Texas GOP Chairman Allen West announced Sunday that he is running for governor, challenging incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott in the Republican primary.
Abbott now will face West and former state Sen. Don Huffines in the 2022 primary.
West’s announcement came during an appearance at Sojourn Church in Carrollton, where he said he and his family have been members since November.
In his campaign launch video — which West played for churchgoers — he recites lyrics from the state song, “Texas, Our Texas,” and speaks about the need to guarantee, protect and secure those words for future generations.
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“It is our time to stand up and honor those words of ‘Texas, Our Texas,'” West said in the video. “And to secure the future for our children and our grandchildren, to make sure that the growth, the opportunity and the prosperity, the economic success that you see here in Texas continues on.”
West also spent part of the video advocating for Texas to remain energy-independent.
He received a standing ovation from churchgoers after the video ended.
“I couldn’t think of a better place, and a better day, to make that announcement,” West said.
Before showing the video, West read Bible verses and the Declaration of Independence to churchgoers on the Fourth of July.
West did not directly mention Abbott in the video or when speaking to churchgoers Sunday.
The video included a platform for West’s campaign that mentioned securing the state’s border and fighting human and sex trafficking.
“I have not been in elected political office for about a decade,” West said in the video. “But I can no longer sit on the sidelines and see what is happening in these United States of America, what is happening in the place that I call home.”
On June 4, West announced his resignation as Texas GOP chairman, a position he will retain until a new leader is selected next Sunday.
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In a news release from June 4, the state Republican Party said West would “take this opportunity to prayerfully reflect on a new chapter in his already distinguished career.”
As part of that resignation announcement, West said he was considering challenging Abbott, who will seek a third term next year.
A former congressman from Florida, West moved to Texas in 2014 to become the CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas think tank that ceased operations in 2017.
West was elected to lead the state Republican Party during a virtual convention in July 2020, in which he unseated James Dickey, who had served as party chair since 2017.
As chairman, West has frequently criticized Abbott on topics such as the governor’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and his expansion of early voting in October as a pandemic safety measure.
In early June, former President Donald Trump endorsed Abbott’s 2022 reelection bid, praising the governor’s policies on guns, immigration, jobs, law enforcement and crime.
“Greg Abbott is a fighter and a great governor for the incredible people of Texas,” Trump wrote in an email to supporters. “No governor has done more to secure the border and keep our communities safe than Governor Abbott.”
Trump and Abbott also visited the Texas-Mexico border together late last month.
In a Quinnipiac University Poll of 1,099 Texas registered voters released June 23 — before West’s announcement of his candidacy — 46% of respondents said Abbott deserves a third term while 48% said he does not.
“A Trump favorite in a state that is turning less red in recent election cycles, Abbott has a decent but in no way overwhelming grasp on reelection,” Quinnipiac polling analyst Tim Malloy said.
Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University, previously told the American-Statesman the only way West could win is by “really dominating that space to the right of Greg Abbott.”
Whereas Huffines might struggle with earning name recognition in a statewide election, Smith said West could have an advantage on that front.
“You’re talking about the most diverse candidate the Republicans have run at the statewide office in some time,” Smith said, noting that West is Black, is a veteran and has served in Congress. “He has also won within the party: He got elected to be the state GOP chair. He has some statewide reach; he knows how the system works from being chair.”
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Huffines, a Republican from Dallas, announced in May that he would challenge Abbott in the primary.
Huffines served a single term in the Senate from 2015 to 2019 after ousting a moderate incumbent, John Carona, in the GOP primary.
Huffines is also a frequent critic of Abbott’s leadership and joined with West and state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller at a “Free Texas” rally outside the Governor’s Mansion in October.
American-Statesman reporters Nicole Cobler, John C. Moritz and Madlin Mekelburg contributed to this report.
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