GEORGETOWN, Texas (NEXSTAR) — Leaders of the Republican Party of Texas said they will press the state to open the Capitol to the public during the upcoming legislative session despite ongoing concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the party’s State Republican Executive Committee will vote this weekend to officially state their position that the Capitol must open. That announcement came Friday morning during a news conference in Georgetown.
The party also formally announced its eight priorities for the legislative session that begins in January.
“We had over 5,000 of our delegates who chose eight priorities,” Jill Glover, chair of the committee’s legislative priorities panel.
The top three are election integrity, religious freedom and pediatric gender modification.
“If we do not have a fair and valid vote in our country, then we don’t have a country,” Glover said. “And so our delegates have stated that it is very important to verify citizenship, and make sure any violations of election code are punished by law.”
The complete list includes: abolition of abortion, constitutional carry, monument protection, school choice for all and banning taxpayer-funded lobbying.
Those priorities notably did not include anything related to the coronavirus pandemic, which Texas Democrats were quick to point out.
“There’s no beating the coronavirus crisis, there’s no expanding Medicaid, there’s no creating jobs for marginalized communities, you know, all those things are really important,” Abhi Rahman, Texas Democratic Party communications director said.
“All these things are issues that are solvable if we work together, but right now Republicans can’t even work with themselves,” Rahman stated.
Some of the state’s Republican elected officials have not welcomed party chair Allen West, perturbed by the lack of endorsement from the retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who once served as a Florida Congressman of Dade Phelan, the Beaumont Republican who is expected to be chosen as the new speaker of the Texas House. State Rep. Justin Holland, R-Rockwall, suggested West “needs a civics lesson in Texas politics.” Plano Republican Jeff Leach called on West to “stop the childish name-calling…”
State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, stated West should “go back to Florida” when West made what Larson called “negative comments” about the presumptive GOP speaker.
Asked on Friday about how to overcome divisiveness with elected Republicans in the legislative and work together to promote conservative agendas at the Captiol, West said, “The people of the SREC represent the individuals that enable those lawmakers to be in office. So if they want to thumb their nose at the people that enabled them to be an office, you shouldn’t be asking me you should be asking them.”
West voiced his support, too, for the lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton against four battleground states that went to President-elect Joe Biden. Paxton’s lawsuit requested the Supreme Court delay a Dec. 14 deadline for state electors to report election results and to remedy the “unconstitutional” elections, but it was rejected Friday afternoon.
Despite a reporter asking multiple times, West avoided answering if he would recognize a Biden presidency.
West announced the Texas GOP is launching an initiative called 150 Black Men of Texas, which the party’s historian said Friday will work to “reignite participation” of Black voters and improve upon turnout among them for Republicans.
Photojournalist Julie Karam contributed to this report.