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Texas Gov. Abbott to Face Primary Challengers in 2022

July 8, 2021 by Reece Nations
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott kicks off the first roundtable discussion, held Aug. 29 at the Capitol, on responding to the shooting in El Paso that left 22 dead. (JAMES GREGG/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN/TNS)

AUSTIN, Texas — Incumbent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott now faces a pair of serious primary challengers in the form of former Texas Republican Party Chairman Allen West and former state Sen. Don Huffines.

In his 25 years in statewide politics, Abbott has never lost a Republican primary. His chances are bolstered by the $18.7 million he raised at the end of June, bringing the amount in his campaign war chest to $55 million – a cash-on-hand total larger “than any other statewide candidate in Texas history,” Abbott’s campaign announced Thursday.

West, a former Florida congressman and retired Army lieutenant colonel, was joined by state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and other Republican lawmakers in an October 2020 protest outside the governor’s mansion to voice the party’s disapproval of Abbott’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. During the event, West read aloud a resolution that the State Republican Executive Committee had passed the month before that called for Abbott to end all mask mandates and to fully reopen the state.

The agenda items laid out by West in the announcement touched on two issues the state has struggled to address throughout Abbot’s tenure as governor: power grid reliability and border security. In the video, West pushed back on the sweeping climate change proposals of the Green New Deal and vowed to combat sex trafficking by securing the southern border while ensuring “that Texas is for Texans.”

“I’ve not been in elected political office for about a decade, but I can no longer sit on the sidelines and see what has happened in these United States of America and… the place that I call home,” West said in his campaign announcement.

West’s tenure as GOP chairman lasted less than a year after he unseated then-incumbent chair James Dickey on July 20, 2020, during the Texas state Republican convention. West announced his resignation from the position in June, which will become effective on July 11.

Huffines announced his candidacy in May while delivering blistering criticism of Abbott, promising to deliver on the promises Abbott has failed to keep. The primary issues Huffines noted in his campaign announcement were border security, abolishing property taxes and preserving election integrity. 

“The Austin swamp may not be as wide as Washington, but it’s just as deep,” Huffines said in his campaign announcement. “Texans need straight answers and clear results. That’s why I’m running.”

A survey of Texas voters published jointly by the University of Texas at Tyler and The Dallas Morning News found that Abbott’s support among Republicans remains strong and his odds against Huffines appear promising. Forty-five percent of respondents who identified as Republican said they “strongly approve” of Abbott’s job as governor, a margin higher than both Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. West’s candidacy was announced after the survey had been conducted between June 22 and June 29.

Seventy-seven percent of Republican respondents said they would vote for Abbott compared to just 13% who expressed support for Huffines. Although no Democrats have announced their bid to unseat Abbott, former Texas congressman and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has publicly expressed interest in running.

Support for O’Rourke fell well below Abbott’s in the poll, with just 33% of total respondents saying they would vote for him compared to 45% for Abbott. Fifteen percent of total respondents said they viewed O’Rourke very favorably while 32% said their view of him was very unfavorable.

The only person listed in the survey whose support appeared to rival Abbott’s was actor Matthew McConaughey — whom 38% of total respondents said they would vote for compared to 39% for Abbott. Forty-eight percent of total respondents said McConaughey’s honesty was the most important quality that garnered their support for him.

“Republicans are jumping at the chance to get rid of Greg Abbott and honestly, who can blame them,” Democratic Governors Association Senior Communications Advisor Christina Amestoy said in a written statement. “Greg Abbott has been abysmal for Texas, and Texans deserve better than more failed Republican leadership — they deserve a Democratic governor who, instead of using national crises as opportunities to score political points, will actually deliver real help to working families and secure increased access to health care, quality education, and good-paying jobs.”

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