Politics & Government

Texas GOP shelves plans to secede from nation — for now

Delegate Douglas Marshall in the Donald Trump booth during the second day of the Republican Party of Texas state convention in Dallas Friday.
Delegate Douglas Marshall in the Donald Trump booth during the second day of the Republican Party of Texas state convention in Dallas Friday. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Texas isn’t going anywhere.

For now, at least.

An effort to give Texas Republicans the option of voting to secede — and become an independent nation — was voted down and not included in the party’s platform late Friday.

“Who better to represent the will of Texas than Texans?” argued delegate Jim Baxa on the second day of the Republican Party of Texas state convcention. “Should we be represented by people with a whole different value system, 2,000 miles away from Texas?

“I say we secede now,” he said. “But this platform language is a start.”

More delegates disagreed than agreed.

“The reality is Texas will never secede,” said Pat Carlson, a Fort Worth delegate.

But secession has been a long-talked-about topic by politicians even at the highest level in the Lone Star State.

Then-Gov. Rick Perry hinted at it in 2009, saying he understands how some Texans might become so frustrated with federal taxes and ever-increasing spending by Congress that they want to secede.

But he also said that “we’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it.”

An organized effort this year, through the Texas Nationalist Movement — a secessionist group — helped move the proposal through more than a handful of senatorial or county conventions. When efforts to get the proposal on the platform failed, supporters proposed the idea again during the platform debate Friday.

“I am a Texan, but I am an American first,” one delegate argued. “Do you think the rest of the country will respect Texas when we talk about nullification?

“Texas will be the laughingstock.”

This debate came on the second day of the GOP convention, hours after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s announced that he has advised schools statewide to ignore a new federal directive to let transgender students use restrooms that match their gender identity or risk losing federal funding.

Texas Democrats chastised Republicans for even debating the issue.

“Instead of focusing on fixing our schools, raising incomes for hardworking Texas families, or expanding opportunities for Texans, the party that controls the majority of our state government is focused on one of the most un-American, unpatriotic things I’ve ever seen,” said Crystal Kay Perkins, executive director of the Democratic Party.

“The Republican Party is dead. All that is left is a bunch of crackpots and traitors.”

The GOP convention wraps up Saturday, when it is expected to feature speeches by U.S. Sen. and former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Tarrant County Commissioner Andy Nguyen.

Party platform

The party’s ever-evolving platform, often known to draw national attention, is an outline of the party’s beliefs that candidates do not always, nor are required, to follow.

The lengthy document has drawn massive media attention in recent years for controversial positions such as changing stances on immigration and supporting reparative therapy to help gay Texans reject their homosexual lifestyle.

It has been whittled down from 40 pages in 2014 to 26 pages this year.

For the first time, delegates didn’t approve the overall party platform by a voice vote.

Instead, they discussed proposed planks, as usual, and then each delegate used a scan tron ballot to vote on whether or not to include each of the 266 proposed planks.

The results are expected before the convention convenes.

‘Bathroom battle’

“In Texas, [President Barack Obama] can keep his 30 pieces of silver,” Patrick said. “We will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States.

“If this doesn’t wake up the parents of Fort Worth, I don’t know what will.”

Speaking before the morning session at the State GOP Convention in Dallas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks about the FWISD transgendered bathroom controversy.

The question of who can go into which public restroom, based on the gender a person identifies with now or the one they were born with, became national news after North Carolina officials passed a law requiring transgender people to use restrooms that correspond with the sex indicated on their birth certificate.

The issue, which has already come up in a handful of Texas cities, erupted in Fort Worth this week when Patrick called for Fort Worth school Superintendent Kent Scribner’s resignation over guidelines outlining bathroom use, sparking protests on both sides of the issue.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick talks about his conflict the the Fort Worth ISD over bathroom policy for transgender students.

Paxton on Friday said the Obama administration overstepped its authority with this guidance, which “must be challenged.”

“If President Obama thinks he can bully Texas schools into allowing men to have open access to girls in bathrooms, he better prepare for yet another legal fight,” he said.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn also said the president shouldn’t be weighing in on the restroom debate.

“This president just needs to do his job and get out of the way,” he said, adding that he believes “men ought to be able to go to the men’s room and women ought to be able to go to the women’s room.”

The new federal guidance, sent Friday to public schools across the country from the education and justice departments, says public schools must treat transgender students in the way they identify with gender, even if their birth certificate or other records note a different sex, or the schools risk losing federal funds.

Cornyn also became the latest elected official to urge Texas delegates to embrace Donald Trump as the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

He said he had a chance to meet with Trump recently and he invited him to Texas’ state convention. Cornyn said Trump looked interested in coming, but his organizers indicated he had a busy schedule.

While there are many Ted Cruz supporters in the Texas GOP, Cornyn told reporters that “the most important thing is to unite … and make sure Barack Obama doesn’t have a third term.”

“We have so much at stake that needs to be repaired,” he said. “ No protest votes, no staying at home. People need to become unified.”

Convention officials reported 7,082 attendees — 5,749 delegates and 1,333 alternates.

Battle for party leadership

The much anticipated battle for party chairman — between current Chairman Tom Mechler and Houston attorney and challenger Jared Woodfill — quickly fizzled when Woodfill withdrew his candidacy and asked delegates to support Mechler as chairman.

After losing the vote in most Senate district caucuses, Woodfill, a former Harris County Republican Party chairman, asked delegates to support Mechler, who was named to the post to replace Steve Munisteri, the former GOP chairman who left the job to help with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s now-defunct presidential campaign.

“Our Party is strongest when we are united, and I look forward to working each and every day to keep the RPT the most dominant state party in the country,” Mechler said in a statement. “Today the work begins to demolish the Democrats this November.”

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about taxes, guns, abortion, the border, Hillary Clinton and Wendy Davis, among other things.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley