Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been "end-running" normal Texas politics by enlisting the help of former president Donald Trump, according to one leading expert in the Lone Star State.
Trump appears to have taken a "sudden interest" in the Texas Legislature — meddling in "down-ballot races" and "highly granular topics of interest mainly to political junkies," the Dallas Morning News reports, citing five recent statements and emails from Trump's Save America PAC.
While Trump's "musings and demands" are of "great concern" to Texas Republicans, no one can fully explain the "recent flurry."
Patrick, Trump's top supporter in Texas, prompted the former president to issue at least one of the statements, according to the Morning News. And Patrick's top strategist, Allen Blakemore, acknowledged that "these are all things on the lieutenant governor's mind," but "disavowed any knowledge of how the other four Trump statements arose."
The Morning News notes that Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, a Texan who has endorsed a right-wing challenger to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, could also be an influence. However, Pierson reportedly "deflected questions" about whether she was behind any of the statements.
Two of the five statements have urged Abbott to add election audits to the agenda for the Legislature's third special session of 2021, even though Trump won Texas handily. Abbott quickly responded to one of Trump's statements by commissioning election audits in four large Texas counties, but Trump has called that "a weak, risk-limiting audit that is being slow-walked."
"Speculation that Patrick, who was Trump's top supporter in Texas in both of his White House bids, is guiding his hand intensified after two of last week's Trump bombshells," the Morning News reports.
In one of the statements, Trump blasted GOP state Sen. Kel Seliger as a "Texas version of Mitt Romney" after he voted against Patrick's elections audit bill. In another, Trump criticized Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan for "weak RINO leadership" — and called him "another Mitch McConnell" — demanding that he advance Patrick's elections audits bill immediately.
Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, noted that "Trump and his Mar-a-Lago brain trust have lots of lines into Texas, certainly including Dan Patrick, but also including Fox News and the morning paper."
But Jillson said there "may be danger" for Patrick if Trump continues to trash Abbott and Phelan — which could explain Blakemore's denial.
"While I do think that Patrick is closer to Trump than anyone else in Texas, it is probably not wise for him to end-run the state's normal politics too frequently," Jillson said. "Abbott and Phelan certainly won't like it. And Patrick would be well-advised to keep in mind that Trump is fickle and [Patrick] could find himself without an umbrella when the rains come."
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