Convention highlighted growing discord within Texas Republican party
AUSTIN, Texas: Last weekend over 6,000 Texas Republicans descended on Fort Worth for what turned out to be an uncharacteristically agitated 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. In 2012, however, the elections are revealing a growing internal divide between Republican traditionalists and Tea Party members. Two of the leading topics of discussion at the convention and surrounding events have dealt with the issue of how to treat the rising demand for a revised party platform on immigration, as well as the upcoming July 31 GOP U.S. Senate primary runoff, in which establishment pick Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is pitted against "Tea Party darling" Ted Cruz.
Governor Rick Perry (R) opened the convention on Thursday, June 7, with a speech in support of Dewhurst's candidacy to replace retiring lawmaker Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate. Though the endorsement was not surprising, given the almost ten years Dewhurst has served as Perry's lieutenant governor, the governor'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 - traded pointed jabs during their respective speeches. Dewhurst made references to his primary opponent's relationship to "Washington special interests," such as one of Cruz' benefactors, Club for Growth. Dewhurst's speech was book-ended by boos, albeit fewer than Perry encountered the first night. Cruz' speech, which enjoyed a much more enthusiastic reception, focused on rallying his grassroots base of supporters and called the runoff election a "dogfight." Arriving on stage to the sound of the adrenaline-pumping anthem "Eye of the Tiger," Cruz followed with the statement, "Our nation is in crisis and we need a fighter."
Another matter of contention arose while the delegation sought to devise its 2012 platform on immigration. As the numbers of Latino immigrants being added to the state's voter rolls have skyrocketed, Texas Republicans are being forced to reconsider some of their stricter policies on immigration, mainly as a measure to prevent alienating Latino voters who would 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." Eventually the delegates did reach a consensus on how to soften the party's position without abandoning its fundamental beliefs regarding border protection or its refusal to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants born on American soil.
- My San Antonio, "Senate race, immigration split Texas GOP meeting," June 10, 2012
- The Associated Press-My San Antonio, "Boos more scarce but GOP convention still divided," June 8, 2012
- The Associate Press, "Dewhurst, Cruz both proclaim themselves fighters," June 9, 2012
- The Tucson Sentinel, "Report details growth potential for latino votes in Texas," June 13, 2012
- The Associated Press-My San Antonio, "Texas GOP Oks more lenient immigration platform," June 8, 2012