Elections 2020Statewide NewsTexas GOP Rift Emerges Over Discontent With Gov. Abbott’s Executive Orders

The divide between Texas' top Republican and the party's chairman continues after Allen West joined a protest against Abbott's executive orders closing Texas' economy.
October 12, 2020
The leadership change at the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) hasn’t just been one of anterior, but in approach as well. When Allen West won the race for GOP chairman, Texas Republicans knew he’d be a firebrand.

But fiery rhetoric isn’t the only thing West has generated, he’s taken a firm stance in opposition to his party’s sitting executive — Governor Greg Abbott.

Over the weekend, West joined a protest against Abbott outside of the Governor’s Mansion.

The rally, dubbed “Free Texas,” convened a couple hundred people advocating the complete reopening of the state and its economy. In conjunction with county judges, Abbott, in issuing executive orders, has shut down Texas’ commerce to varying degrees during the last seven months.

At the rally, West read from a resolution passed last month by the Senate Republican Executive Committee (SREC) which stated “No Exceptions, No Delays….Open Texas NOW.”

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“Government is not in existence to protect your health. Government is in existence to protect your rights,” West emphasized, adding he’d leave a copy of the resolution at the mansion’s gate.

West was joined at the protest by Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, and the pair were parties to a lawsuit challenging Abbott’s unilateral expansion of early voting. The Supreme Court of Texas denied the relator’s request to halt the order last week.

The demonstration was met with ire from other members of the GOP State Representative Justin Holland (R-Rockwall) responded, “The ‘right thing to do’ [West] and [Miller] is to direct this effort and energy into helping my colleagues and other big GOP races in tight districts win seats in the House.”

Holland then listed a number of GOP Texas House representatives and candidates who are in competitive races: Reps. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas), Angie Chen Button (R-Garland), Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), Jeff Leach (R-Plano), and candidates Linda Koop and Will Douglas.

Based on The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index (TPI), each of these candidates faces a difficult campaign. Leach and Shaheen represent districts leaning towards Republicans by five percent with a TPI rating of R-55%, and Meyer just below at R-54%. Button represents an R-51% district while Koop and Douglas are challenging freshman Democratic incumbents each in a D-51% district.

Top Abbott advisor Dave Carney seconded Holland, adding, “Seems like a sensible plan.”

Rep. James White (R-Hillister) added, “Everybody has to get focused on what matters now,” and later said that “any effort to reverse any executive order or to affect any executive orders in the future must occur during the session.”

Former RPT executive director and activist, Chad Wilbanks, fired at West, saying, “The role of [the Texas GOP] and its Chairman is to ‘elect’ Republicans; not ‘protest’ against them, or even join a lawsuit to sue Governor [Greg Abbott]. I’ve raised maybe $150k past few years for the Party, but will stop. Attacking your own doesn’t win elections.”

West responded, adding, “The SREC passed a resolution 54-4 to Open Texas on 9/19/2020. I read the resolution and left it in the gate. I was elected as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, not anyone’s fan club.”

Travis County GOP Chairman and Republican consultant, Matt Mackowiak, echoed Wilbanks, stating, “24 days left. Every Republican must be unified. The Texas House, 9 congressional seats, a crucial US Senate seat, 2 Supreme Court seats and indeed the presidency are at stake.”

Tyler state Rep. Matt Schaeffer threw in with West, saying, “I don’t have a problem [with] the chairman of the Republican Party protesting at the [Texas] governor’s mansion against [executive] orders that have hurt thousands of families/small businesses. I’m with checks & balances and the families/businesses on this one.”

In its chairman, Texas Republicans have someone not afraid of criticizing elected officials within his own party. Just the same, Democrats have eyed adding to their 2018 gains and those in precarious districts prefer to fight the immediate electoral fight looming in November.

It’s inarguable that a party must win elections to pass its agenda — but whether that agenda receives a hearing even if the GOP staves off Democrats in Texas is the crux of these concerns raised by the grassroots conservative flank of the party. 


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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.