A month after announcing his departure from the party and strongly alluding to a run for another office — writing “I made the decision to move to the sound of the guns that are rumbling in the night here in Texas” in his weekly message — what had long been rumor, became reality.
“I think that it is time for Republicans to stand by the principles of values that they say they believe,” West told The Texan in an interview.
“As the Republican governor of Texas, I will abide by the platform and the priorities of the Republican Party of Texas.”
He further said, “I’m not running against anybody. I’m running for Texas.”
When asked to name his top issues in the race, West identified: securing the border, election integrity, and property tax relief.
Echoing a developing theme in the gubernatorial race thus far, West said, “Because the sovereignty of Texas has been threatened when you have 1,200 miles that you share with a foreign nation that is really destabilized and controlled by a criminal terrorist organization in the cartels, we’ve got to do better and take responsibility as Texas and not wait and make ourselves dependent upon the federal government, and especially this administration.”
On that second item, West pointed to the 2020 actions of Harris County’s elections administrators, and said, “We have to make sure we have fair and honest elections.”
“I find it quite unconscionable,” West added, “that our system of taxation here in Texas is based upon the principles of Karl Marx: number one being a progressive tax system and number two the fact that he believes that there should be an elimination of private property.”
“When you are taxing people, based upon their property, and it continues to increase, Texan really never have the opportunity to own their homes and all their property.”
The challenge will be an uphill battle not only due to Abbott’s incumbency, but because he received the current GOP’s most coveted endorsement: former President Donald Trump.
West, a former congressman in Florida, moved to Texas in 2015 to head a Dallas-based think tank and ran an ultimately successful campaign for Texas GOP chair in 2020 — unseating incumbent chair James Dickey.
With a no-holds-barred approach, West went to work implementing his vision of the RPT chairmanship’s role — that the position should deliberately and forcefully advocate the party’s legislative priorities established by RPT convention delegates.
This exacerbated a longstanding fissure within the Texas GOP over the direction and proper role of the state’s most dominant political party.
West added, “I find that the arrogance of officialdom, when elected officials believe that no one should be able to challenge them if they don’t stand up for the principles and values that they ran on.”
The 2019 session’s lack of delivery on GOP priorities irritated many within the RPT and West assumed that mantle and openly criticized Texas’ Republican elected officials from Texas House members all the way up to the governor himself.
“Ensuring that the priorities of the people that got us elected,” West stated, “ is the very first thing and you make sure that those priorities are taken care of before anyone else’s — being the speaker or lieutenant governor, anybody else’s priorities.”
And Abbott’s response to coronavirus — full of mixed messages to local officials with statewide-mandated business closures and restrictions and mask requirements — supplied West with even more fodder.
West was swiftly critical of each of these policies and even joined a protest on the governor’s mansion’s front steps, calling on Abbott to end the edicts.
The governor has largely avoided commenting on the Texas GOP chair.
But as West enters the race and campaign season moves toward full swing, it will be harder for Abbott to outright ignore his newest challenger — like he’s largely done so far with Huffines whose criticisms have focused heavily on the border crisis.
“The path to victory is to show a standard of leadership, principled leadership. To let people know that this is about defending the Texas Republic and putting Texans first,” West concluded.
With now four challengers in the race — and each candidate touting conservative credentials — the “sound of the guns” radiates from just over the hill where the 2022 midterm election lies in wait.
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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.