The Back MicThe Back Mic: Rand Paul Endorses Huffines for Governor, DPS Talks Operation Lone Star, Abbott Says No More COVID-19 Mandates

Sen. Rand Paul endorses Don Huffines for governor, Texas DPS gives an update on Operation Lone Star, and Abbott dismisses reinstatement of mask and lockdown mandates.
July 23, 2021

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Rand Paul Endorses Don Huffines in GOP Governor Primary

Republican gubernatorial challenger and former state Sen. Don Huffines received a big national endorsement on Thursday. U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) announced his support for the Dallas-area Republican in his bid to unseat incumbent Governor Greg Abbott.

“[Huffines] is a loyal, steadfast fighter for limited, constitutional government. He has been in the thick of every conservative fight since I have known him. He is unafraid to stand up to the establishment. He is someone who will defend our freedoms,” Paul said.

The son of former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Sen. Paul has been in the U.S. Senate since 2011 and ran for president in 2016. Huffines called the Kentucky senator “one of the strongest and most effective champions of conservative principles in the nation.”

Paul concluded, “When other Republicans would say, ‘Wear a mask, stay inside. You must do this, you must do that,’ when other Republicans were siding with Dr. Fauci, it was Don Huffines who would stand up and say he will side for your freedom.”

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An Interview with Texas DPS on Operation Lone Star

The Texan spoke with Lt. Christopher Olivarez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Operation Lone Star about the current state of the border and how operations are going.

“We’ve always had problems associated with illegal immigration regardless of administration or politics, but right now it’s out of control with border patrol overwhelmed by crossings and the cartels filling the vacuum,” said Olivarez.

DPS is focusing intently on criminal activity to help fill the vacuum that Mexican drug cartels are encompassing. Virtually all of the criminal activity, Olivarez said, stems from the cartels.

According to DPS, which has about 1,000 units down working on border operations, the biggest crossing hotspots are in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and Del Rio sectors — but criminal activity is most pronounced in the RGV. That has been DPS’s focus during Operation Lone Star.

From when the operation began on March 4, through July 8, Olivarez said DPS has made about 2,000 criminal arrests and apprehended over 48,000 immigrants crossing illegally. Their units have also engaged in 455 vehicle pursuits. Due to the criminal activity, DPS’s contraband seizures have risen, such as:

  • $1.6 million
  • 15,000 lbs of marijuana
  • 700 lbs of cocaine and meth
  • 160 firearms

Among those firearm seizures, Olivarez said, was a .50 caliber rifle and numerous other “military grade” weapons.

Despite this drastic uptick, DPS units’ morale is on the upswing, said Olivarez.

“The morale is good because we’re making an impact for the better not only for Texas but for the entire country.”

‘Past the Time of Government Mandates,’ Says Abbott

During a ceremonial bill signing for anti-fentanyl legislation, Governor Greg Abbott was asked about the recent uptick in coronavirus cases.

“We’re past the time of government mandates. We’re into the time for personal responsibility, and that’s exactly what we will do,” he said, dismissing the idea of reinstating lockdown measures or mask mandates.

Confirmed cases have increased somewhat since July 7 but remain vastly lower than the state’s peak so far back in December. And current, but incomplete, data since earlier this month shows no correlational increase in fatalities from coronavirus. Hospitalizations are more than double their levels at the beginning of July but are still a far cry from the peaks of a year ago and six months ago.

Abbott first adopted a policy of deferring to localities for COVID-19 response measures but issued some statewide guidelines shortly thereafter. The state’s coronavirus response then jumped back and forth between loosening and restricting a couple of times. But since March of this year, lockdowns have been eliminated along with the statewide mask mandate.

The reopening was decried by some, such as former U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, as a “death sentence.” But weeks after the elimination, both cases and hospitalizations declined — a trend that has largely continued.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.