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Allen West Resigns As Chair Of Texas Republican Party, Says He's Mulling Statewide Run

 Texas Republican Party Chairman Allen West speaks to a crowd gathered at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.
Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune
Texas Republican Party Chairman Allen West speaks to a crowd gathered at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

Texas GOP Chair Allen West announced his resignation Friday morning and said he is considering running for another office, potentially one that is statewide.

During a news conference here, West said a statewide run is "one of the things that I have to go to the Lord in prayer." He said it would be "very disingenuous with so many people that have asked me to consider something" to not explore a run.

"Many men from Georgia, many men from Tennessee, came here to serve the great state of Texas, and so we're gonna consider it," said West, who grew up in Georgia. He added that he was announcing his resignation, effective next month, so that there is no conflict of interest as he weighs his next political move.

West, who has been most frequently discussed as a potential challenger to Gov. Greg Abbott, declined to say whether he was eyeing any particular statewide office, though he told a radio host earlier Friday morning that the host was "safe" to assume West was mulling a gubernatorial run. At the news conference, West also did not say when he would announce a decision on his next step, telling a reporter with characteristic combativeness that his "timeline is in my head and not in yours yet."

West also raised the prospect he could run for Congress, noting he is a resident of the 32nd Congressional District, "and there's a guy in Texas 32 I really don't care for being my congressional representative." The incumbent is Democratic Rep. Colin Allred of Dallas.

As for a statewide campaign, West said he would not be deterred by an incumbent having the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. Trump has already backed Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for reelection.

"You know, I don't serve President Trump. I serve God, country and Texas, "West said. "So that does not affect me whatsoever."

West, who has been at the helm of the state party for just shy of a year, will remain chair until a successor is picked on July 11, the party said earlier Friday morning.

“It has been my distinct honor to serve as Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. I pray Godspeed for this governing body,” West said in a news release from the party, which also said West “will take this opportunity to prayerfully reflect on a new chapter in his already distinguished career."

Critics have speculated for months that West was using the job of state party chair as a platform for future political ambitions. West has not ruled out challenging Abbott, and he has also had tension recently with Patrick. The job of land commissioner is now open in 2022 after incumbent George P. Bush announced Wednesday he is running for attorney general, challenging fellow Republican Ken Paxton.

Abbott has already drawn a primary challenge from former state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas. In addition to West, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller could also take on Abbott, who got Trump's endorsement on Tuesday.

West appeared Friday morning at a news conference in Whitehouse, near Tyler, where the State Republican Executive Committee is holding its quarterly meeting.

A former one-term Florida congressman and retired Army lieutenant colonel who moved to Texas several years ago, West took over the party last summer, unseating incumbent James Dickey.

He quickly made a name for himself for his willingness tospeak out against fellow Republicans. West sued Abbott for extending the early voting period due to the coronavirus pandemic, protested outside the Governor’s Mansion over pandemic-related shutdowns and assailed state House Speaker Dade Phelan as a political traitor.

West used the latest legislative session to push hard for the party’s eight legislative priorities, and he has spent recent days lamenting the lack of progress that lawmakers have to show on them. At the news conference, West recognized that lawmakers made strides on the party's priorities related to abortions and gun — and the one related to elections remains pending — but said "everything else, it seemed, that it just fell apart."

"We're not pleased with that performance," West said, calling it "very discouraging to the people that voted for Republicans in Texas."

Abbott is not the only statewide official with whom West has butted heads. Toward the end of the session, West put pressure on Patrick, the presiding Senate officer, to pass a House-approved bill allowing permitless carry of handguns, questioning Patrick's commitment to the cause and alleging the Senate added "poison-pill amendments." Patrick eventually wrangled the votes. He got the bill through the Senate, and it is now on its way to Abbott's desk for his signature.

Without naming West, Patrick said in a statement at one point after the bill passed the Senate that those who claimed the Senate-amended bill was in peril "willfully misled many Second Amendment supporters in Texas."

West has caused controversy beyond just his conflicts with state leaders.

When he took over, he gave the state party a new slogan, "We are the storm," which raised speculation he was signaling support to QAnon, a conspiracy movement identified by the FBI as a domestic terrorism threat. West said the slogan was unrelated to QAnon.

Last weekend, West delivered remarks at a Dallas conference whose organizers have ties to the QAnon movement. At the conference, former Trump administration official Michael Flynn also spoke to the crowd and advocated for a military coup on the U.S. government. Flynn later backtracked on his comments, and West said in an interview later in the week that he didn't support "any type of military coup."

The next Texas GOP chair will be elected by the 64-member state Republican executive committee. Speculation about who could run to succeed West immediately turned to vice chair Cat Parks, who has repeatedly shown daylight with West in the No. 2 position.

"Once SREC business is completed, Vice-Chair Parks will be having conversations with her family on her decision going forward," Parks spokesperson Justin Farrell said in a statement.

At the news conference, West said he did not know who he wanted to follow him as chair and that it is up to the SREC, but he suggested he would like someone who would continue in his mold.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Patrick Svitek | Texas Tribune