AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Allen West, the former Florida congressman and firebrand who rode into office on the tea party wave a decade ago, said Sunday that he will run for governor of Texas in a bid to again seize on restless anger from the right.
His odds are far longer this time around: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is up for a third term and may also be eyeing a 2024 presidential bid, has already locked up the endorsement of Donald Trump — whose voters West would need to have any shot at winning a GOP primary in Texas.
The hurdles don’t stop there. Abbott is the most prodigious fundraiser of any governor in America, having started the year with nearly $40 million already socked away, and West is shunned by powerbrokers in his own party. Last month, West stepped down as chairman of the Texas GOP after spending a year using the platform to antagonize Abbott and other Republicans who he deemed insufficiently conservative.
Still, West’s celebrity in the grassroots that lingers from a combative one term in the U.S. House makes him the most prominent primary challenge Abbott has faced since becoming governor in 2015. Already there have been signs of Abbott moving to protect his right flank, passing ever-looser gun laws in Texas that he never previously endorsed and picking up Trump’s immigration mantle along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Let’s stand up for God, for country and for Texas,” West told those gathered Sunday at Sojourn Church in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, where he made his announcement.
He later tweeted video of the service.
Democrats, who continue to see Texas as a budding battleground even as their losing streak continues, have yet to put up a challenger to Abbott in 2022 although former congressman Beto O’Rourke isn’t ruling it out.
West won a House seat in Florida in 2010 and quickly became a tea party favorite and lightning rod, at one point accusing Democrats of having as many as 80 communists in their House caucus. He failed to win reelection in 2012.
He later moved to Texas and largely stayed out of the spotlight until running for chairman of the state GOP party last year. After winning the job, West went about criticizing Republicans as much as Democrats, calling the GOP speaker of the Texas House a “traitor” for working across the aisle and leading a protest outside Abbott’s mansion over coronavirus restrictions.
In May, West spoke at an event in Dallas that was organized by adherents of the QAnon conspiracy and included former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
Abbott, who in previous years drew only token primary challengers, now faces two candidates who have previously held office. Former GOP state Sen. Don Huffines is also running.