Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hammered his November opponent and the Biden administration as he addressed a crowd of Texas Republican Convention attendees Thursday evening.
“The Biden administration has been punitive to the people of the United States and punitive to our values,” Abbott said. “The only thing worse would be the Biden combination with Beto in the state of Texas. It would destroy the state that we love.”
He gave the remarks at an outdoor bar in walking distance of the Houston convention center where the state convention is being held through Saturday.
Some there wore Donald Trump hats. Others were adorned with Texas or U.S. flags. Many snacked on chips and queso or sipped a beer in the humid Houston weather.
Abbott spoke on issues like the economy, police funding and school safety.
“Let me be clear, we will not tolerate what happened in Uvalde, Texas,”Abbott said, noting steps he’s taken to start addressing school safety in the weeks since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
He did not address potential changes to state gun laws when discussing the shooting.
Abbott said parents “have the right to choose a school that is best for their child.”
His first policy area to touch on was border security, after being introduced by Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council. Abbott took the stage soon after the introduction and chanted “Let’s Go Brandon” as he began his remarks, adding “Wouldn’t you know the president of the Border Patrol Council would be named Brandon.”
He called the border under Biden a “disaster” — criticizing President Joe Biden and his November opponent throughout the speech.
Parked at the event was an ambulance fashioned as the “Beto truth response unit.” He said it would be following O’Rourke around, “exposing all of the lies that he tells.”
Republican elections in Texas were also the subject of remarks by House Speaker Dade Phelan, who spoke at an event hosted by the Texas Republican County Chairmen’s Association.
“We now have a group of battle tested Republicans,” he said, adding that between policies from the Biden administration and redistricting, Republicans “have a solid path forward this cycle.”
He said there are opportunities for Republicans in South Texas, pointing to Mayara Flores’ recent win in the 34th Congressional District as an example, and Phelan expressed a desire to get more women, Hispanic and Black Texans in elected office.
He criticized Democratic Chair Gilberto Hinojosa for saying the congressional seat would “rightfully return to Democratic hands” in January 2023.
“The arrogance of Democrats to assume that a seat belongs to them. That an area of the state belongs to them. That Hispanics belong to them, and African Americans belong to them,” Phelan said. “I hope they keep that attitude going through November because they’re gonna wake up with the biggest hangover the day after election they’ve ever seen in the history of the state of Texas.”
Phelan also pushed back against removing Democrats from committee chair positions.
“Give me a Republican priority that died because of a Democrat chair,” Phelan said.
Speakers address delegates at Republican convention
The Texas Republican Party chairman offered a rebuke of the Biden administration as speakers took the stage at the Texas Democratic convention on Thursday.
Chairman Matt Rinaldi, Texas Rep. Briscoe Cain, candidate for Texas Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham and Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears were among those to address a hall of delegates as the convention’s main programming started in Houston.
As attendees listened on, many were wearing bright red — the color of the Republican Party. Outside the ballroom were elephant statues, the animal that represents the party: one painted with a Texas flag and another wearing a cowboy hat reading “Texans for Trump.”
Rinaldi described a “a fight to save the American we love” and called on Republicans to “take the fight directly to the left and go on offense” by taking steps like not appointing Democrats to committee chair positions in the Texas House of Representatives.
He criticized Biden and Democratic leadership for “destroying” the economy, open borders and “forcing vaccines” and “depriving our children of a normal childhood.” They want the government to have more power and want to “destroy the Western nuclear family as the centerpiece of society,” he said.
“They believe natural rights, due process and color blindness and equality before the law are tools of systemic racism,” Rinaldi told a ballroom of delegates, who during the afternoon will attend committee meetings and other convention events. “And that the government should engage in wealth redistribution and racial discrimination against so-called privileged classes to ensure an equal outcome. And if you don’t buy into their plan, they’ll come after your kids and turn them against you.”
Placed on the rows of chairs in the convention hall were fliers from Conservative Republican of Texans founded by Houston GOP activist Steve Hotze, including one headlined “Be Alert and Aware of the Homosexual Agenda.” Another flier, the distributor of which is unclear, opposes a pride coalition announced by the Republican National Convention — a move rejected by the state party. A spokesperson for the party said it did not distribute the fliers.
In another convention hall area, booths were set up promoting Republican candidates and conservative organizations, including Patriot Mobile, a Grapevine cellphone company that calls itself “America’s only Christian conservative wireless service provider.” The company backed candidates in local school board races and has a large presence at the convention.
A booth sold hats promoting former President Donald Trump for election in 2024. Another for Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s reelection had a pinned in area for a cow with long horns.
Texas Republican Party Convention begins
The Texas Republican Party convention is bringing GOP leaders from across the state to Houston.
The bulk of the convention’s programming starts Thursday and runs through Sunday, though some meetings have taken place since Monday.
The convention falls in gubernatorial election year with high profile races, like the contest between Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke on the ticket. In a Wednesday campaign email, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who is also up for reelection — said those attending the three day event will come together with a common goal: “Keeping Texas red this November and for generations to come!”
Patrick and Abbott are among those expected to make appearances at the convention, but the governor is not expected to speak to delegates from a main stage where other politicians and party leaders had already begun giving speeches Monday morning.
Patrick said he’ll speak to delegates early Friday afternoon. Abbott is scheduled to host a welcome reception Thursday evening where a spokesperson said he’ll be giving remarks.
“Governor Abbott and First Lady Abbott are excited to join the delegates and look forward to hosting a kickoff to what will be the beginning of a great Republican wave growing across the state,” Spokesperson Renae Eze said in a statement.
Other speakers include U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — who’s visit comes as the Senate negotiates a bipartisan gun bill, on which Cornyn has taken the lead, following last month’s mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school.
Party chair person, vice chair person and the Republican Party’s platform will also be selected during the convention.
Texas Democrats are holding their convention from July 14-16 in Dallas
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