats speaking about the current condition of their contested primary races. Probably the single theme throughout these discussions has been the onslaught of money from both in-state and out-of-state interests. When this election cycle comes to an end, the amount of money spent will do doubt reach record heights. It has always been expensive to run for election in Texas, from the geographically smallest Texas House seat up to and including our statewide federal and state offices, and this year will be no exception. While none of our statewide Texas state government office holders (governor, lt. governor, AG, etc.) are up for election, one of our U.S. Senators (Ted Cruz) is on the ballot this year and will have general election opposition in November.

The bullseye attached to a not insignificant number of Texas Republican House members was put there because of their votes on two issues—their vote to impeach current Attorney General Ken Paxton and their vote against ESAs (Education Savings Accounts) or vouchers. In some cases (not all) some rural House republicans have both targets on their back. Gov. Abbott actively recruited candidates to run against members who voted against the ESA bill and is also supporting those candidates with monetary support. That level of support could be substantial. Gov. Abbott is also actively campaigning for these candidates by attending local district events and providing other campaign assistance. Attorney General Ken Paxton is engaged against his impeachment foes as well. He is actively participating in local district events in support of his endorsed candidates and may be providing campaign funds. Certainly his financial supporters, some of whom are very wealthy, are supporting this group of hand-picked candidates. Whether these efforts prove successful with a significant turnover in targeted members will be answered in March. If this effort can influence potential legislative action in the future out of fear of retribution is a question we won’t know the answer to until 2025.

As for campaign themes that bubble to the surface in these discussions, border security and inflation take top spots from both Republican and Democratic candidates. While these issues are typically “national” in scope, they resonate with the local constituency who seek answers from all their elected officials, whether those local electeds can impact these issues or not. Border security or immigration is clearly a federal issue usually overseen by the U.S. House, Senate, and the President. While these entities seem unable to address the issue to anyone’s satisfaction, Gov. Abbott and the Texas legislature stepped into the void and have/are attempting to influence the situation. The ultimate outcome will be determined by the courts and those decisions could have lasting and significant implications. If every state is allowed to ultimately determine its own immigration policy, the havoc created would be substantial and confusing to say the least. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court told the U.S. Border Patrol they could remove the razor wire that was installed across the Rio Grande by members of Operation Lone Star, the Texas state border security operation. Will this set up a confrontation between those officers and the U.S. Border Patrol? That would not seem to end well, but stay tuned . . .

The TWGGA conference is fast approaching. There will be a number of opportunities to discuss the upcoming 2025 legislative session and what those in the wine and grape growing industries feel your trade association should be focused on. Of significant importance is the current TABC study that was added to the House Appropriations bill last session that we have discussed in this update before. This issue is still before us and could pose a significant threat to the industry if the issue is not addressed adequately. That concern and many more will be considered during the conference. I look forward to seeing you there.

—TWGGA Legislative Advocate Kyle Frazier

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