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Home | News | Election Center: Vote2018 | Texas GOP Convention Finds Unity on Trump, but Intraparty Tensions Still Flare
There was a full house for the second day of the the Republican Party of Texas convention in San Antonio on June 15, 2018. Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Texas GOP Convention Finds Unity on Trump, but Intraparty Tensions Still Flare

SAN ANTONIO — Texas Republicans may love Donald Trump, but they are still working out their differences with one another.

That was evident during here at the state GOP’s convention, a three-day marathon of presidential bear-hugging and flashes of intraparty resentments ahead of a November election where nearly every statewide official —as well as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — is on the ballot again. The biennial gathering, which brought close to 10,000 delegates to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, was headlined by a race for chairman that culminated in a long, bitter battle on the floor Friday afternoon.

At one point in the stormy session, delegate Terry Holcomb appeared to give voice to the mounting frustrations that Cindy Asche, who was challenging Chairman James Dickey, and her supporters were damaging the party by forging forward despite the numbers being clearly stacked against them.

“This sounds like something Hillary Clinton would do,” Holcomb said, earning loud cheers. “We hear speech after speech about unity, and here we are doing the most divisive thing possible. We’re gonna burn down the party so she can be queen of the ashes.”

The convention’s final day of speeches Saturday was highlighted by Cruz, R-Texas, no stranger to intraparty warring. But he referenced the chair race — as well as the March primaries — while pleading with Republicans to set aside their differences for November.

“As passionate as you may be — maybe your candidate won, maybe your candidate lost — but at this point, I don’t care,” Cruz said. “We need unity.”

Texas Republicans at least found common ground in their embrace of the president — a less unifying figure at the last convention, which came days after Cruz ended his bruising battle against Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. The 2018 gathering, by contrast, was overflowing with odes to the president.

“Is he awesome or what?” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked delegates Friday in his speech, which he briefly paused to record a video for Trump of the crowd wishing him a happy belated birthday. Patrick, who chaired Trump’s campaign in Texas after Cruz withdrew, also used his speech to hail Trump as the Babe Ruth of presidents, “knocking it out of the park every single day.”

Virtually any elected official who has been praised on camera by Trump showed it off in videos that played before they spoke. That included U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who presented delegates with an updated version of his infamous “Big John” ad from 2008 that played up his closeness to “Big Don.”

And while Cruz kept his speech focused on GOP accomplishments under Trump more than the man himself, he nonetheless put the stakes of his own re-election bid in a dire context for presidential diehards. If Democrats take back Congress, Cruz warned, the day Nancy Pelosi is sworn in as House speaker “is the day impeachment proceedings begin.”

Loyalty to the president factored prominently into the chair race between Asche and Dickey, who had been a leader in Texas of the “Free the Delegates” effort to deny Trump the nomination at the 2016 national convention. Asche argued that was an impediment to growing the party to include the new voters that Trump turned out in 2016.

Yet Asche came up short in the race, losing to Dickey 35 percent to 65 percent Friday on the floor after a protracted battle that the party likely will not be able to swiftly put behind itself. In her final speech to delegates, Asche revealed that the party’s longtime accounting staffer had just resigned because, in Asche’s telling, she could not trust Dickey.

Yet it was not just the chair race where lingering intraparty resentments were on display. In at least a couple of appearances at the convention, Patrick declared victory on the “bathroom bill” that he championed last year. He argued that while the measure didn’t pass through the Legislature, an overwhelming majority of GOP primary voters voted for a ballot item asking if they supported protecting the privacy of women and children when they go to the bathroom.

That drew a rebuke from the legislation’s biggest opponent: retiring GOP House Speaker Joe Straus.

“If ‘victory’ on the bathroom bill means that it’s not coming back and there will be more focus on fixing school finance and promoting private-sector growth, that’s great news,” the San Antonio lawmaker said in a statement.

The intraparty tensions also flared around another statewide official, Land Commissioner George P. Bush. He weathered a few rounds of boos during his remarks Friday — apparently from delegates still upset with his management of the Alamo, a key issue in the four-way primary he won this year.

Then there was the debate over censuring Republicans in office, which began this year when the State Republican Executive Committee censured Straus.

That debate intensified this week at committee hearings during the convention. Members considered proposals censuring retiring state Rep. Byron Cook of Corsicana, a top Straus ally. They also weighed similar action against several members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Cornyn, over their support for omnibus spending legislation this year. Members handily rejected resolutions against the delegation members, though the censure of Cook advanced through the committee and will be the subject of a floor vote.

Texas Democrats, who are staging their own convention next weekend in Fort Worth, relished the infighting at the rival party’s gathering, sending reporters daily recaps of the drama.

“The divisions in the Republican Party are clear,” the state Democratic Party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa, said in a statement Friday. “While the Republican Party tries to figure out where it stands and where it’s heading, Texas Democrats are united, organized and ready to deliver on the issues that matter most to Texans.”

Cassi Pollock contributed to this report.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

About The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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4 comments

  1. #MAGA = MUELLER AIN'T GOING AWAY!

    All the Texas GOP republicans are nothing but mean spirited disgusting racist bigots! starting with their fake Russian appointed leader and comrade, Donald Trump!
    Are you Texans worried about what is left of your healthcare? well Ted Cruz is going to rattled what’s left of your brains and repeal what is left of Obamacare and you worthless idiots will vote for him anyway.
    These days are the most important and urgent times for the survival of our American decency, democracy and family values and morals.
    And we are going to allow the Texas republicans to continue to rule us with their fancy tax cuts for the wealthy. While Donald Trump delivers for North Korean Kim Jong Un, as we all saw that Trump got nothing in return from Kim Jong Un.
    Republicans put party over country first,since their is plenty of money to line their pockets with Steve Mnuchin incharge in the US Treasury and Scott Pruitt buying used Trump Hotel mattresses at discount.
    If Trump is CLEAN ABOUT RUSSIA! And WE KNOW HE AIN’T CLEAN! but first lets LOCK UP PAUL MANAFORT and MICHEAL COHEN NEXT!
    and someday soon they will finally arrive at the white house to arrest Donald Trump and Jared Kushner and all the rest of the TRUMP TRASH!
    #MAGA MUELLER AIN’T GOING AWAY!
    AMERICA HAS LOST IT’S MIND WITH donald trump and president Vladimir Putin controlling what use to be the Worlds most powerful nation has been diminished to fascist dictatorship while Trump is lining his pockets inside the white house and colluding with the Russians. And blaming the democrats for separating immigrant children from their parents, this is BARBARIC and PURE FASCIST NAZISM! courtesy of donald trump, jeff sessions and john kelly all doing the Ku Klux Klan’s work.
    If this were president Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, the basket of deplorable republicans would had hang the two together at the same time.
    Time to VOTE the Texas Republicans out of OFFICE! IT’S A SHAME IF YOU VOTE THEM ALL BACK IN!
    why not send them all to prison for treason instead. FAKE RUSSIANS! MAKE AMERICA SUCK!

  2. Texas gop republicans are nothing but mean spirited gutless cowards! lets vote out Ted Cruz.