Having likely secured his own reelection, Texas’s Republican governor seems to be thinking already about his next office. Or at least, that is one plausible explanation why, ahead of Monday's GOP primary runoff election, Gov. Greg Abbott made several endorsements for state legislature that seem designed to keep conservative legislation off his desk in 2023.

Throughout its 2021 session, the legislature repeatedly made national news by passing conservative legislation that triggered an exaggerated reaction in the liberal media. Texas kept becoming a national story, and Abbott was in no position to block any of those bills. Facing a primary from former state Sen. Don Huffines, Abbott took the path of least resistance — he leaned to his right to avoid letting that primary become a problem.

As a result, Abbott delivered on conservative priorities in a way he had never done in his previous six years as governor.

This time, however, in collaboration with state House Speaker Dade Phelan, he is doing everything in his power to avoid a repeat.

Abbott faces only token opposition in the November general election. Since his primary victory, he has focused his attention on the primary runoffs for the state House of Representatives. There are 16 seats for which the Republican nomination is in a runoff. Of those, approximately a dozen of those races feature significant ideological contrasts between the candidates. In every single instance, Abbott has endorsed the more liberal candidate.

Take, for example, District 19 in the Hill Country, west of Austin. This race, encompassing the geographic territory of a seat once held by President Lyndon Johnson’s father Samuel, features a showdown between former Austin City Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair and labor union official Justin Berry. Troxclair is a conservative stalwart who repeatedly faced down the council’s leftist majority. Berry, in contrast, has been endorsed by the far-left American Federation of Teachers because he opposes parental choice in education.

Abbott endorsed Berry.

In District 91, which covers sections of Fort Worth and the surrounding suburbs, incumbent Stephanie Klick faces grassroots activist David Lowe. During the 2021 legislative session, Klick astonished Texans when she used her chairmanship of the Texas House’s public health committee to help kill a measure that would have prohibited the imposition of sexual transitions on young children. In addition, during the 2019 session, Klick similarly killed an election integrity bill — a forerunner of the law that eventually did pass in 2021.

Abbott endorsed Klick.

In fairness to Abbott, there’s an unwritten rule that incumbents stick together, so one might argue the Klick endorsement doesn’t reflect his position on transgender lunacy. Yet Denton County’s District 63 is an open seat. In that race, embattled father Jeff Younger faces political insider Ben Bumgarner. Younger’s quest to prevent the sexual transitioning of his son James made national headlines in 2019. Younger’s current campaign is an extension of that effort. For his troubles, he has been rewarded with attacks by antifa.

Abbott endorsed Bumgarner.

Similar patterns are evident throughout the rest of Abbott’s legislative endorsements, which have placed him in direct conflict with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Unlike Abbott, Cruz has made a series of conservative endorsements. Although Cruz would never say so publicly, the scuttlebutt in Austin suggests that Cruz only became involved out of dismay at Abbott’s leftward drift.

Texas has a conservative reputation. While this reputation has always been exaggerated, it’s nevertheless the case that a few long-standing conservative priorities saw movement in 2021. If Texas's governor has his way in the current legislative runoffs, 2021 will be the last time that happens.

Adam Cahn blogs about Texas politics at Cahnman's Musings.