The Democrats aren’t the only ones Gov. Greg Abbott has to worry about in 2022. Not all Republicans are happy with his leadership and some have already announced primary challenges. While Abbott’s popularity within the GOP means that a fellow Republican is unlikely to unseat him, primary challenges can still cause problems. An attack from his right flank could force Abbott to take positions that will make it harder for him to win over centrist voters in the general election, and it could also force him to expend resources that he would rather save for his Democratic adversary.
The Signal has put together a list of the Republicans who are challenging Abbott in the Texas GOP primary, which will occur in March next year. This list will be updated as more candidates enter the race.
Don Huffines, Former State Senator for District 16
Don Huffines announced on May 10 that he was running for governor. “Together we will finish the wall, lower our taxes, and protect our elections,” Huffines tweeted. “It’s past time to root out corruption in the Austin swamp.” Huffines is the first Republican with prior political experience to challenge Abbott.
A real estate developer before entering politics, Huffines is no stranger to primary challenges. In 2014, he narrowly defeated state Sen. John Carona from Dallas, a longtime incumbent who was considered the least conservative Republican in the Texas Senate. Huffines won by running to the right of Carona and lived up to that reputation while in office. In 2017 he was ranked the fourth most right-wing member of the Texas Senate.
While Huffines was very conservative, the district he represented was not solid red and changing demographics caused it to steadily shift to the left. Although District 16 was won by Mitt Romney in 2012, it voted for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White in 2010 and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2018, Huffines was ousted by Democrat Nathan Johnson after only serving one term.
Shortly after his loss he reportedly attended a meeting in a hangar with a group of Republicans alleging widespread voter fraud (they would later play a major role in the Big Lie about the 2020 election). Although these Republicans tried to convince him that there were signs of voter fraud in his election loss, Huffines ultimately decided to challenge the results.
After leaving office, Huffines has been a vocal critic of Abbott’s COVID-19 restrictions. He was one of the speakers at the “Free Texas” rally outside the governor’s mansion, an event that included the likes of Allen West and Sid Miller.
Chad Prather, Blaze TV Personality and Host of the Chad Prather Show
Prather announced his run for governor in July of 2020 in response to Gov. Abbott requiring Texans to wear masks and socially distance themselves. “There are so many Republicans across this country who are spineless,” he said. “I think the people of Texas have a right for their voice to be heard.”
Although Prather has no political experience and never held a political office, he said he is tired of “giving up his liberties” and wants to be the voice for the “everyday Texan.” Prior to running for governor, Prather supported Gov. Abbott, but changed his position after Abbott “bought into big business.”
He has also been an outspoken advocate for former President Donald J. Trump, and said he considers Lt. Dan Patrick and Eric Trump friends.
Prather, who is not a native Texan was born in New Jersey raised in Augusta, Georgia.
Prather has argued that since life starts at conception and he was conceived in Dallas he is a true Texan.
On his show, Prather speaks on many political issues including women’s reproductive rights, police brutality, immigration, and Republicans new favorite term “cancel culture.”
For example, after the jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty for murdering George Floyd in May of last year, Prather said America doesn’t have a race problem. Instead, he said America has a media problem because we fought in a civil war and elected a Black President twice so America can’t be racist.
Prather also doesn’t shy away from speaking on women’s reproductive rights and “vows to protect the sanctity of life in all my decisions.” Yet, in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic, Prather wanted Texans to have “medical freedom” and lift the mask mandate.
Prather, who consistently refers to immigrants as “illegals”said he still supports building a wall along the southern border and doesn’t support Texas cities becoming sanctuary cities.
He also has a large social media following with over 190,000 followers on Twitter and almost 500,00 followers on Facebook. On Jan. 27, he tweeted, “We went from ‘two weeks to flatten the curve’ to ‘wear three masks and get your anus swabbed.’”
Kurt Schwab, Military Veteran
Schwab is a 18 year Air Force combat veteran from Fort Worth, Texas who announced his run for governor in April. He previously filed to run for the Texas House of Representative 33rd Congressional District in 2018 but dropped out early.
In an interview with CBS-19, Schwab said he’s relying on his time as a veteran and talking to his constituents to win the ballot. “I know how to fight for a country and I’m taking those skills and I’m going to fight for Texas as well,” he said.
He also said his key issues for his platform are public education, first responders, Texas owned businesses and veterans. According to his website, immigration, gun rights, and cutting property taxes are also some issues he plans to address as governor.
Schwab has been vocal on his plans for public education and said Texas needs more teachers and that teachers deserve a better pay. He also said Texas should get rid of the STAAR test and we need to “move on.”
When it comes to COVID-19, Schwab said he thinks Gov. Abbott “overextended” the mask mandate and said it wasn’t fair to everybody. “We have a lot of people out there with health issues that can’t wear masks,” Schwab said to CBS.
Schwab like Chad Prather have never held a political office and doesn’t have any political experience.
Paul Belew, Criminal Defense Attorney
A criminal defense attorney from Wise County in North Texas, Paul Belew announced his run on a podcast. Belew, like most of Abbott’s primary challengers, lacks political experience.
Belew wants to “make Texas more Texas again.” Interestingly, his platform includes legalizing casinos and marijuana to generate more revenue. In a common theme amongst Abbott’s challengers, Belew disapproves of the state’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At one point Texas used to be a great destination state. Now Galveston beach is closed down basically and their economy is decimated from COVID,” Belew said. “It’s nobody’s fault but I think it was handled maybe incorrectly.”
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call