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In the red state of Texas, Republican infighting is entering a new chapter


Republicans dominate Texas politics, but that doesn't mean they see eye to eye - far from it. The state's GOP lawmakers and leaders have taken shots at each other for years in spats that have spilled into public view. But this election year that Texas animosity mirrors a national struggle for the GOP. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales has more.


CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: On a recent afternoon in Eagle Pass, Texas, Spanish-speaking campaign volunteers tried to get voters' attention going inside a polling location. Eagle Pass sits in a blue county, even as it often serves as a backdrop for Republicans highlighting the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

GRISALES: Retired police officer Travis Hile says he'll support Republicans, but not his current member of Congress. Hile says he may not even vote in the race to reelect first term U.S. House Republican Tony Gonzales.

TRAVIS HILE: Once you go against Republican policies, I can't support that.

GRISALES: Gonzales' moderate stance on a range of issues, such as gun legislation after the 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, which is in his district, has forced him into a runoff. This May, he'll face off against a hard-right candidate, a pro-gun rights YouTuber known as Brandon Herrera. But Gonzales doesn't sound intimidated. Here he is on Capitol Hill.


TONY GONZALES: Runoffs are great. You don't sleep, you don't eat. As long as you work your guts out, you'll be just fine.

GRISALES: Last year, the Texas GOP moved to censure Gonzales. Now Gonzales' opponent is getting a boost of support from Florida GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz. Gaetz is a member of the House Freedom Caucus who has campaigned against his colleague in Texas.


GONZALES: In politics, you rarely get to find out who your friends are and who your enemies are, runoffs you do.

GRISALES: The Republican feud in Gonzales' vast Congressional district, one of the largest in the country, stretching from Eagle Pass to parts of San Antonio, is one of many fights in the state. Recent showdowns have included a battle with the state's attorney general, Ken Paxton, a hard-right Republican who fended off an effort to remove him from office. Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn is one of Paxton's many new Republican enemies. The battles mirror the red state's version of a national struggle within the party that has various GOP factions facing off.

ALVARO CORRAL: It's sort of indicative of, like, you know, the Republican Party kind of eating itself from time to time. Like, take the win.

GRISALES: That's Alvaro Corral, politics professor at the University of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. Corral argues that such short-term partisan challenges and loyalty tests to former President Trump could backfire.

CORRAL: When I look at members of Congress that represent South Texas and the border region, one thing that jumps out is that these are somewhat more moderate voices in their respective parties.

GRISALES: Corral says by pushing extreme agendas in these border districts, it could turn off key moderate Republican voters in the general election. Back at the Eagle Pass polling location, independent voter Yvonne Beattie (ph) has heard all about the political fighting. The retired hospital administrator just wants to see an end to it.

YVONNE BEATTIE: I wish we could just get a good, honest person that cares about the people, you know? I would vote for whatever you are as long as you care about the people.

GRISALES: This November, Texas voters will ultimately decide where their political fight goes next.

Claudia Grisales, NPR News.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.