Allen West, a former member of Congress from Florida and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, moved to Texas in 2014. Last weekend, he was elected Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas during the party’s state convention. His was a hard-fought race against the incumbent chairman. He defeated Chairman James Dickey, who served in that position since 2017.
West is described by words like ‘firebrand’ and is known for his aggressive speaking style. Though he only served one term in Congress, he was a Tea Party favorite and known as a thorn in the side of Democrats. He even called for the impeachment of then-President Obama and said at the time to a radio show host that Obama was “probably the dumbest person walking around in America right now.” Let’s just say he doesn’t hold back.
Frankly, West may be just what the Republican Party of Texas needs. He’s a fierce competitor who has real fundraising skills. And, he is unapologetically conservative. The state party needs a shot in the arm as we head into November. The national Democrats are pouring money into Texas congressional races, as well as trying to make the Senate race competitive. Senator Cornyn is up for re-election and the Democrats are salivating for a Senate seat, especially from Texas, to help boost Biden’s chances. Trump will win Texas, don’t get me wrong, but down-ballot races are not so clear cut. Since their successes in 2018, Democrats are hoping to turn more Republican-held Congressional seats into Democrat seats. And, Democrats really want to turn the state legislature blue, too.
West issued a statement after his victory during the state’s virtual convention. President Trump offered congratulations, too.
West’s ascension comes four months before what could be an unusually competitive Election Day in America’s biggest red state. Democrats need just nine seats to flip the Texas House for the first time in 20 years, and Joe Biden this month put up a modest ad buy in Texas, raising questions about President Donald Trump’s vulnerability in the longtime Republican stronghold.
“I am honored and privileged that Republicans of Texas have selected me to Chair their party and to be at the helm during this coming election cycle,” West said in a statement. “We need to focus on maintaining the conservative policies that made Texas strong and drive voter outreach across the state.”
Trump acknowledged West’s victory on Monday, tweeting, “Congratulations Allen, great job!”
The GOP state convention was rife with problems because, at the last minute, it had to be conducted virtually due to the spike in coronavirus cases in the Houston area. It was a bumpy ride over the weekend but in the wee hours of Monday morning, West declared victory. At noon Monday, Chairman Dickey passed the gavel to West.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, of Garland, defeated James Dickey, first elected state chairman in 2017. West won 22 state Senate districts to Dickey’s four, with five yet to report.
In the spirit of unity, West, who claimed victory around 3:30 a.m., joined Dickey at the convention podium at noon Monday, where Dickey withdrew from the race and handed West the convention gavel.
“Please consider yourself to be a very important counselor and mentor to me,” West told Dickey, “because I know how to jump out of airplanes, but I’m gonna learn to be a pretty good chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.”
As I noted, West is not shy in his words. During his speech to convention delegates, he referred to Governor Abbott’s executive orders to contain the pandemic as tyranny. He addressed the convention from the San Jacinto Monument on Saturday which commemorates the 1836 battle for Texas independence.
“Today there’s a new battleground, there’s a new battlefield, and it’s really not too much different from what they faced — the despotism, the tyranny that we see in the great state of Texas, where we have executive orders and mandates, people telling us what we can and cannot do, who is essential, who is not essential,” West said.
There was no mistaking his meaning, coming two days after Abbott, in his message to the convention, acknowledged the hostility among many in his audience to his orders but defended them as right and necessary.
“The reality is that Allen West took a direct swipe at the governor in his speech to the delegates in telling them, this is why you need to vote for me,” said Luke Macias, a Republican political consultant who represents some of the most conservative candidates in Texas.
“And that’s what the delegates were looking for, they were looking for someone who still stands up and says, ‘Enough,’ and Allen West stood up and said, ‘I will be that person for you,’ and that’s what the grassroots wanted,” Macias said.
This should be an interesting few months as we go into the November election. Chairman Dickey was also rooted in Tea Party conservatism. Dickey, however, has fallen out of favor with the grassroots Republicans. They accused him of being more attentive to elected officials in the state legislature than to them. West criticized the problems that became obvious during the virtual convention and hung the blame on Dickey.
“I have been witnessing this debacle of a Republican Party of Texas convention,” West said, noting that, days after the convention opened, he had just received his credentials and voting code.
“Chairman Dickey, you’re still disenfranchising delegates,” West said, calling on Dickey to shut down the convention until every delegate was properly credentialed, “because right now it looks like, intentionally you are only placating your supporters and you’re disenfranchising a lot of delegates.”
Though West has served as a senior adviser at an organization called the Committee to Defend the President, he hasn’t always been a Trump fan. In a speech in 2017, he graded Trump’s performance as a ‘C’ for his first year in office. Last May, West was injured in a motorcycle crash while riding in protest of coronavirus lockdowns.
Maybe it’s time for a bomb-thrower to head the state party. Texas Republicans are often too complacent from years of victory in state and federal offices. All of the statewide offices are still held by Republicans but the state legislature is at risk. The likes of Beto O’Rourke and national Democrats are setting their sights on flipping the state legislature. They know that if Texas goes back to being a blue state, it will be impossible for a Republican to win the presidency. We’ll see how West does in holding them off.