Texas GOP picks another Abbott critic to lead state party

Texas Republicans have chosen former state Rep. Matt Rinaldi to replace Allen West as chairman of the state GOP.

The State Republican Executive Committee voted on Sunday to name Rinaldi as the party’s new leader. West, a former Florida congressman who has served as Texas GOP chair for just under a year, announced last month that he would step down to challenge Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottTexas House to launch investigation into school library books Vicente Gonzalez to run in different Texas district after Abbott signs new map Abbott signs sports bill targeting transgender students in Texas MORE for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

“I’m honored the SREC chose me to lead the Party into the ever-important 2022 election cycle,” Rinaldi said in a statement. “Republican state office holders and legislative majorities have led this State to prosperity and success. We look forward to continuing to make Texas a beacon of freedom for other states to emulate.”

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Rinaldi represented northwest Dallas County in the state House from 2015 until 2019. He lost his 2018 reelection bid to Democrat Julie Johnson. 

West, who ousted James Dickey as the chair of the Texas Republican Party in 2020, has put himself at odds with other state leaders since taking office last year. He has been particularly critical of Abbott’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Rinaldi has likewise spoken out against Abbott’s response to COVID-19 and the state’s use of pandemic-related restrictions. He previously backed former state Sen. Don Huffines’s primary bid against Abbott, though he withdrew that endorsement on Monday after being named state GOP chair.

Huffines had invited Rinaldi to retract his endorsement, saying that he wanted “to remove any excuses for Texas not fully uniting behind Matt.”