Dave McNeely

Dave McNeely

Gov. Greg Abbott, running for a third term in 2022, may hope to build his national name ID to possibly land on a presidential ticket.

But having Democrats in the Texas House walk out and shut down the legislative session to kill a voting bill that critics say is discriminatory may not be the national publicity he needs.

Abbott then said he would call a special session to drag lawmakers back to pass a bill changing voting laws to achieve what he calls “election integrity.”

“Voter suppression” is what Democrats who fled the Capitol to block it call it.

They say it would make it harder for folks to vote — especially those who are brown, Black, disabled, elderly, or young — because more of them vote Democrat than Republican.

When Abbott learned the Democrats had fled the Capitol to break a quorum so a midnight deadline could kill the election law bill, he immediately promised a special session to pass it.

The next day, the governor tweeted this additional threat for the legislators:

“I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch. No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned.”

However, the Legislature — which has more Republican members than Democrats — also includes all its support personnel.

Those include staffers in legislative offices; the bill-writing Texas Legislative Council; the Legislative Budget Board; the Sunset Advisory Commission; the clerks, doorkeepers and everyone else on the legislative payroll.

Abbott’s deadline to veto legislation is June 20. The new budget takes effect Sept. 1.

The bet here is that it will never happen. Abbott’s threatened punishment is overkill for what he considers a crime.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently raised the prospect of House Democrats boycotting a special session. They could flee to Oklahoma or New Mexico to escape jurisdiction of Texas troopers ordered to return them to the Capitol.

It’s happened before.

To echo Abbott’s closing advice in his tweeted veto threat: “Stay tuned.”

‘Most divisive’

Dallas Democrat Royce West, now in his 40th year in the Texas Senate, said this legislative session was the worst ever and was divided like Congress.

“This has been the most divisive legislative session that I’ve ever been involved in,” West told broadcaster Wes Rapaport on KXAN’s “State of Texas” on its Sunday program.

“You hear this constant refrain ... ‘Well, if we want to be more like Washington.’ “ West said. “Well, guess what, friends? We are like Washington now. We’re divided more now than we’ve ever been in the past.”

So what to do?

“If people want change in this state, well, guess what they have to do? Vote. Vote,” West said. “In the final analysis, elections matter. ... I don’t blame the Republicans at all. The Republicans have been out-voting Democrats, and until we as Democrats get out and vote, we’re going to continue to have the same situations.”

Bush for AG

Speaking of elections, the latest of the Bush political clan, Republican Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, is running for attorney general.

After openly hinting for weeks that he might seek the job as the state’s lawyer, he announced at a campaign kickoff June 2 at an Austin bar that he will.

His target is embattled Attorney general Ken Paxton, a fellow Republican, elected AG in 2014 — the same year Bush won his current job.

Paxton has been under indictment for commercial fraud since 2015, in a much-delayed case, for deals he made before becoming AG.

In October 2020, several of his top assistants sent a letter to the FBI and state officials accusing him of “bribery, abuse of office, and other crimes.”

Paxton has denied the charges, blaming them on “rogue employees,” some of whom quit and others who were fired. Paxton has since sued them.

“Enough is enough, Ken,” Bush said during his campaign kickoff at an Austin bar. “You’ve brought way too much scandal and too little integrity to this office. And as a career politician for 20 years, it’s time for you to go.”

This race could certainly spice up the Republican primary.

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— Dave McNeely is an Austin-based columnist who covers Texas politics. His column appears Thursday.