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Eye on Politics: Texas GOP leaders target own members in primary battles

Eye on Politics: Texas GOP leaders target own members in primary battles
Eye on Politics: Texas GOP leaders target own members in primary battles 21:00

Texas Republican leaders are targeting members of their own party in this Tuesday's primary. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump travel to Texas to discuss illegal immigration. And grassroots Democrats and Republicans speak with political reporter Jack Fink about how they think their preferred candidate for President can win this November.        

Jack Fink covers these stories and more in the latest edition of Eye on Politics (original air date: Feb. 25).

Bruising Battles

This Tuesday is Super Tuesday — the day when people in Texas and 15 other states head to the polls to cast their ballots in the Presidential primaries.

CBS News Texas

While the top of the ticket this year seems anticlimactic, given President Joe Biden's and former President Donald Trump's leads in the polls, there are several hotly contested statewide Republican primaries to watch. 

Among them, the contest for Texas House District 21, where the third-ranking lawmaker at the Texas Capitol is in the bullseye. 

"This is the nastiest, most negative campaign I've ever seen in Texas legislative history," Phelan said. 

House Speaker Dade Phelan is in a fight to hold onto his House seat in Beaumont. He's been endorsed by former Gov. Rick Perry. But his challenger, David Covey, has been endorsed by Attorney General Ken Paxton, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi and now former President Donald Trump. 

Gov. Greg Abbott has stayed silent publicly on this race. 

"President Trump's endorsement of my campaign shows just how far the incumbent has fallen," said Covey. 

Phelan is being targeted by Trump and Paxton after he okayed a secret House investigation last year into allegations by Paxton's former top lieutenants that he ran his office to benefit a campaign donor. That ultimately led to his impeachment in the chamber. The Senate cleared him after a trial, and since then Paxton has repeatedly argued in multiple forums that it was a waste of taxpayer money.

Phelan has raised millions of dollars according to state records, which show he has donated money and supported numerous House Republicans, including those in North Texas who voted to impeach Paxton and who are now facing primary challengers of their own. 

One of those races has Daren Meis challenging six-term incumbent Jeff Leach in the Republican primary in the 67th House District in Collin County. 

It's one of a variety of races between House Republicans in Collin County that finds Paxton and Gov. Abbott on opposite sides. 

Abbott is backing Leach, Representatives Matt Shaheen and Candy Noble in Collin County, and all House Republicans who supported his school choice plan, taxpayer-financed education savings accounts or vouchers. 

Paxton for months now has been backing Meis, and all the challengers to the incumbents in Collin County who voted to impeach him.  

It's a similar story in Denton County: Abbott is backing three House Republican incumbents, and Paxton is supporting their three challengers. 

And in Dallas County, Abbott is endorsing House Republican incumbent Morgan Meyer, while Paxton, Patrick and Trump are backing challenger Barry Wernick.

Jack recently asked the governor about the fact that he and Paxton are backing different candidates and what conservatives should think of that. He emphasized the importance of school choice to Republicans during the primaries two years ago: 

"About 85 percent of them says yes, they want school choice. They need a champion fighting for what they supported. I am their champion, working in every precinct across the entire state of Texas to make sure they have a voice championing their goals to see school choice gets passed in the state of Texas."

Watch the video at the top of this page for the full story.

Border Politics

The Texas border became political ground zero Thursday, as both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump came to the Lone Star State to discuss the crisis. The two were 325 miles apart: Biden was in Brownsville, while Trump was in Eagle Pass.

CBS News Texas

Their visits come as border security remains a dominant issue for Texas voters. The Texas Politics Project poll released last month shows border security is the number one concern at 24 percent, with immigration in second at 18 percent. 

Immigration is also a major concern in some battleground states according to polls by Emerson College Polling. It's number one in Arizona at 31 percent, and number two in Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

On Thursday a federal judge blocked a controversial Texas bill that would give state and local police in Texas the authority to arrest migrants who cross the border illegally. Read more here.

Voters' Vibes

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are on their way to clinching their party's nominations. We spoke with Texas Republicans who are backing Trump and Democrats supporting Biden about how their preferred candidate can win in November.

Watch those discussions below.

<embed dem convo>

<embed rep convo>

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 watch new episodes every Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on air and online. 

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