Former Texas GOP chair Allen West declares his bid for governor.
West, who attacked leaders of his own party, will be challenging Abbott in the primary
Allen West, the former Army colonel, Florida congressman and Texas Republican Party chairman, announced Sunday he would challenge Gov. Greg Abbott in next year’s primary.
West, 60, broke the news while speaking to the congregation of Sojourn Church in Carrollton, north of Dallas. In a seven-minute video he played for the group, West said he wanted to support energy independence, enhance border security and combat sex trafficking.
“I have not been an elected official for over a decade, but I cannot 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,” West said.
Speculation grew that West would seek statewide office when he stepped down as head of the state Republican Party in June, after just 11 months on the job. In his brief but combative tenure, West attacked leaders of his own party, including Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
He was especially critical of how the governor handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and spoke at an October rally in Austin calling on Abbott to end pandemic-related restrictions.
Last year’s general election — the only major contest during West’s term — was a successful one for Republicans, however. The GOP successfully defended all of its seats in the Legislature and beat back an effort by Democrats to poach seats in Congress.
Abbott is seeking a third term as Texas governor next year. Former state senator Don Huffines has also joined the Republican primary.
West is seeking to convince voters he is more conservative than Abbott, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political science professor. That will be a challenge, though, because Abbott signed a number of far-right bills that passed the Legislature, including new restrictions on abortion.
The governor also just toured the U.S.-Mexico border with former President Donald Trump, who also has endorsed Abbott.
“Allen West wants to position himself to the right of Gov. Abbott, but that’s a challenge, generally and specifically, after this very conservative session,” Rottinghaus said. “It’s a long shot, no matter how you cut it, for West.”
West represented Florida’s 22nd Congressional District from 2011 to 2013. He served in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 2004. A native of Georgia who attended college in Tennessee, he highlighted the careers of several Southerners who resettled in Texas, including Sam Houston, William B. Travis and James Fannin.