by Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune.
Allen West’s final days as Texas GOP chairman are ending with an explosion of the kind of intraparty drama he has become known for throughout his tenure.
On Wednesday, long-simmering tensions between West and the party’s vice chair, Cat Parks, boiled over as he called her a “cancer” and “delusional and apparently deranged” amid a dispute over a party committee project. Parks is a cancer survivor.
A day earlier, a group of county party chairs called for West’s immediate removal as state party leader, alleging an “outrageous conflict of interest” given that he is now running for governor. West announced last month that he was stepping down as Texas GOP chair, but it is not effective until Sunday, when the State Republican Executive Committee is set to elect his successor.
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The closing episodes of his chairmanship reflect the sharp-elbowed style West has used in leading the Republican Party in the country’s biggest red state — and how it is likely to follow him as he embarks on his campaign for the Governor’s Mansion.
The latest beef between Parks and West centers on a lawmaker scorecard — an assessment of members’ performance during the latest regular session — that the party’s Legislative Priorities Committee wanted to publish. After the party’s parliamentarian ruled against the idea and a committee member still publicized it, Parks asked West to intervene.
He unloaded on her in an email early Wednesday morning, charging her with long using her position to advance herself. Parks shot back at West, accusing him of hypocrisy.
Before launching his gubernatorial bid Sunday, West spent months keeping open the possibility he could challenge Gov. Greg Abbott while serving as state GOP chief.
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“Allen,… if anyone has used their position at the Republican Party of Texas in an attempt to advance themselves,… it has not been me,” Parks concluded, punctuating the sentence with a laughing-face emoji.
West has held the job for just under a year, and it has been a run filled with regular bouts of intraparty drama. He has been a leading GOP critic of Gov. Greg Abbott’s coronavirus response, even protesting outside the Governor’s Mansion last fall. He called House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, a “political traitor” for courting Democrats in his bid for the gavel late last year. And during the regular legislative session earlier this year, he sharply questioned Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s commitment to a long-sought bill allowing permitless carry of handguns, which ultimately became law.
Inside the state Republican Party, though, daylight has long been building between West and Parks. It was relatively subtle at first, like when West suggested in December that “law-abiding states” should secede over the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a Texas-led lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. The next day, Parks delivered remarks that pushed back without naming West.
But the rivalry eventually became more overt, with Parks leading the charge in March to remove the party’s account from Gab, an alternative social media site popular with neo-Nazis and other extremists. West opposed deleting the account, and after the SREC sided with Parks, he created his own personal account on the site.
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On Monday, Texas GOP parliamentarian Richard Hayes ruled the scorecard was “outside the scope of the committee’s duties” and suggested it go before the SREC for approval before publication. But a committee member, David Wylie, still publicized the scorecard, presenting it as an official party undertaking, prompting Parks to take to Twitter on Monday and deride Wylie as a “#littletyrant.” She attached a GIF of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un grinning and waving.
In an email Monday night, Parks asked West to get involved. His response took aim at far more than just Parks’ problems with the scorecard.
“This entire year you have done nothing but seek to advance yourself and never raised any funds for the Republican Party of Texas,” West said. “It is obvious your goal is to protect the failures of certain Republican legislators.”
“You Ma’am are a cancer, do not EVER email me again,” West said, adding that Parks does “nothing but create chaos and confusion.”
Parks responded later Wednesday morning.
“If you cannot perform your duty to make a ruling as Chair of the RPT, how in the hell do you expect to serve as Governor?” she asked.
A party spokesperson declined to comment further on the emails, which the Quorum Report first reported Wednesday.
On Twitter, Former House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, called West’s email to Parks “nothing but a tirade of misogyny & disrespect by a man pitifully floundering to be right when he is so blatantly wrong.”
It is not the only controversy that West is facing in his final days as Texas GOP leader. A group of county party chairs is objecting to West still serving as state party leader while running for governor, and in a letter Tuesday, they asked the SREC to immediately remove him.
“It is an undeniable fact that a sitting State Party Chair cannot also be seeking a statewide office without the unacceptable comingling of time, resources, contacts, communications, and other things of value,” the letter said. “It is an outrageous conflict of interest and it cannot continue one minute longer.”
The letter was signed by 18 county party chairs, including the GOP leaders in some of the state’s biggest counties, such as Travis, Williamson and Nueces. Texas has 254 counties.
On Wednesday, eight members of the SREC — which has 64 members total, including West — called for his immediate resignation.
As of Wednesday afternoon, West was showing no signs of bowing to the calls to step down immediately and moving forward with a trip to Alaska for a fundraiser jointly benefitting that state’s GOP and Texas’.
The SREC is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. Sunday in Lewisville to elect the next chair. Candidates include David Covey, president of the Texas Republican County Chairmen’s Association; Matt Rinaldi, a former state representative from Irving; and Chad Wilbanks, a former executive director of the state party. Rinaldi has been an ally of West, while Wilbanks has been a critic.