The GOP’s primary election for the governor is a competition for extremism

On January 10, about 600 conservatives gathered at the Woodlands Evangelical Mega-Church to unravel their frustration with Governor Greg Abbott at the Governor’s Round Table.

“Our goal is to force a match that is likely to be between Abbott and one of these gentlemen on the scene,” said Fran Rhodes, president of True Texas, a conservative activist group founded 12 years ago as the Tarrant County Tea Party. . “He’s running for eight people, so that’s seven opportunities to vote for non-Abbott.”

For the first time in his political career, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will face up. Since he was elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1996 with a difference of 68 points, he still has to face a serious primary challenge regarding his elected office. Now, with a bunch of hyperconservative challengers, Abbot is trying to cover his right hip.

Former state senator Don Huffines, former Republican state chairman Allen West and conservative talk show host Chad Prather, set in red and blue light, tried to compare their conservatives. in good faith. The empty chair with Abbott’s name served as a metaphor for those who claim that the governor is inaccessible to his constituents. The crowd, completely without a mask, was crammed into the main shrine, let it be damn omicron.

True Texas Project Director Julie McCarty has launched an evening round of questions. While McCarty credited Senate Law 8 – a Texas law that bans the six-week procedure before most women even find out they are pregnant – for “progress” on the issue, he lamented that abortions are still legal in Lone Star State: “Tell me, if you support the abolition of abortions without exceptions, and if not, what exceptions do you make and why?

Former Sen. Don Huffines speaks at the Gubernatorial Round Table organized by the True Texas Project on January 10, 2022 at Grace Woodlands Church in Montgomery County, Texas. Jordan Vonderhaar

“I’d like to think I’m the most pro-life candidate ever running for governor,” Huffines said. “I am pro-life from conception to natural death – without exception.”

Prather repeated Huffines’ remarks, noting that although he was born in Georgia, he considered himself a Texan because he was conceived in Dallas. “That’s pro-life,” he said.

Only West seemed to be pursuing something other than the most extreme position. “If my daughters are being abused, I would like to be able to discuss with God and with them,” he said. “But I would do what people have for me.”

Candidates’ remarks deny the fact that Abbott was more successful than any modern Texas governor in restricting access to abortion in his state. After signing SB 8 in September – which bans abortion after six weeks and empowers private citizens to enforce it – the number of abortions across the state fell by 50 percent in the first month, according to the University of Texas. In the following months, neighboring states such as Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado reported a huge influx of patients seeking abortion.

There is an empty chair on stage with the name of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, which symbolizes the governor’s absence from the Gubernatorial Round Table organized by the True Texas Project. Jordan Vonderhaar

What’s more, Abbott has already paved the way for a total abortion ban, bringing it into line with other candidates. In June 2021, he signed what is known as the “Trigger Act”, which would prohibit abortion without exception if Roe. v. Wade is inverted.

The event attracted a group of voters who have come to define the GOP base since the election of former President Donald Trump. Very committed, they make no compromises. “One of the very good things Donald Trump did for America was to teach Republicans to fight,” Rhodes said.

The moderator then asked about raising the property tax – a popular topic of discussion among the right-wing party, which often advocates the complete abolition of taxes.

“Property tax isn’t just bad,” Prather said. “It’s the most immoral form of taxation anyone can imagine. If you read the Old Testament, God would not tax His people. ”

A large billboard along the highway points to the grounds of Grace Woodlands Church. Jordan Vonderhaar

Prather made a vague biblical reference to Ezekiel, in which the prophet instructs the ancient Israelites on how to build the temple of the Lord. To claim that Prather chose his verses is generous, not to mention that he relies on outdated laws from antiquity. The same chapter also provides instructions on when to sacrifice a young bull or six rams and how many ephahs of grain to include in New Year’s burnt offerings. Naturally, there was no talk of Jesus blessing the poor, the humble, the persecuted, and nourishing the starving masses. It does not matter that when Jesus spoke of taxes, he exhorted his followers to “give the emperor what the emperor is.”

West ascribed the idea of ​​property taxes to the 19th-century German philosopher Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto.

“It simply came to our notice then [Marx] There was talk of removing private property rights, “said West. “In the state of Texas, you can pay off your land, you can pay off your mortgage, but you can never own your home.”

He proposed a move to a zero-based budget system, in which the legislator must approve every single item every two years. In fact, it would mean that every state-funded organization – state schools, state police, state ministry of education – would have to fight for their own existence every other year.

A few minutes later, the conversation turned to the issue of “annulment” – the idea that states can annul federal laws they consider unconstitutional. This is a relatively unknown issue in the mainstream, but it is a popular litmus test among hardcore conservatives. “How would you use the abolition to deal with the excessive reach of the federal government?” McCarty asked.

“Do you think nine Supreme Court justices will come to Texas and stop me from re-enrolling prayers in schools?” Huffines said with a smile, earning a standing ovation from the audience. “This is Texas.” We will not ask permission for anything. “

It is difficult to see how much space there is for Abbott on this issue. When Abbott was the Attorney General, he said, “I go to the office in the morning, sue Barack Obama, and then I go home. Abbott and his administration have recently sued the Biden administration for everything from border enforcement to vaccinations and veils in schools. Abbott’s weakness may be that he bothers to comply with federal law.

The evening continued with a myriad of culturally conservative cats: threats of secession, calls for “wall building,” a scarecrow of critical race theory, “porn” in the library, and other problems that ignited the notorious GOP Base in Texas. The idea of ​​adding green energy to increase national electricity production has even been loud.

But perhaps the most eloquent round of questions came during the “lightning round” at the end. Each of the three candidates received a laminated emblem with a green thumb up on one side and a red thumb down on the other. They were then asked a series of 12 questions in quick succession. All three candidates answered in the same way.

“Will you ban the social transition of minors, such as changing names and identities at school?” Thumbs up.

“Are you willing to have state authorities arrest federal agents for violating the constitution?” Thumbs up.

“Would you dismiss the legislature from office for fleeing the state during a legislative session?” Thumbs up.

In conclusion, McCarty admitted that the aim of the questions was not to demonstrate the differences between the candidates, but instead to have video evidence of each candidate’s position.

After the blitzkrieg, the True Texas Project projected a QR code on the screen and asked participants to vote in a straw poll. The results were published the following day. West – the candidate with the most well-known names – received the most support, with 39 percent of participants saying they would vote for him. Huffines and Prather followed with 36 and 24 percent. For this crowd of fanatics, Abbott finished in last place with just 1 percent.

Candidates hold thumbs up to signal their views on various issues at the Gubernatorial Round Table, hosted by the True Texas Project. Jordan Vonderhaar
David Berry

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