There's no doubt that Republicans rule Texas. The GOP has controlled state government pretty much unimpeded since the mid-1990s. Nevertheless, Texas still often operates like a two-party state---with those two parties being the distinct factions of the Republican Party. That is the theory behind a recent column from Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune. Ramsey writes that "The party in power in Texas acts more like two parties at war."
Ramsey tells KTRH that the Republican divide in Texas basically splits between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is leader of the state Senate, and State House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). "Patrick is a staunch conservative, a movement conservative, he's a very religious Christian, and kind of governs from that standpoint," says Ramsey. "Joe Straus, on the other hand, is kind of the establishment Republican that we all grew up with."
Nowhere is the divide in GOP factions more clear than in this year's push for the so-called "bathroom bill," which would require people to use the public restroom that corresponds with their biological gender. "Dan Patrick has called it a very important bill and has made a lot of hay out of it, while Joe Straus has said it's not the most important thing on his agenda in one instance, and in another he said I'm not too fond of that piece of legislation," says Ramsey.
The man in the middle of this divide (and with the final say) is Gov. Greg Abbott, who so far has not taken a public position on the bathroom bill. Ramsey says the delicate balance between Patrick, Straus and Abbott highlights the tricky process of getting a bill signed into law, even with one-party rule. "You have to get through the entire obstacle course," he explains. "You've gotta get through the senate, then you've gotta get through the house, and then you've gotta get through the governor...and that describes very few pieces of legislation."