by Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune.
LEWISVILLE — Former state Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving is the next chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.
On Sunday, the State Republican Executive Committee elected Rinaldi to replace Allen West, who announced his resignation last month after a dramatic 10 months on the job and is now challenging Gov. Greg Abbott.
Rinaldi won the election on the first ballot, getting 34 votes from the 64-member SREC against three opponents. He needed 33 to win.
“We cannot lose Texas — and will not lose Texas — if we work together,” Rinaldi said in his victory speech.
The runner-up was David Covey, president of Texas Republican County Chairmen’s Association. Covey, also the Orange County GOP chairman and an SREC member, got 21 votes.
Six votes went to Chad Wilbanks, a lobbyist who once served as executive director of the state party, and three votes went to Bill Burch, a party activist.
Rinaldi was one of the most conservative members of the House during his time there. He lost reelection in 2018.
West’s controversial tenure loomed large in the race. As chairman, he did not shy from conflict with the state’s Republican leaders, and speculation ran rampant for months that he was positioning himself to challenge Abbott — speculation he confirmed when he announced his campaign a week ago.
Despite some Republicans’ clear unease with West, the SREC ended up picking a successor most closely aligned with him. Rinaldi had been complimentary of at least some aspects of West’s leadership, and he said in his nomination speech Sunday that he wanted to continue the party’s intensified focus on its legislative priorities that began under West.
West’s time as chairman remained contentious up through its final days, which included a spat with the vice chair, Cat Parks, in which he assailed Parks as a “cancer.” Parks is a cancer survivor.
Tensions had long simmered between West and Parks, and in brief remarks before the chair election Sunday, she made clear she was ready to move on from the West era.
“For the last year we marched to the orders of ‘We are the storm,'” Parks said, referring to party slogan under West that drew scrutiny for its connections to the QAnon conspiracy movement. “Today we have the opportunity to elect a new chairman, to go forward together and provide the light.”
West, who spoke earlier Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in nearby Dallas, did not appear to attend the meeting to elect his successor.