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Convention highlighted growing discord within Texas Republican party

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June 15, 2012

By Maresa Strano


AUSTIN, Texas: Last weekend over 6,000 Texas Republicans descended on Fort Worth for what turned out to be an uncharacteristically lively three day convention. The Lonestar State is a Republican stronghold, where not one Democrat has been elected to statewide office since 1994, and where party unity has historically been considered a given.[1] In 2012, however, the elections are revealing a growing internal divide between Republican traditionalists and Tea Party members. In particular, the July 31 runoff election to determine which GOP U.S. Senate candidate, establishment pick Lt. Governor David Dewhurst or "Tea Party darling"[1] Ted Cruz, will earn the party's nomination for the open seat, and revising the party's platform on immigration proved effective at stirring the pot.

Governor Rick Perry (R) opened the convention on Thursday, June 7 with a speech in support of Dewhurst's bid to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Dewhurst has been second in line to Perry since he was first elected lieutenant governor in 2003, and while the endorsement was not surprising, Perry's words elicited boos and angry shouts from the audience of delegates and other attendees representing Texas' GOP elite. Closing the convention on Saturday, Dewhurst and Cruz - a Cuban-American former state solicitor general with strong grassroots appeal - took turns giving speeches in which they traded pointed jabs in speeches. Dewhurst made references to his primary opponent's relationship to "Washington special interests," such as one of Cruz' benefactors, Club for Growth. Book-ending Dewhurst encountered book-ending boos - albeit much fewer than Perry the first night - from the crowd during his speech.[2] Cruz' speech, which enjoyed a much more enthusiastic reception, focused on rallying his grassroots support base, and called the runoff election a "dogfight."[3] He arrived on stage to the sounds of the adrenaline anthem "Eye of the Tiger," and followed with the statement, "Our nation is in crisis and we need a fighter."[3]

Another matter of contention arose as the party sought to figure out its 2012 platform on immigration. The skyrocketing numbers of Latino immigrants being added to the state's voter rolls[4], have signaled Texas Republicans of the need to reconsider some of their stricter policies on immigration in light of how they may alienate Latino voters who could otherwise fall in party line on issues like anti-abortion legislation. The battle raged on for hours, according to a report by the Associated Press, with advocates for softening the Republican stance on immigration facing continuous objections from delegates who called proposals - like Texas land commissioner Jerry Patterson's temporary worker program to bring in foreigners when jobs are available - "ambiguous at best, liberal at worst."[5] Eventually the delegates did reach a consensus on how to soften the party's position without abandoning its fundamental beliefs regarding border protection and not granting citizenship to illegal immigrants born on American soil.[5]

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