|State Reps. Steve Toth and Briscoe Cain Violate Abbott Order on Hair Cuts
May 7, 2020
Governor Retreat Raises Cain Stock with Conservatives
Who Intensify Fire at Abbott Amid Bogus Credit Claims
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
A GOP state lawmaker who's been a tea party champion is being touted as a potential candidate for governor or another statewide post in the wake of a monumental legal and political victory as the attorney for a Texas beautician who was released from jail on Thursday after violating an emergency order that the coronavirus had spawned.
As State Rep. Briscoe Cain of Deer Park basked in the afterglow of a Texas Supreme Court that sprung Shelley Luther from the Dallas County jail after a two-night stay, Governor Greg Abbott may have sent his own stock tumbling with a simultaneous diluting of an executive order that had shuttered businesses like the hair salon that she reopened in spite of it.
The Republican governor had been receiving overwhelming approval from voters across Texas for the relatively deliberate approach that he'd been taking in the state's response to the pandemic that's resulted in more than 35,000 infections here with a death toll that could surpass 1,000 before midnight.
Abbott had been holding his ground despite criticism from Democrats about a testing shortage and increasing howls from conservatives who've been calling in unison for an immediate cancellation from the restrictions that he's had in place statewide since early last month.
But Abbott has run the risk of losing support across the spectrum by circumventing his own authority with the hasty alteration of a decree that will prohibit the incarceration of people who defy the orders that he's issued for the sake of protecting the public health from a highly-contagious disease that's killed more than 75,000 Americans and almost 270,000 worldwide.
Abbott, however, has done nothing to improve his standing with conservatives to whom he appeared to be catering with the modification of the directive on the temporary closing of businesses that he hadn't deem to be essential. Abbott suggested today that he'd never intended for anyone to be held behind bars even though he'd technically given local officials the authority to do so with the edict that he revised today.
But Abbott had declined calls from hardline conservatives to intervene in the Luther case until the Texas Supreme Court ordered Dallas County officials to let her out of jail this morning while it considered a challenge of the governor's decree. Instead of commending the governor for siding with them, Abbott's critics on the right are accusing him now of attempting to dupe Texans into thinking that he'd been the chief force behind the salon owner's release with a bizarre move that made the revision of the order retroactively effective on April 2.
The state's most prominent activist on the right - Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan - escalated the criticism that he'd been firing at Abbott for weeks. Sullivan and other conservatives are contending that the state's high court had already prepared the ruling that freed Luther before Abbott announced his decision to alter the order at the heart of the furor.
"Thanks to #SCOTX, #ShelleyLuther is free," Sullivan tweeted. "@GregAbbott_TX and his cronies are trying to take credit, but his action came too late is nothing more than acknowledgement her time in jail was his fault to begin with."
The surprise development and the chain of events that led to it have elevated Cain to hero status among staunch conservatives who are President Donald Trump loyalists in most cases.
The Harris County lawmaker who'd only passed three bills in two terms had been calling for an unconditional Abbott retreat before signing on as a lawyer for Luther in the coronavirus case. Cain had posted a pair of photographs on Twitter on Tuesday that showed him and GOP State Rep. Steve Toth of The Woodlands getting haircuts in defiance of the Abbott ban.
Whatever boost that Cain could get in support among fellow conservatives would come at Abbott's expense.
Abbott could have followed the lead of counterparts in other states like Governors Mike DeWine of Ohio, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland - a trio of Republicans whose popularity has soared when they've refused to back down in the face of protests from the right on coronavirus orders.
But Abbott appeared to be taking a path in the opposite direction like GOP Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp of Georgia had done as a pair of Trump loyalists whose approval ratings have gone down with positions in their respective virus responses that were out of line with the views of a majority of voters in the southern states where they're in the midst of first terms.
more to come ...