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Texas GOP Controls The State, But Continues Fight Over Controlling The Future

Julia Reihs
The crowd cheers after Gov. Greg Abbott addresses delegates at the 2018 Texas Republican Convention in San Antonio on Friday.

Political party conventions are always about the future – the next election, to be specific, but also the five- and 10-year plan for growth.

The last couple of decades for Texas Republicans have been pretty rock solid. In 2014, Gov. Greg Abbott won the election by 20 points. And in the 2018 primaries, Republicans set records for voter turnout in an off-year election.

So at the ballot box, Texas Republicans are">the Avengers at the end of the first movie – completely victorious. And Friday morning, Abbott took a victory lap.

Credit Julia Reihs / KUT
Abbott tells convention delegates that the state is "better than it was four years ago."

“And I’m proud to tell ya,” he said to convention delegates, “that as we gather today, Texas is better than it was four years ago.”

But, despite the list of accomplishments Abbott read off at the convention, there are groups within the state GOP worried about the day when the party looks more like the Avengers at the end of Infinity War, when – SPOILER ALERT – half of them are gone.

“We have to bring more people into this party,” outgoing party Vice Chairman Amy Clark said during a speech Thursday. “We cannot continue to keep this state red if the only Republicans in Texas are the Republicans right here.”

While she didn’t sound desperate in her plea for expanding the party, it was a warning that Republicans can’t keep doing the same thing and expect the same results.

You heard that argument in bits and pieces all around the convention, for instance in delegate Ashley Swoboda’s plea to remove the “homosexual behavior” plank from the party platform.

“This kind of language makes no sense to young people, the people that we’re trying to appeal to,” she told the platform committee during a public comment period. “Even if this language is kept, I can assure you that my generation will change it in due time. If not, the Republican Party will not grow, and we will only lose ground in the future.”

Credit Julia Reihs / KUT
Outgoing party Vice Chairman Amy Clark told delegates that they wouldn't be able to "keep the state red if the only Republicans in Texas are the Republicans right here."

There’s also the fight over the party’s immigration policies and how they affect Hispanic outreach.  

“I think there are a lot of people here in the Republican Party who maybe think that you don’t need the Hispanic vote to win,” delegate Temo Muniz said. “It’s tough to overcome that mentality.”

Muniz, the Texas chairman of the Federation of Hispanic Republicans, has been a vocal advocate of Hispanic outreach in the party both in Texas and nationally. In 2016, he worried hard-line immigration talk from then-candidate Donald Trump would end up shrinking Hispanic support.

But, of course, if a majority of the Republican delegates agreed with Muniz and Swoboda, then the party would have pushed for changes during the convention. For the most part, that didn’t happen. There’s still a party plank on homosexuality because some delegates feel the same way Craig Lecarty does.

“As Republicans we’re conservatives. We conserve,” he said to the platform committee Thursday night. “We protect from destruction that which is true. And it’s a travesty that we would have the gall to ignore God and that we would exclude him from our platform.”

Muniz said there’s still little effort to connect with the Hispanic community – a decline he’s seen that began after former Gov. Rick Perry came out against a controversial immigration bill Arizona passed a few years back.

“Rick Perry stood up and said, ‘Not in Texas,’ and that was huge,” Muniz said. “Now we have SB 4 [the new law banning sanctuary cities]. And it’s tough, too. It’s hard to help people understand how much effect that’s going to have down the road.”

But, he still has hope that Republicans can attract Hispanic voters heading into the November elections. He said the looming immigration votein the U.S. House could really help.

“Now if it doesn’t pass, then I think the president will have, as the president, he will have to take responsibility that this is something that the Republican Party did, if it doesn’t pass,” Muniz said.

During a live interview with FOX News earlier today, President Trump said he “certainly” wouldn’t sign a more moderate compromise bill on DACA and immigration. The comments threatened to derail a planned vote next week. But this afternoon, a House GOP source told NPR he “just misunderstood” the question and would support the legislation.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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