Elections 2022Texas GOP Convention: Political Fireworks, Delegate Jeers, and Procedural Fights

Texas GOP activists gathered in Houston for the party's biennial convention with a focus on punching back against their political opponents.
June 20, 2022
Thousands of Republican activists gathered in Houston last week to complete the state party’s biennial business. 

Elected officials sparred with the crowd and each other, state leadership was selected, rules were adopted, a platform was passed, and legislative priorities were narrowed down.

The most viral moment of the convention was the reaction Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) received from the crowd of Republican delegates, boos raining down as he stumbled through his convention address. The jeers stemmed from Cornyn’s engagement in gun policy reform talks in the U.S. Senate, being the foremost GOP negotiator in the post-Uvalde shooting discussions.

Those talks have slowed, according to Cornyn, due to debate over the proposal to help fund state red flag laws — the point of highest contention from the crowd during his speech. The heckling began immediately after an introduction video ended and the senior senator walked up to the podium.

Afterward, Cornyn reportedly said, “I’ve never given into mobs and I’m not starting today.”

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Immediately after Cornyn came Attorney General Ken Paxton, who took tacit aim at the senator, telling the crowd, “We have some Republicans who are trying to run from the fight [to preserve gun rights], and we need to remember their names next time they’re on the ballot.”

The convention showed other tensions in the Texas GOP, with Governor Greg Abbott hosting his own reception not associated with the party. The reception was a massive six-figure expenditure for Abbott, who told the crowd to eat and drink its fill before setting off the next day to “retire Robert Francis O’Rourke once and for all this November.”

Abbott was the most notable state official absent from the slate of speakers.

In his speech, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick used the opportunity to attack his counterparts across the Capitol rotunda, criticizing the Texas House for a variety of faults. Among those was a penalty reduction from felony to misdemeanor for a category of illegal voting. That reduction was ultimately approved by both chambers but originated in the House — and now Patrick has made it his number one priority to remedy next session.

A more physical incident occurred when Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02) was entering an event for the GOP congressional delegation. Satirist Alex Stein confronted Crenshaw over the congressman’s support for $40 billion in aid for Ukraine, filming the interaction from various angles. Pushing occurred between the congressman’s detail and Stein; despite reports to the contrary, Crenshaw himself was not touched, but the incident caused a stir.

Tensions were flaring all weekend, as is expected for a political gathering of thousands of people — but nothing much came of it other than some heated arguments.

Among the most intense procedural fights came in relation to the party’s set of rules. The Republican Party of Texas (RPT) set itself on course to close its primaries by nixing every specific reference to Texas election code in its rules — a direct response to the legislature’s unsuccessful attempt to change the way the RPT elects its chair and vice-chair.

Shortly after that action emerged from the Rules Committee, current Chair Matt Rinaldi won re-election unopposed, despite some rumors of at least one other person considering a challenge. With Cat Parks’ departure from the vice chair, Dr. Dana Myers won the close race to serve in the position.

On the delegate hall floor, the day after Rinaldi’s re-election, a maneuver to change the Rule 44 censure rule was successfully extinguished. The proposed language, presented in the Rules Committee minority report, would have required the state party and possibly the chairman himself to pay for legal defense if an official censured by a county GOP sued.

Rinaldi said from the stage during the argument over the provision that it would bankrupt the party. Before a vote could even be called for, a delegate opposed to the amendment “called the question” on the majority report — a maneuver approved by the body, quashing the attempt to stick the party with litigation costs.

The two other responsibilities of the convention delegates are to approve the party’s 2022 platform and establish its slate of legislative priorities.

When the dust settled, 275 platform planks were approved by the delegates. In addition to those proposed by the Platform Committee, two were added on the floor. The first opposes the teaching of sex and sexuality in schools, and the second states that life begins at conception and calls on schools to teach students about the “dignity of the preborn human.”

There is a constant tension within the RPT over the pro-life issue — specifically between abortion abolitionists, and those who prefer more gradual ways to limit abortion. The abolitionists’ case is that abortion is murder and should be treated as such legally, including all punishments laid out by law for the murder of a born human being.

During the platform fight, a motion was made by abolitionists to strike a pro-life plank separate from the abolition plank, asserting only the latter was needed. The separate plank spelled out an array of policy recommendations, such as extending the private cause of action mechanism within the Texas Heartbeat Act to other laws. John Seago, a delegate and the new president of Texas Right to Life, objected to the proposal citing the cause of action factor, saying that “Democrat district attorneys cannot be counted on to prosecute” abortion restrictions. The proposal was voted down.

Another point of tension occurred when the body reached its “Homosexuality and Gender Issues” section, the first plank under which addresses homosexuality specifically. The language reads, “Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin, and we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values. No one should be granted special legal status based on their LGBTQ+ identification.”

Delegates who said they wanted to make the language more “inclusive” proposed an amendment that would have changed the section header to “Human Sexuality and Gender Issues” and read, “We affirm God’s Biblical design for marriage and sexual behavior between one biological man and one biological woman, which has proven to be the foundation for all great nations in Western civilization. We oppose homosexual marriage, regardless of the state of origin.” 

“We urge the Texas Legislature to pass religious liberty protections for individuals, businesses, and government officials who believe marriage is between one man and one woman. We oppose the granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for sexual behavior or identity, regardless of state of origin. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose non-traditional sexual behavior out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”

That proposal failed.

At the end of the platform proceedings, the delegates passed two resolutions, statements of the body’s position.

The first stated that actions during the 2020 election “violated Article 1 and 2 of the U.S. Constitution, that various secretaries of state illegally circumvented their state legislatures in conducting their elections.” It also asserted that “substantial election fraud” occurred in metropolitan areas that “significantly affected the results in five key states” in now-President Joe Biden’s favor — and because of that, Biden’s election was illegitimate.

This drew the ire of Democrats, national media, and pundits — to which Rinaldi responded in a statement, saying, “Texas Republicans rightly have no faith in the 2020 election results and we don’t care how many times the elites tell us we have to.”

The other resolution condemned Cornyn and the other GOP senators engaging in discussions with Democrats on gun reform. It specifically opposes the facilitation of state red flag laws and increased gun purchase waiting periods for certain purchasers.

Despite disputes over specific items within the platform, it was adopted overwhelmingly by the body in the late afternoon on Saturday.

On the party’s list of Legislative Priorities, the votes for the final slate of eight are not yet tallied, but it has narrowed down to 15:

  • Protect elections
  • Ban Democratic House committee chairs
  • Abolish abortion
  • Eliminate the property tax
  • Repeal the “obscenity exemption” in schools
  • Protect the grid
  • Ban child gender modification
  • Ban taxpayer-funded lobbying
  • Secure the border
  • School choice
  • Protect medical freedom
  • Eliminate gun-free zones
  • Reform emergency powers
  • Convention of states
  • Save Women’s College Sports

The final eight will be announced later this week or early next week.

Rinaldi and the Texas GOP’s sights now turn entirely to the November general election, hoping to take advantage of the usual midterm backlash against the party in control of the White House. With inflation running rampant and recession concerns rising rapidly, they are primed to make gains in the state they’ve already controlled absolutely for two decades.


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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.