Politics 2017: Expect Clashes in the Legislature, Cruz to Reshape His Image

The year after a presidential election is always a time to reset.And 2017 is no different. Incumbents and challengers will prepare for midterm elections as both major parties try to build on the results of the presidential election.The Legislature convenes in January, providing a grand prelude to the 2018 statewide contests.Next year will feature big moments that could change the political landscape for years to come.And of course, the entire world will be watching the new administration of Donald Trump.Here are some of the other highlights on what could be a pivotal year.Clash of the Big ThreeGreg Abbott has not had many blunders during his first term as governor.But he's had to watch as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick became one of the most visible elected officials in Texas. Patrick, as leader of the Senate, pushed in a conservative agenda in the 2015 Legislature that included property tax cuts.Then, Patrick was a top surrogate for the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz before deftly switching to Trump. It was Patrick who filled in for Abbott as leader of the Texas delegation at the Republican convention. The governor was recovering from serious burns to his legs.Patrick has insisted that he has no designs on running for governor in 2018. But it's clear that his forceful personality could put him in conflict with other state leaders, including Abbott.If there is a serious clash, it will probably be with House Speaker Joe Straus. The San Antonio Republican doesn't share some of Patrick's priorities, including passage of legislation that could require transgender people to use the restroom corresponding to their sex at birth.As in the 2015 session, the House could be a moderating force, which could put the Big Three at odds.Ted Cruz reshapes imageTexas' junior senator, his failed presidential campaign behind him, has to prepare for re-election in 2018. He could face a challenger in the Republican primary. Next year we'll see if the likes of Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin or former Gov. Rick Perry want to test Cruz in Republican waters.We'll also get clarity on whether Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio or former state Sen. Wendy Davis are up to challenging Cruz in the general election.Cruz's image will transition from the tea party agitator to the conservative firebrand working in a government controlled entirely by his own party.How Cruz adjusts to life after the 2016 presidential race will set up his next run for the White House, or a departure from electoral politics.Democratic rebuildingWill former San Antonio mayor and outgoing Housing Secretary Julian Castro run for governor in 2018? We'll know next year what Castro and other Democrats have planned for the midterm elections.Clinton, with the help of Trump, performed better in Texas than President Barack Obama did in 2012. Whether that contest gives Democrats a boost will depend on the work they do in 2017.John Wiley Price on trialAfter years of buildup, longtime Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price gets his day in court in February.The bribery and tax evasion case will be the largest public corruption trial in the history of Dallas. Also on trial are Price's top aide, Dapheny Fain, and political consultant Kathy Nealy.The revelations from the trial, which could take several months, could rock the county's political establishment.Council comebacksFormer Dallas Council members Tennell Atkins and Dwaine Caraway are expected to try to reclaim council seats they once held. Atkins is preparing a campaign against incumbent Erik Wilson in southern Dallas' District 8. Caraway says he's been asked to run against incumbent Carolyn King Arnold in District 4.Those races highlight what could be a light municipal political season.Does Eddie Bernice Johnson retire?As she has in the past, the longtime congresswoman in District 30 will strongly consider retiring after her term ends in 2018. If Johnson, 81, indeed announces her departure next year, it could create a flood of candidates in the 2018 Democratic primary to succeed her.Some politicos are already jockeying for position, but nothing really counts until Johnson says she's in or out.  Continue reading...

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