Axios Houston

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🌸 TGIF, and welcome to March!

☁️ Today's weather: Cloudy. High of 72, low of 55.

⚡️ Sounds like: "In Da Club" by 50 Cent, the newly minted Houstonian who will perform tonight at the rodeo for the first time.

📲 Programming note: We're taking over the Axios Texas Instagram account tomorrow from the rodeo.

Today's newsletter is 990 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Cornyn, Paxton trade more blows

Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images and Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

John Cornyn, Texas' senior U.S. senator, has a Ken Paxton problem.

Why it matters: Republicans are poised to retake the Senate, and Cornyn announced yesterday that he wants to succeed Mitch McConnell as GOP Senate leader.

  • "Throughout my time I've built a track record of listening to colleagues and seeking consensus, while leading the fight to stop bad policies that are harmful to our nation and the conservative cause," Cornyn said in a statement announcing his bid.

The intrigue: After former President Trump won the New Hampshire primary in January, Cornyn kissed the ring, declaring his support for Trump.

What they're saying: "It will be difficult for Cornyn to be an effective leader since he is anti-Trump, anti-gun, and will be focused on his highly competitive primary campaign in 2026," Paxton tweeted Wednesday.

  • "Hard to run from prison, Ken," Cornyn, who is a former Texas attorney general, shot back at the indicted Trump surrogate.

Between the lines: "I expect the intraparty battle for party leader will — in this time when fealty to Trump matters more than fidelity to an ideology — be a display of who can best front the Trump agenda," Andrea Hatcher, a politics professor at the University of the South and the author of the book "Majority Leadership in the U.S. Senate," tells Axios.

💭 Our thought bubble: Cornyn is a savvy operator, and to get the Senate leadership job his constituents will be the other 50-odd GOP members.

  • In this clubby group, Paxton is something of a hinterlands novelty — which is probably why Cornyn feels emboldened to dish out the retorts.

What's next: This could be building to a Republican primary battle royale in 2026, when Cornyn will be up for re-election.

2. Judge halts state immigration law

Migrants wait in the rain after turning themselves over to U.S. Border Patrol agents in Fronton. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge yesterday temporarily put on hold a Texas law that would allow local authorities and judges to arrest and deport immigrants suspected of illegally crossing the U.S. border, Axios' Astrid Galván reports.

Why it matters: Civil rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice, who together sued to stop the law from going into effect March 5, say it is unconstitutional and could lead to racial profiling.

  • Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to take the battle to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said the state will appeal yesterday's decision.

Catch up fast: The sweeping law, Senate Bill 4, makes it a state misdemeanor to illegally cross the border and a second-degree felony for illegal re-entry, with punishments ranging from 180 days in jail to 20 years in prison.

  • It also permits a judge to order an undocumented person "to return to the foreign nation from which they entered."

The ACLU sued on behalf of the El Paso County government and others, saying the law is "patently illegal" because only the federal government has the authority to enforce immigration laws.

  • Proponents of the law say it will empower local law enforcement to target those who have crossed the border illegally, not people who are in the state with authorization.

What they're saying: Judge David Ezra, who issued the order, cited several factors for his decision, including the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause and Supreme Court precedent, which he said affirmed "that states may not exercise immigration enforcement power except as authorized by the federal government."

  • He added that surges in immigration do not constitute an "invasion" within the meaning of the Constitution, nor is Texas engaging in war by enforcing the law.

Go deeper

3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🚗 Mayor John Whitmire rebutted claims that leadership at Trinity Downtown, a Lutheran church opposed to the recent pedestrian safety improvements along Houston Avenue, played a role in his decision to remove the improvements. (Houston Public Media)

💸 Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg called out Sean Teare, a Democrat challenging Ogg in the March 5 primary, for being "funded by George Soros." (Houston Chronicle)

🚒 The wildfire in the Texas Panhandle is now the largest in state history, engulfing an area larger than Rhode Island. (Texas Tribune)

  • An 83-year-old woman has died. (AP)

4. The sad truth about mosquito hawks

Jump scare! Sorry. Photo: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images

It's all been overblown. Mosquito hawks, also known as crane flies or skeeter eaters, don't actually eat mosquitoes.

Why it matters: We no longer have to give them grace when they sneak into our homes and cars, writes Axios' Carlie Kollath Wells.

Driving the news: Mosquito hawks — which look a little like winged daddy longlegs — are swarming in Houston.

  • It's common this time of year to have a large emergence of adult mosquito hawks in Houston, says Lauren Davidson, an entomologist at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
  • There are more mosquito hawks this year, thanks to the rain over the past couple of months. Davidson says it was the "perfect storm of temperature and humidity and moisture."

What they're saying: "They don't eat mosquitoes. They don't bite like mosquitoes. They just kind of look like giant mosquitoes," Davidson says. "They're completely harmless."

Pro tip: Mosquito hawks are attracted to light, so if you don't want them gathered by your door, turn off your lights at night, Davidson advises.

The bottom line: "This gangly fly boi," as the HMNS tweeted, "lives for a few days, vibes in your lawn or bouncing off your living wall, then ☠️."

Their purpose

5. Sweet Times: Morelia Gourmet Paletas

Some might think this combo does not work, but it hit the spot. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

Frozen dessert lovers, we've got an ice pop location to add to your rotation.

Dig in: Morelia Gourmet Paletas serves Mexican paletas that you can dress up with various toppings.

  • The paletas ($6) can be dipped in syrup ($2) and covered in indulgent toppings ($2).

Quick review: The Sicilian pistachio paleta was delicious, especially when paired with rich dark chocolate syrup and topped with crushed Oreos and pistachios.

If you go: Morelia has locations in Rice Village and Sugar Land.

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Carolyn DiPaolo for copy editing this newsletter.

👢 Shafaq is looking for her cowboy boots.

🤘 Jay is reading about the beef between Texas bands Sanity Slip and Fixed Altitude.