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There Are A Few Never Trump Republicans In Texas

Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott greet Donald Trump at the bottom of the stairs of a plane at Dallas Love Field Airport.
Alex Brandon/AP
(l-r) Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott greet President Trump at Dallas Love Field Airport in June.

Republicans in Texas are overwhelmingly behind President Trump’s reelection, as are statewide officials like Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton.

But a few past GOP leaders support Democrat Joe Biden, including former Congressmen Alan Steelman and Steve Bartlett.

Perhaps the most prominent Texas Republican who is reportedly skeptical of Trump, former President George W. Bush, has made no public remarks about the 2020 race, although the New York Times reported in June that Bush wouldn’t vote for Trump.

In a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday, Jacob Monty, who was appointed to two positions by Bush, called on him to make a public statement.

“I urge President Bush to denounce him and join so many Republicans and so many members of his own team that have jumped on board with Joe Biden,” Monty said.

Monty is a lawyer and was formerly on the University of Houston’s Board of Regents. Despite previously serving on Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, he now says Trump is an existential threat to both democracy and the Republican Party.

The call was organized by the Texas Democratic Party, and included Steelman, Bartlett, Monty, and former Republican consultant Pierre DuBois.

“No one cares about the opinions of disgruntled former politicians,” said Trump Victory Spokesperson Samantha Cotten. “Texans are enthusiastic to reelect President Trump for four more years.”

Texas Republicans are. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll taken from late September to early October showed 92% of likely Republican voters said they would vote for Trump.

The presidential race overall, however, looks much closer than it was four years ago. A Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday had the race even. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by nine points in 2016.

Despite their unity on ousting Trump, Bartlett and DuBois disagreed on whether to support the reelection of U.S. Senator John Cornyn.

Cornyn recently told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he disagreed with President Trump privately on some issues, and tried to influence him behind the scenes.

In the Senate, though, Cornyn has almost always supported the president, as tracked by the news website FiveThirtyEight. For example, Cornyn voted against a proposal to block Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to fund a border wall. He also voted against convicting the president in the impeachment trial.

Bartlett said he supports down-ballot Republicans, and Cornyn in particular. He called him a source of “quiet strength.”

“I think John Cornyn, looking forward to a Biden presidency, will be a voice of reason and a voice of coming together, and a voice of rebuilding the traditional Republican Party,” Bartlett said.

DuBois, on the other hand, said Cornyn’s interview with the Star-Telegram is just the senator angling for political survival, calling it “too little too late.”

DuBois said he tells his friends to vote against all Republicans.

“If we want to rebuild the Republican Party after this election, there needs to be an absolute repudiation of it,” DuBois said.

Cornyn is running for his fourth Senate term. His opponent is Democrat M.J. Hegar, an Air Force veteran.

The Quinnipiac University poll showed a competitive race, with Hegar six points behind Cornyn.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.