DALLAS – Outgoing Texas GOP chair and former congressman Allen West insists that former President Trump’s endorsement of Gov. Greg Abbott “doesn’t hurt” his 2022 primary challenge against the two-term Republican governor.
“It has no relevance to me as I prepare to run for governor of Texas,” West told Fox News ahead of his speech this weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas.
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Abbott is facing primary challenges from the right from West, former state Sen. Don Huffines, and political commentator Chad Prather. Huffines addresses the crowd of conservative activists and leaders at CPAC on Saturday, with West, a controversial and outspoken former one-term congressman from Florida, speaking Sunday.
The governor, who was invited to speak at CPAC in Dallas, is not attending as he’s staying in the state capital city of Austin, overseeing a special session of the Texas legislature which he requested to complete unfinished business left over from the regular session. An Abbott adviser told Fox News that the governor on Saturday would also be briefing state lawmakers and sheriffs from counties along the southern border with Texas about the state’s ongoing efforts to deal with the crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border.
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Abbott recently pledged to finish construction of the border wall begun under former President Trump’s administration, amid the surge this year in migrants crossing the border. And a week and a half ago he grabbed national headlines as he joined Trump for an event at a unfinished portion of the border wall in Texas.
West said that the “need to protect that border” was a major reason why he decided to run for governor, and his first stop after launching his campaign a week ago took place along the southern border.
He also criticized the governor for what he called “pretty much of a failure of a legislative session.”
Abbott’s made the headlines the past six weeks – signing into law bills restricting the teaching of critical race theory in his state and allowing Texas to carry weapons without a license. And a top item on his to-do list for state lawmakers during the special legislative session, which kicked off on Thursday, is to pass GOP backed legislation tightening voting access rules which was scuttled at the end of the regular session by a walkout of Democratic lawmakers.
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Some Republicans in Texas say that Abbott’s muscular moves are an effort to protect his right flank, after taking plenty of incoming fire last year from furious Texas conservatives over his mask mandates and COVID-19 restrictions on businesses. And the governor was also dinged earlier this year for the state’s handling of a deadly winter storm, which triggered a electrical grid collapse that left millions of Texans freezing amid abnormally frigid temperatures.
West, who is stepping down as Texas GOP chair now that he’s challenging the governor, last year made the extremely unusual move of vocally criticizing Abbott’s efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic. West emphasized to Fox News that “a lot of Texans were not happy with” the governor’s COVID restrictions.
Asked about Trump’s endorsement of Abbott, West answered that it “doesn’t hurt me at all and doesn’t concern me at all. As a matter of fact, there were several grassroots organizations in Texas that asked the president to rescind his endorsement of Gov. Abbott.”
“The bottom line is I’m running to serve God, to serve country, to serve Texas. It’s not about serving President Trump. I know him personally but if he felt that he wanted to endorse Greg Abbott, that’s fine,” West emphasized. “It has no relevance to me as I prepare to run for governor of Texas.”
Longtime Abbott political adviser David Carney said that campaign politics was not a motivating factor behind the governor’s flurry of activity.
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“We have zero focus on all the chatter,” Carney told Fox News recently. “We are 100% confident we know where the Republican primary voters are. We’re not worried at all about the primary.”
The governor’s re-election campaign announced on Thursday that it hauled in nearly $19 million in the last 10 days of June and now has $55 million cash-on-hand, an eye popping figure.
West, who was a very successful fundraiser during his term in Congress, said that raising enough money to stay competitive “shouldn’t be a problem.”
“A decade ago I raised $19 million as a freshman member of Congress. My name and face recognition has definitely picked up,” West offered. “You want to have the funds so that you can get the message out.”
But West, who served in the Gulf War and the Iraq War before retiring from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel, added that “I think that I’m able to get the message out without a grand war chest because people want to hear a message of constitutional conservatism.”
Asked if he thinks the governor’s making a mistake by not speaking at CPAC this weekend, West answered “you’d have to ask the governor about that. I’m not going to make any assessments on him speaking or not speaking at CPAC. I’m just humbled to get the opportunity to once again return to the stage at CPAC.”
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Veteran Austin-based Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser told Fox News that “I think the only downside of not going to CPAC is that it gives Allen West and Don Huffines the ability to launch attacks on Gov. Abbot that go unanswered.”
But Steinhauser, a veteran of the Tea Party movement who later steered campaigns for two top Lone Star State Republicans – Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Rep. Dan Crenshaw – said that “all of the data so far points to the idea that Abbott’s not in serious trouble right now.”
Pointing to the governor’s approval ratings among Texas Republicans, his support from Trump, and his massive campaign war chest, he said that Abbott’s “currently on pretty solid ground…We’ll see if any of these guys get any traction. I’m not a betting man but I don’t think I would bet today that he’s going to lose.”
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