If you’re struggling to tell where government work stops and campaign work begins, which ads are political and which are civic, which are paid for by political donors and which are funded by Texas taxpayers, this is because there is often no difference between the two.
The top three Republican incumbents on the ballot have each ramped up their campaigning and official efforts as the election nears, with political and government offices operating in parallel, reinforcing campaign themes.
For example, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick ran a campaign ad touting his hardline stance on immigration and border security. Around the same time, under his state header, he announced the formation of a new Senate Committee on Border Security.
“Public safety is the primary responsibility of government and there is no greater threat to public safety in Texas right now than the failed open border policies of the Biden administration,” he said. he stated in this press release. Pretty close to what he says in his campaign’s TV ads: “Texas needs to secure the border because Biden and his administration won’t.” And we must prevent those who are here illegally from voting.
Gov. Greg Abbott held another press conference on the U.S. side of the border — it’s hard to count these things — this time accompanied by a dozen Republican attorneys general, to denounce the administration’s handling of the security of borders and immigration. Can you guess which ads are running his campaign? They focus on what the campaign sees as the Biden administration’s failures at the border and Abbott’s endorsement by the union that represents many Border Patrol agents.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s official press releases are written in the over-the-top rhetoric of closely contested Republican primary races — like the one he’s in the middle of this minute.
“The Biden administration has wreaked nothing but disaster on our country through its illegal and unconstitutional immigration policies,” Paxton said under the government’s letterhead Friday morning. “Biden’s latest string of flagrant violations of law includes his program for Central American minors, which contributed significantly to many states being forced to take in even more foreigners. My fellow attorneys general and I are suing to arrest him.
His announcement echoes this language.
Texas has laws against using public employees and state resources to campaign. There is a regular seasonal cycle of high-level state employees among elected officials who travel to their bosses’ campaign offices a few months before an election and then return to their state posts after a victory. They take care to use state phones and computers for one job, campaign equipment for the other.
The fuzzy part is the work they do, no matter where they are, and how it merges the political work of campaigning with the work of governing. The messages could well be the same, perhaps even legitimately in harmony. Someone campaigning for better border security might mean it sincerely and might say the same in their work in the state.
But complaints about what’s happening at the border, while directed at the federal government, could just as well be directed at state officials who talk about state solutions that haven’t been able to solve the problem. In the case of Abbott, Patrick and Paxton, it’s seven years and counting, through Republican and Democratic administrations in Washington, D.C. Their campaigns might as well direct fire at the incumbents they’re trying to re-elect.
If the campaign rhetoric is that they should be re-elected because they want border security fixed, that suggests they have been sitting idly by all these years – spending billions of taxpayers’ money, sending state police and National Guard troops, rounding up migrants they may accuse of breaking other laws, shout and sue the federal government.
It’s a case of politicians listening to Texans’ concerns without solving their problems. Texas voters, and Republican voters in Texas in particular, have placed border security and immigration at the top of their lists of the most important issues facing the state for more than a decade, according to dozens. from University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls.
They are still waiting for people in government to do what politicians promise every election cycle.
— Ross Ramsey is editor and co-founder of the Texas Tribune.