There is a fight underway for control of the direction of the Republican Party in Texas.
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Houston’s Jared Woodfill is trying to win control of the Republican Party of Texas, challenging the current management and saying it has been too quiet in the face of legislative defeats in a state government dominated by Republican officeholders and appointees.
The contest between Tom Mechler of Amarillo, the party’s current chairman, and Woodfill, who once led the Harris County GOP, is a fight about purity, about which kinds of conservatives the Texas GOP represents and about what the party is supposed to be doing. They don’t run as combined tickets, but former state party Chairman Cathie Adams is running for vice chair in tandem with Woodfill while current vice chair Amy Clark is seeking re-election, along with Mechler.
The outcome of the elections, to be held at the GOP’s state convention in Dallas next month, probably isn’t going to change your life, but it’s interesting. Mechler wants the party to bring in more voters — he’s talking about minorities and millennials, among others — who have generally eluded the charms of the GOP. He doesn’t think it’s his job to tell the state’s Republican officeholders what to do.
“Every Republican should be comfortable within the party,” he says. “My vision is and will be that is that this party is welcoming and embracing all conservatives from all over the state of Texas.”
Woodfill is a bully-pulpit guy, a political figure whose effectiveness depends on everything from actual microphones on actual podiums to social media, news media and advertising.
He is appealing for the support of others who, like him, think the state political party should be whipping the Legislature to keep it in line with the GOP platform and the beliefs of Texans in its voting base.
His pitch against the current party leadership seems aimed more at the House than at anyone else. An example from the Facebook page promoting his candidacy: “Friends, we are engaged in a cultural war and our Republican Party of Texas leadership is running from the fight! One need only look at the 2015 legislative sessions to find evidence of the RPT surrendering our values.”
Woodfill focuses on a list of issues that met their demise, he contends, in the Texas House, including bills outlawing references to Sharia in courts, requiring Texas cities to enforce federal immigration laws, allowing the use or diversion of tax dollars for private school tuition, repealing in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants/noncitizens who graduate from Texas high schools, and enacting new ethics legislation.
That plays into existing divisions among the Republicans in government, however they are characterized: establishment against insurgents, social conservatives against social moderates, chamber of commerce against grassroots.