AUSTIN — Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West on Sunday formally announced he’s challenging incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott in next year’s GOP gubernatorial primary.
West, a former one-term Florida congressman and retired Army lieutenant colonel, told fellow parishioners at Sojourn Church in Carrollton that he’s running to help restore the country to its Christian roots.
“I’ve not been in elected political office for about a decade, but I can no longer sit on the sidelines and see what is happening in these United States of America … in the place that I call home,” he said.
West joins two other North Texans, former Dallas state Sen. Don Huffines and Blaze TV host Chad Prather, in announcing bids to try to stop Abbott from winning a third four-year term as governor in 2022. Abbott is the overwhelming early favorite, as demonstrated by a new Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll released Sunday. It showed the incumbent ahead of Huffines among GOP primary voters, 77%-12%. West’s name recognition and popularity weren’t tested.
West, in a lengthy speech that included a recitation of the Declaration of Independence and a video underscoring his appreciation of Texas history, warned of threats to freedom of religion.
Some want to banish religion from the public sphere, he said. Former President Thomas Jefferson’s concept of separation of church and state has been warped, he said.
“We have a new religion that’s being put forth, it’s the religion of same-sex marriage,” he said, denouncing punishment several years ago of a Colorado baker who refused to sell wedding cakes to a same-sex couple.
“Are you willing … to challenge the status quo to protect your liberty?” West said. Great heroes were willing to defy authority in their day, he said. He cited Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther, Catholic saint Sir Thomas More and English philosopher John Locke.
Noting he was born in Georgia and attended college in Tennessee, West in the video in which he announced his run for governor ticked off names of early Texas heroes who hailed from those two states. A Black, he reminded listeners that Black Texans formed the Republican Party of Texas on July 4, 1867. West also invoked a tradition of service modeled by his late parents, both buried in a military cemetery in Georgia.
Invoking his parents and his faith in God, West said they “have asked you to come back for service, for God, country and for Texas for a time such as this. That’s why I’m running to be your governor.”
Attendees of the worship service leapt to their feet and applauded. As the video concluded, West returned to the stage and the church’s pastors, Chris McRae and Terry Moore, prayed over him and his family.
On issues, West in the video vowed to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, “to ensure that Texas is for Texans.”
He also promised to oppose the “Green New Deal” and protect Texas’ petrochemical industry from possible harm by the federal government.
“That means we stay energy-independent and we fuel America,” he said.
Also, West said, “We cannot live in a state that is the No. 1 state for human sex trafficking.”
In early June, West announced his resignation as state GOP chairman, effective July 11, and confirmed to WBAP Radio that he was considering a bid for governor. At the time, though, West didn’t rule out challenging Dallas Democratic U.S. Rep. Colin Allred.
West has a strong tea party following but lacks an important asset for a statewide race: support from Donald Trump. On June 1, the former president gave Abbott his “Complete and Total Endorsement,” though West insisted that wouldn’t dissuade him from running against Abbott or anyone else.
“I don’t serve President Trump,” West told reporters on June 4 in East Texas. “I serve God, country and Texas, so that does not affect me whatsoever.”
As an indication of where West fits in the ideological spectrum, he spoke in late May at a QAnon-affiliated conference in Dallas at which Michael Flynn, briefly Trump’s national security adviser, caused an uproar by saying a military coup of the sort that took place recently in Myanmar could happen in the United States and “it should happen here.”
West distanced himself from that sentiment.
But early in his tenure as state GOP chairman, West invoked the phrase “We are the storm,” a motto commonly used by adherents of the far-right QAnon cult, which holds that a cabal of satanic cannibalistic pedophiles controls the government, and that Trump was the champion fighting against that cabal.
West denied any connection to the conspiracy theory, insisting he’d borrowed it from a favorite poem: “The devil whispers into the warrior’s ear ‘you cannot withstand the coming storm.’ The warrior whispers back ‘I am the storm.’”
West, 60, unseated James Dickey as state GOP chairman in July 2020.
Since then, he has been openly critical of Abbott, particularly his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, slamming the governor for imposing mask mandates and restrictions on businesses to tamp down the outbreak that has now claimed more than 50,000 lives in Texas.
He’s also tussled with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, accusing him last fall of undermining efforts to expand the right to carry handguns. That prompted Patrick to accuse “outside agitators” of spreading “an avalanche of misinformation and just plain lies” — a remarkable brawl between a state party chairman and one of the most powerful officeholders from his party.
West was elected to Congress in 2010 amid the tea party wave that emerged in response to former President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, but lost his reelection bid to a Democrat who called him a right-wing extremist and spent less than a quarter of the $17 million West spent trying to defend his seat.
One of two Black House Republicans at the time, West called Obama a “low-level Socialist agitator” and called Obama supporters “a threat to the gene pool.” He also claimed that as many as 81 House Democrats were members of the Communist Party, but never offered evidence or named names.
During a short-lived exploration of a congressional bid in Dallas in 2019, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called him a “certified wacko,” noting that he had called Social Security “21st century slavery,” claimed he had a higher security clearance than the president, and had used his time in Congress to argue that terrorism is inherent to Islam, and that Islam is “not a religion” but a “totalitarian theocratic political ideology.”
In 2015, West was hired as chief executive officer of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, a free market think tank credited with hatching such GOP policy advances as Health Savings Accounts and Roth IRAs.
In less than two years, the nonprofit was bankrupt. A chief financial officer hired during West’s tenure embezzled more than $600,000, and the board ended up accusing West of mismanagement.
West spent 22 years in the Army, serving in combat during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, as a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division, and later in Afghanistan. His honors include a Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals and a Valorous Unit Award.
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