February 13, 2020

Heavily-Armed Challenger Scores Plum Endorsement
with Tea Party Salute in State GOP Chairman Campaign

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Texas GOP Chair Fundraising
State Convention Election
Houston May 14-16, 2020
James Dickey
2019 Donations: $17,648
2019 Spending: $12,068
Campaign Loans: $2,700
Cash on Hand: $6,085
Allen West
2019 Donations: $489,755
2019 Spending: $227,087
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $283,321

Source: Texas Ethics



Garland Republican Allen West received a major boost on Wednesday in a bid for the Texas GOP's top leadership job when one of the state's largest tea party groups rallied behind his campaign for the partisan post.

West - a former Army officer who represented a congressional district in Florida before relocating to Texas five years ago - fueled a campaign that already had substantial momentum with an endorsement from the Tyler-based organization Grassroots America.

West is attempting to unseat Texas Republican Chairman James Dickey in an election that activists will decide at the state party convention in Houston in June.

Dickey had conservatives in his corner when he won the position initially in a State Republican Executive Committee vote in 2017 before a re-election victory at the state convention in San Antonio the following year.

But Dickey's support on the hard right has been eroding since the 2018 election when Democrats picked up a dozen Texas House seats on the strength of a blue wave that swept them to victories in two state Senate and two U.S. House districts that the GOP had been trying to defend that year.

Two former state Republican chairs - Tom Mechler and Cathie Adams - are backing West in the bid to oust Dickey. David Barton - a former state party vice-chairman who's been one of the most influential figures in Texas conservative ranks for more than two decades - has pitched his support to West as well.

West has been on a record-shattering run with a fundraising machine that reaped almost $490,000 in contributions in 2019 before heading into January with more than $283,000 in the campaign bank. Dickey rounded up less than $18,000 last year before ending December with a $6,000 cash surplus. West's growing list of supporters is more important than the massive money advantage in a battle for state party chief.

East Texas activist JoAnn Fleming, the executive director at Grassroots America, portrayed the pitch for the leadership change as a critical part of a crusade to keep the Lone Star State and the White House red at the polls this fall.

"Victory is not possible without a clear, clarifying, principled, unashamedly conservative voice with an undying fighter spirit,": Fleming said. "It is time for a principled disrupter to the status quo – time for a bold painter to write freedom on the hearts of Texans – all Texans – in a language they can understand... We are confident that (lieutenant colonel) West will help us hold Texas and save the nation."

Democrats have a shot to carry Texas at the top of the 2020 ticket for the first time in 44 years in a development that would spell doom for President Donald Trump's re-election bid. The Democrats could flip the Texas House from red to blue with a net-gain of nine seats in November. Democrats from Washington to Austin are targeting a half-dozen Texas congressional races as well.

A West win this spring would bring an end to a political roller-coaster ride that began for Dickey when he was unseated by an obscenity-spewing challenger in the GOP primary election in 2016 in a race for re-election as the local party chairman in Travis County. After bouncing back in the SREC election the following year, Dickey has faced a delicate balancing act as the state party boss in a state where the GOP has been bitterly divided between ideological conservatives and establishment forces.

Dickey's task has been complicated by circumstances that he can't control including a targeting scandal that engulfed first-term House Speaker Dennis Bonnen last year. While Trump has been baggage for down-ballot Republicans in the last two election cycles, Dickey has been destined to receive a substantial amount of the blame for Democratic gains here by virtue of the position that he holds.

West is an African-American who' served in both Gulf wars during a 22-year stint in the military that ended with his retirement in 2004. West joined the Texas State Guard last year.

West was elected as a U.S. representative in a district on the Atlantic coast in south Florida in 2010. He lost a bid for re-election in a separate district two years later on a congressional map that Florida lawmakers had redesigned in 2011.

West has triggered his fair share of controversy - having contended in 2012 that as many as 81 Democratic colleagues in Congress were members of the Communist Party in an accusation that he had no way to substantiate.


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