© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Texas secessionist group could get a 'boost' from new state GOP leadership

At its annual convention in San Antonio last week, the Texas Republican Party and its platform moved further to the right— and under the radar, a secessionist group gained two supporters in the party’s leadership.

Newly elected Texas GOP Chair Abraham George and Vice Chair D’rinda Randall have both signed the Texas First Pledge, a "commitment to a contract with Texans, promising to vote and act solely in the best interests of Texans.” The group behind the pledge, the Texas Nationalist Movement, has been trying for nearly two decades to get a vote on Texit, a referendum asking if Texas should leave the U.S.

University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus said 20 years ago, the Republican Party likely wouldn't have catered to the group.

“They may have, hinted, they may have whispered, they may have alluded to these groups," he said, "but they never would have been fully on board with anything that they were formally doing."

Whether George and Randall’s support for the movement amounts to anything, Rottinghaus said it shows how far right the party has moved. He said the “wall” between the party's establishment and the “more extreme insurgent wing of the party” is non-existent.

GOP delegates chose George from a pool of six candidates. Both he and Randall were endorsed by former chairman Matt Rinaldi — continuing the party's trend of leaning more conservative under his leadership, which left some longtime Texas Republicans feeling pushed out or alienated.

George and Randall signed the Texas First pledge earlier this year before the convention. Neither responded to questions about the pledge or the Texas Nationalist Movement.

Texas Nationalist Movement president Daniel Miller emphasized that just because officeholders sign the pledge doesn’t necessarily mean they support Texit, but it does signal support for a vote on secession.

“A leadership in the Republican Party of Texas that's committed to hearing the voice of Texans on this issue is going to be invaluable to us,” Miller said.

A rocky relationship

Earlier this year, the Texas Nationalist Movement had a dispute with Rinaldi over a ballot question asking if Texas should leave the U.S.

The party rejected the measure even after the group turned in a petition with what it says were 140,000 voter signatures. The movement proceeded to ask the state Supreme Court to intervene and a Travis County District Court to grant a temporary restraining order preventing Rinaldi from printing ballots for the March 5 primary election “without placing the Referendum on the ballot.” The efforts failed, and primary ballots went out without the Texit referendum.

In a previous interview, Rinaldi said he didn’t blame people for supporting Texit, but Republicans haven’t taken the “baby steps” of taking back state autonomy from the federal government. He said Miller was doing his movement a disservice with the legal tactics he used to try get the Texit question on the ballot, but said the movement still has a place in the party.

Miller said it’s beneficial to have leaders in the party who are friendly to the Texas Nationalist Movement, but he’s more excited about the growing number of potential “Texas First” lawmakers – four of the seven legislative candidates who signed the pledge won their primary run-offs this week, including Andy Hopper andDavid Lowe.

Miller said he’s confident legislation calling for a state referendum on secession will be filed during the next legislative session. A similar bill failed to make it out of committee in the last session.

“This legislative session could be one for the history books,” Miller said.

While secession wasn't included in the party's list of legislative priorities crafted during the convention, "state sovereignty" remains a plank on the party platform.

Political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus said Republican lawmakers might be loosely committed for their own political goals, but having George and Randall in the top leadership can only help the movement.

“These organizations will definitely see a boost from having some of these members, especially higher ranking party members, pay attention to their interests,” Rottinghaus said.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Juan Salinas II