Politics

3 takeaways from this year’s Republican Party of Texas convention

Drama, energy and Trump. Those words sum up this year’s Texas GOP convention, which wrapped up Saturday in Houston.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán / KUT
Hundreds of supporters of Gov. Greg Abbott attended a reception hosted at nearby venue during the 2022 Republican Party of Texas convention. Abbott didn’t speak on the main stage of the convention.

The Republican Party of Texas wrapped up its biennial convention on Saturday, after thousands of delegates voted on the party's legislative priorities, as well as its latest platform — even though several of its tenets caused friction among some Republicans.

Despite that, party leaders say this year's convention shows the party is ready to beat Democrats, solidify the GOP majority in the state and help win back Congress.

"In November, a red wave is gonna sweep across Texas and this nation and begin a new era," Matt Rinaldi, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, told convention goers.

Legislative priorities

Rinaldi and other top GOP leaders stressed the party should stand their ground in terms of policies that best represent their values.

"We can’t compromise with Democrats who have a different and incompatible vision for our future," Rinaldi said. "We need to be a bold and unapologetic conservative party, ready to go on offense and win the fight for our country."

On Saturday, delegates voted on what they think should be the party's legislative priorities when Texas lawmakers reconvene in 2023.

On that list, the priority "Protect our Elections" received the most support.

That item calls for limiting mail-in ballot distributions, establishing closed primaries in the state, and increasing the restoration of felonies for those who violate election code. This comes after a controversial Republican-backed law went into effect last year that created new penalties around elections.

Another legislative priority is banning Democratic chairs of committees in the Texas House of Representatives. Committees play an important role in vetting legislation filed by lawmakers and determining what bills move forward.

During Texas' legislative session last year, House Speaker Dade Phelan named 14 Democrats as chairs of standing committees.

Terri Hall, a delegate from San Antonio, accused Democratic committee chairs of "killing" bills from Republicans.

"Anyone who, like me, has been doing this for 20 years knows that's the method they use to kill our priorities," Hall said. "This should be in your top three, folks."

Other legislative priorities considered by delegates included the defense of gun rights, and abolishing abortion. The results on those items will be released at a later date.

Division over Republican leaders

One of the biggest moments at the convention was the strong rebuke delegates gave to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

The senior senator has been representing Congressional Republicans in a potential deal regarding gun safety.

When Cornyn appeared on the main stage of the convention on Friday, he was greeted with loud boos and heckling, which continued throughout his speech.

Although the exact proposal is still in the works, Cornyn said several things were on the table: mental health resources, support for schools and ensuring that people with a mental health condition or violent past are prevented from accessing a firearm.

Still, for many, Cornyn considering these laws make him a RINO — A Republican in name only.

"He talked a big talk, and talked a good game, and he proved himself to be a liar as well," Jessica Steels, a delegate from College Station, told The Texas Newsroom.

Another Republican who got heckled was Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston. According to Mediate, Crenshaw was followed by a group of Republicans who called him "eye-patch McCain" and a "traitor."

Crenshaw lost one eye during an IED explosion in Afghanistan as part of his third combat deployment.

"This is what happens when angry little boys like @alexstein99 don't grow up and can't get girlfriends," Crenshaw said in a tweet, referencing Alex Stein, a far-right provocateur, who heckled him.

All this division has created some concerns among GOP politicians.

"We've just had a very spirited primary," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said. "But at the end of the day, we have to come together in November and we have to beat the Democrats."

Donald Trump

One thing the Texas GOP convention made clear is that the most-active members of the party still think highly of former President Donald Trump.

Make America Great Again hats and swag were sported by many delegates.

Many of them also continue to believe that there was fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Jessica Steels said she hopes Trump runs again.

"I know he will win again," Steels said, "Is he perfect? No. Are any of us? No."

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