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Eye on Politics: Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson becomes a Republican, prompts backlash and praise

Eye on Politics: Mayor Eric Johnson faces calls to resign
Eye on Politics: September 28, 2023 33:45

NORTH TEXAS ( — Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is facing calls to resign after he announced he's becoming a Republican. Some of Attorney General Ken Paxton's former top deputies say they'll keep pursuing their whistleblower lawsuit against the state. And a judge has declared the state's new law limiting drag shows unconstitutional. 

Jack Fink breaks down these stories and more in the latest edition of Eye on Politics (original air date: Sept. 28). 

Every week, CBS News Texas political reporter Jack Fink breaks down some of the biggest political stories grabbing headlines in North Texas and beyond. Watch the latest episode of Eye on Politics in the video player above and stream new episodes live every Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m. on CBS News Texas.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson switches political parties

Days after Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announced that he's becoming a Republican in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Kardel Coleman went to a City Council meeting and called on the mayor to resign. 

Mayor Eric Johnson was not present when Coleman stood to speak Wednesday.

"There were hundreds, thousands, working to elect you," Coleman said. "We hear from them on your political change. You have betrayed their trust."

Johnson ran unopposed and was reelected in May. During his campaign for the nonpartisan seat, he touted his record on violent crime reduction, lowering taxes and building more parks.  

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson faces backlash during first council meeting as a Republican 02:10

But last week, Johnson announced he's leaving the Democratic Party, saying in part: 

"The future of America's great urban centers depends on the willingness of the nation's mayors to champion law and order and practice fiscal conservatism ... that has long been a defining characteristic of the GOP."

Critics at City Hall accused Johnson of making the mayor's seat partisan and defrauding Dallas voters. The Dallas County Democratic Party has a petition out seeking signatures to support his resignation. 

Jack spoke with Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic research and communications PAC about Mayor Eric Johnson switching parties. Watch that interview below:

Eye on Politics: Democratic PAC director Matt Angle about the response to Mayor Eric Johnson switchi 06:43

Republican leaders meanwhile have welcomed the mayor to the party, including Sen. John Cornyn who was in Dallas this week at an unrelated news conference about his legislative fight against fentanyl. 

"I know that his concern of the burden that high taxes have imposed on taxpayers in Dallas and I know his concern about public safety," Cornyn said. "Those are two issues that frankly as a Republican, low taxes and public safety, that I can identify with and I think he can too."

Watch Jack's interview with Vinny Minchillo, a Republican strategist with the Glass House Strategy, about Johnson's party switch below:

Eye on Politics: Republican strategist Vinnie Minchillo on Mayor Eric Johnson switching parties 09:19

Drag show legal battle

A judge has declared the state's new law limiting drag shows unconstitutional. The newly passed SB 12, makes it illegal for sexually oriented performances to be shown in places where minors can see them.     

In his ruling, Judge David Hittner said the law is overly broad and infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech. 

State Rep. Julie Johnson, a Farmers Branch Democrat, praised the judge's ruling: 

"It's already illegal to take children into a strip club ...  but this goes far beyond that," she said. "A Miley Cyrus concert, any Super Bowl Halftime show could come under the purview of this bill in terms of its gestures, it's clothing, its attire."

But on the other side of the aisle, State Rep. Matt Shaheen, a Republican from Plano, criticized the ruling: 

"If you read, the bill has very specific desctiptions of sexual activity in front of a child," he said. "We're talking about simulating sexual activity, those types of things."    

The law's sponsors and supporters said they are appealing the decision the the Fifth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. It's a case either side could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jack spoke with Rep. Johnson and Democratic Rep. Venton Jones of Dallas in June about their concern over anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that passed the Texas Legislature last session. Watch that conversation below.

LGBTQ state lawmakers express concerns about the recent legislative session 28:12

Whistleblower lawsuit moving forward

Attorney General Ken Paxton is back on the job after being acquitted of wrongdoing in the impeachment trial against him. But there is an old challenge for Paxton that isn't going away.

Former top deputies for the attorney general are vowing to keep up their whistleblower lawsuit agaisnt their former boss. 

The four whistleblowers filed a motion with the state supreme court Monday, to allow their wrongful termination lawsuit against Paxton to continue. The court put it on hold in February, when it appeared there was a $3.3 million settlement agreement, but the legislature never agreed to pay it.

"If the legislature chooses to fund it, that's great," said Mark Penley, a former AG employee. "If they choose not to fund it we're asking the Supreme Court to rule and let it go back to the district court."

If the case does go to court, Paxton could be asked to testify, along with his wie Sen. Angela Paxton, his alleged mistress Laura Olson and real estate investor and donor Nate Paul. 

The attorney general is also facing a long-delayed securities fraud trial. A hearing in that case has been set for Oct. 9.

Jack spoke one-on-one with one of the whistleblowers, Blake Brickman. Watch that interview below.

One on One with Whistleblower & former Deputy Attorney General Blake Brickman 12:08

Other headlines

  • While in Dallas, Sen. Cornyn was asked about comments Attorney General Ken Paxton made in an interview with Tucker Carlson, saying he may challenge Cornyn in a March 2026 primary. Cornyn said he's "focused on a lot more important and urgent things." 
  • Gov. Greg Abbott said he's calling a third special legislative session in October to tackle school choice. We don't know when that's set to begin yet, but if school choice doesn't pass, he said he'll call a fourth special session. 
  • Meanwhile, the governor was in New York this week. On Thursday, he rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. But earlier in the week, he made an appearance at The Yale Club where he answered questions about the migrant bus operation. He defended sending more than 15,000 migrants into the city, reiterating that they got onto the buses voluntarily. He also blamed President Joe Biden's immigration policies for the increase in migrant crossings. 
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