Elections 2020IssuesAllen West Makes His Run for Texas GOP Chair Official

The election for chair of the Republican Party of Texas will take place just five and a half months before the 2020 general election.
August 16, 2019
Thursday night, Lt. Colonel Allen West took to his YouTube channel to make official what he alluded to over a month ago — that he will be running for chairman of the Republican Party of Texas (RPT).

He will face incumbent RPT Chairman James Dickey, who has held the post since 2017.

“I am hooking up, and prepared to jump into this fray,” West said, brandishing a paratrooper’s static-line snap hook, “to make sure that the great State of Texas stays a strong constitutional conservative state.”

His opponent, James Dickey, has been dealing with the state’s biggest scandal of the year involving an alleged quid pro quo between the Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen and the CEO of the conservative activist group, Empower Texans.

Souring the “Super Bowl Session,” and following a 2018 election cycle that saw a surge in Democratic gains across the state, the rift in Texas’ Republican Party is stark. Dickey has the unenviable task of navigating through the ongoing Speaker’s drama while trying to preserve his governing coalition in the face of a swell of Democrat enthusiasm going into the 2020 election.

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The party chairman is elected not by voters, but by delegates representing their senate districts at the state convention every two years. 

The Texan spoke to a couple of members of the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) to get their thoughts on the announcement.

Robert Kecseg, of Senate District 1, said, “There is a lot of disappointment among grassroots individuals with the current leadership.” Kecseg specifically said that he and other grassroots folks do not view Dickey as running his own show, rather it is deferential to the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker.

Kecseg would like to see the RPT Chairman “operate more independently from the ‘Big Three.’”

A question Kecseg would like West to answer is, “What are your thoughts on the 86th Legislative session?” That, Kecseg says, would help him make his decision.

Another committee member, Ashley Sellers of Senate District 22, said she is “open to any option,” but “prefers someone with more party experience” which West lacks. Sellers supported Dickey in his first two elections and only renounced her support a few months ago.

Sellers added that West’s entry likely hasn’t done much to immediately flip the support (or lack thereof) for Dickey among the committee. “Those who are pro-[Dickey] are still for him, and those who are not, still aren’t,” Sellers added.

Terry Holcomb, of Senate District 3, told The Texan, “The last thing we need right now is a chair race.” Holcomb is concerned this will further ensconce the Texas Republican divide.

He then said, “We need to keep the ship steady at a time when the battle is raging,” referring to the 2020 election wherein Republicans will try to preserve their majority across the state.

Holcomb added, “[Allen] West is a good man, but our current chairman (Dickey) is doing really well.” 

When asked how the Bonnen-Michael Quinn Sullivan situation could affect this race, Kecseg said the Speaker should resign and added that he sees a “lack of representation” in the House of Representatives — that constituent’s concerns and priorities are ignored in favor of keeping elected office.

Sellers said she believes it will affect the race and that she has been disappointed in Chairman Dickey’s statement which “lacks a response to the situation.”

In contrast, Holcomb said he doesn’t believe it will or should have an effect on the outcome of the race between Dickey and West.

Additionally, Mark Ramsey from the seventh senate district told The Texan, “James [Dickey] has delivered more legislatively for the grassroots than any other Chairman in my adult life,” and “is breaking fundraising records set only by Steve Munisteri.”

Ramsey added that Dickey has “very broad support amongst the SREC and past delegates” and that West’s support is “nothing significant that I am aware of.”

In a July 3 Facebook post, Dickey stated, “We must not be distracted, we cannot take our eye off the ball, we must win in November of 2020, and every fiber of my being is dedicated to delivering Republican victories in Texas next year.”

When asked for further comment, Dickey told The Texan, “I take this work and this Party incredibly seriously. I have put it all on the line for these plans and laying this foundation for 2020 Republican victories, and I intend to see it through for the win — with the help of millions of Texas Republicans — in the November 2020 elections.”

Editor’s note: James Dickey provided a statement to The Texan, the transcript was not taken from a Facebook video as was previously stated.

Correction: A previous version of the article stated that the SREC elects the RPT chairman, when the delegates at the Republican State Convention do, and that the chairman’s election would be held seven months out from the November election when it will be five and a half months.


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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.