The Texas Republican Party reaffirmed its conservative values Friday during its state convention ahead of the November elections in which critical offices – including the governorship and Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat – are at stake.
With outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus censured for what his party deemed moderate stances on the so-called bathroom bill, Republican delegates convened to issue their legislative priorities for the 2019 Legislature, which will begin in January.
In a speech to delegates Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick delivered a rebuke of Straus and those in his party who believe the majority of Republicans are politically moderate.
“The winds of change are coming to the House, I believe,” Patrick said. “The speaker may have personally killed that bill, but we won the war.”
The Lieutenant Governor disputed the contention that the Republican Party is at war with itself, pointing to a screen that showed that 10 of 11 non-binding Republican ballot questions passed with 75 percent of the vote or more.
“There is no civil war in our party when you stand behind issues” with 75 percent to 95 percent approval, Patrick said. “There is no civil war – there are just a few Republicans that haven’t gotten the message that it’s over.”
In an address earlier in the convention session, Gov. Greg Abbott touted the strength of the Texas economy – highlighted by its lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, he said. About 750,000 new jobs were created in the state since he took office, he said.
If considered on its own, the Texas economy would have a gross domestic product of $1.7 trillion, Abbott said.
“The Texas economy is larger than Russia’s economy,” he said to the gathered delegates. “That makes me more powerful than Putin. You had more to do with the outcome of our last election than did Russia.”
On education-related legislation, Abbott touched on the need to increase teacher pay and to reform the state’s school finance system, including a mechanism known as recapture, or “Robin Hood,” because it places the onus on property-wealthy school districts to redistribute revenue to poorer, often rural districts.
On Friday afternoon, Republican delegates convened in their general meeting to form their platform. Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, said his top issues in the upcoming session will be school security, freezing property taxes for all homeowners 65 and older, and giving teachers a raise.
He attended funerals for the students at Santa Fe High School who died in a May 18 shooting there. To improve school security, Patrick called for fewer entrances and exits at the state’s public school campuses.
“After what I saw in Santa Fe there were locked doors, and kids could not get out,” Patrick said. “Some of these kids lost their lives because they were in a room they could not get out [of].”
But before the Republican Party accomplishes its goals in Texas, it must fend off a potential “blue wave” of Texas Democrats seeking elected office, including a well-funded challenge to Cruz from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso).
“Come November, we are going to show [Democrats] that real Texas values are not up for grabs,” Abbott said.