AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas GOP Chairman Allen West said Friday he is stepping down after a short but combative run of using the job to antagonize top Republicans in America’s biggest red state, including protesting outside Gov. Greg Abbott’s mansion.
The decision intensified speculation that West, a firebrand who served one term in the U.S. House after coming up during the tea party movement in 2010, may pursue statewide office in Texas. He was coy about his future plans but acknowledged he is considering a run, although he did not say for which office.
“We will let you know when we want you to know,” West told reporters in the East Texas town of Whitehouse, where he laid into the GOP-controlled Legislature for not passing enough conservative measures, including voting restrictions that Democrats blocked in a walkout.
Abbott, who is running for a third term in 2022, was endorsed earlier this week by former President Donald Trump.
West’s departure ends a turbulent 11 months as an activist chairman who eschewed the job’s usual role of promoting party unity and instead used the platform to pressure and criticize Abbott and other top Republican leaders. That included protesting last fall outside Abbott’s mansion over coronavirus restrictions.
Over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, West spoke at an event in Dallas that was organized by adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory. When West took over as party chairman last summer he changed the party slogan to “We Are the Storm” — which is associated with the conspiracy — but has denied that it is related to QAnon.
West has also called the new Republican speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dade Phelan, a “traitor” for working with Democrats and accused GOP lawmakers of trying to purposefully derail looser gun laws that ultimately passed.
West’s resignation was a relief to longtime Texas GOP officials and operatives. Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist in Austin and chairman of the Travis County GOP where the state party offices are based, said West had “decimated” field efforts at a time when Democrats are gaining ground in Texas and had let voter registration efforts slide.
“Allen West has always been all about himself, leaving disaster in his wake,” Mackowiak tweeted.
West was elected as a Florida congressman in 2010 and later moved to Texas after serving one term. He won the leadership post in Texas during a virtual convention last summer that was wracked by delays and technical problems after an in-person gathering in Houston was canceled due to the coronavirus.
At least one statewide office in Texas is opening up in 2022: The General Land Office is currently run by Republican George P. Bush, who announced this week he is running for attorney general against embattled incumbent Ken Paxton.