New State GOP Boss Challenges Dem Chairman
to Duels Patterned on Lincoln-Douglas Debates
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
July 23, 2020
Newly-minted Texas Republican Chairman Allen West challenged his Democratic counterpart on Thursday night to a series of rhetorical duels that he wants to fashion after the legendary debates that featured Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858.
West already had a pretty full plate with plans to restart the GOP's virtual convention at some point in the wake of its initial unraveling that ended on Monday with his election as the new state chair and a substantial amount of unfinished party business hanging in limbo.
West outlined the Lincoln-Douglas style debates that he envisions in an email that he crafted as a formal invitation to Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa to join him in the verbal sparring that he pitched as a public service opportunity.
The Lincoln-Douglas debates revolved on slavery like the Civil War between the union and the southern states would do several years later. The debates that West has proposed - ironically perhaps - would presumably spend significant time on the subject of Confederate monuments that Republicans at the Texas party convention voted to try to protect with state platform planks and legislative priorities they plan to formally approve at a second convention.
The new state Republican leader asserted that he and Hinojosa have a mutual obligation to educate voters on each other's party.
"This debate format will allow us to highlight the philosophical difference of our respective parties as well as highlight policy distinctions," West said. "I trust you agree, that this pro endeavor would provide a tremendous educational benefit and would be an excellent service to the public."
West - a retired Army officer who represented Florida for one term in Congress - is putting himself in some heady company with the push to model an unspecified number of debates with the TDP chief on the historic encounters that took place in Illinois two years before Lincoln's election as a president.
Hinojosa might be inclined to decline for a number of reasons including the fact that the Democrats appear to have little or nothing to gain from such an event at a time when the Republicans are coming apart at the seams without the need for outside help. The veteran Democratic Party chairman who's a successful attorney has appeared to realize that the Democrats should be trying to stay as far away from the GOP's Texas cannibal fest and a new state chairman who had strong support from conservatives who've blasted Governor Greg Abbott relentlessly for actions he's taken since the initial COVID-19 outbreak here in March.
West has yet to point out in his first two official party emails that Democrat Joe Biden has pulled even with President Donald Trump in Texas while the former president has growing leads in other swing states. Biden has a 13-point lead over the incumbent in a Quinnipiac University poll today on in the critical battleground of Florida where West represented a coastal district north of Miami before losing to a Democrat in 2012 in his first re-election bid.
Texas will be irrelevant in the presidential election in November if Trump fails to carry Florida where he'd been planning to stage the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville before finally pulling the plug on the in-person event on Thursday before West reached out to Hinojosa.
West faces one of his most formidable challenges on a separate but related front with the GOP majority in the Texas House on the line in 2020 when Democrats could take over with a net gain of nine seats.
But West appears undaunted by the potentially insurmountable obstacles that he faces in his debut as the state party leader after unseating James Dickey in a lopsided election at the tumultuous on-again, off-again state party convention on Zoom.
But West probably shouldn't be surprised if Hinojosa responds to the dueling chairs dare by making jokes about it and the opposing party's lack of focus on the real prizes with the general election less than four months away.
Dear Chairman Hinojosa
As you are aware, I was elected on July 20th, 2020. I’m writing to you today to request a series of debates between us starting in August or early September to discuss the critical differences between our parties for the purpose of educating voters. They would be a Lincoln-Douglas style, and each of us would be able to choose a moderator. Locations can be decided as we progress.
This debate format will allow us to highlight the philosophical difference of our respective parties as well as highlight policy distinctions. I trust you agree, that this pro endeavor would provide a tremendous educational benefit and would be an excellent service to the public.
As the leaders of our respective parties in Texas, it is our shared responsibility to provide voters with an informed understanding of where we align and where we do not.
I look forward to hearing from you and hope we can come to an arrangement shortly.