Ahead of early voting, one poll suggests potential runoff in GOP’s Texas governor’s race

One poll has challenger Allen West leading incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott.

Published: February 13, 2022 3:33pm

Updated: February 13, 2022 10:51pm

(The Center Square) -

Ahead of early voting in Texas' primary election, seven Republican challengers to incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott are hoping they can split the vote enough to force a run-off election.

One poll suggests they might have a shot, with one challenger, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Allen West, receiving 42.61% support compared to Abbott’s 34.18%.

The poll, by Paradigm Partners LLC, was conducted among 1,500 voters and has a margin of error of +/- 2.49%.

If elected, West would become Texas’ first black governor.

A 22-year U.S. Army combat veteran and former Florida congressman, West began rallying against Abbott’s lockdown and COVID-19 policies nearly two years ago, arguing they were unconstitutional. He was elected chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, a post he held for one year before announcing his bid for governor.

Abbott’s initial executive order shutting down the state, which designated some businesses as nonessential and threatened owners with fines and/or jail if they violated it, resulted in more than 10,000 small businesses closing, many for good, and more Texans filling for unemployment than at any time in state history. Unemployment fraud and bankruptcies also skyrocketed. Business owners and others sued, with many still ongoing, but a Dallas hair salon owner who went to jail after refusing to comply made national headlines, forcing Abbott to amend his order.

His mandates, including initially labeling houses of worship as nonessential, were unconstitutional, West argues, and wouldn’t happen if he were governor.

While Abbott’s directed $3 billion to border security efforts and began building a wall, directives no Texas governor has ever made, West says h would take even stronger measures.

But after some involved in the border security efforts in the Texas National Guard contacted West, and problems in the Texas Military Department have been reported, West called for its leader, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, to resign. The Texas Military Department issued a statement in response to news reports, and Abbott has expressed continued support for Norris.

Abbott’s pledge to reduce property taxes if elected to a third term, and newly launched “taxpayer bill of rights,” haven’t gone over well with conservatives. They argue he’s had seven years to do this and pointed to skyrocketing property taxes under his watch.

West pledges to reduce, and eventually eliminate, property taxes by implementing broader consumption-based taxes. The Texas Public Policy Foundation proposed a way, over time, to eliminate property taxes, but Abbott and the Republican-controlled legislature didn't take up the proposal in any of the four legislative sessions last year.

At a recent Trump rally in Conroe, Texas, after Abbott took the stage to speak, some supporters of former President Donald Trump booed him, calling him a “RINO” (Republican in name only).

At an event last month in Allen, Texas, former Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson spoke about why Abbott shouldn’t be re-elected, and some asked her to tell Trump to pull his endorsement of Abbott.

Trump endorsed Abbott twice; once last year, and at the Conroe event.

“You’ve made the case about why Abbott shouldn’t be re-elected, I’m wondering if you can make that recommendation to Trump so he can pull his endorsement from Abbott,” one woman said.

“I’m going to gather as a general consensus that you want Trump to rescind his endorsement of Abbott?” she asked. The crowd erupted with a loud “yes,” applause and cheers.

Pierson retweeted a video clip of the exchange, saying, “This is the first issue that I have ever been heckled about by Trump supporters, and it was awesome! It happens everywhere I go across the state. Texans want freedom and Texas First leadership!”

Abbott was censured by county Republican parties in 2020 over his lockdown policies, and has consistently received criticism from fiscal hawks over the state’s spending and debt burden.

Despite these sentiments, according to a University of Texas at Tyler poll, Abbott last month received 59% support among likely registered voters; West received 6%.

Abbott’s challengers face an uphill battle. They don’t have Abbott’s more than $50 million war chest, and history isn’t on their side. The last incumbent Texas governor who lost his party’s nomination was Democrat Dolph Briscoe in 1978.

Abbott so far hasn’t acknowledged his Republican challengers or responded to direct questions asked about them made by several media outlets since his re-election campaign began in January. His focus is on criticizing the lead Democratic candidate, former Congressman and failed senatorial and presidential candidate, Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, of El Paso. O’Rourke’s also running against multiple opponents.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the March 1 primary, a two-person runoff will take place.

Early voting begins Feb. 14.

Texas has an open primary, which means any registered voter can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary regardless of party affiliation.

The winners of each primary election will face off against each other in the November election.

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