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Key takeaways from the Texas GOP convention as the midterm election season nears

TX Gov. Greg Abbott ready for a fight, Sen. John Cornyn plays the long game and GOP eyes South Texas.

By Gromer Jeffers Jr.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott addresses the attendees during the 2022 Republican Party of Texas State Convention Welcome Reception at The Rustic restaurant in Houston, Texas on Thursday, June 16, 2022.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

HOUSTON — Texas Republicans exited their state convention Saturday confident that they will have sweeping victories over Democrats in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Republicans also hope their conservative principles and legislative proposals attract minority residents to the mostly white party.

The November elections are a chance for the GOP to build on gains it’s made in South Texas.

With President Joe Biden struggling in the polls, it might be a banner year for the GOP.

Texas Democrats will have their state convention next month in Dallas.

Until then, here are three takeaways from last week’s GOP confab:

Greg Abbott readying for a fight

Seeking a third term as Texas governor, Republican Greg Abbott spent some of his campaign fund on wining and dining delegates during the opening reception of the convention.

Abbott didn’t appear on the convention floor to speak to delegates, instead opting to give remarks at the opening reception, where he picked up the tab for beer, chips and other snacks.

Polls show that recent issues impacting Texas may be hurting Abbott with voters, including the Uvalde mass shooting. A Quinnipiac University survey found Abbott’s lead over Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke down to 5 percentage points.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott talks with Delegate Patty Johnson from Senate District 27 next to an ambulance laminated with propaganda about Democratic candidate for governor of Texas Beto O’Rouke during the 2022 Republican Party of Texas State Convention Welcome Reception with Texas Governor Greg Abbott at The Rustic restaurant in Houston, Texas on Thursday, June 16, 2022.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

But Abbott hasn’t begun spending money from his sizable campaign funds to tear into O’Rourke. It’s coming, though. The governor’s reelection campaign unveiled an ambulance that will follow O’Rourke around to campaign stops. The vehicle is marked up with some of O’Rourke’s positions that conservatives say are too liberal.

Bottom line: Abbott’s third statewide campaign will be his toughest, and he’ll need a unified party to make sure he comes out of it looking good.

John Cornyn takes one for the team

It’s not unusual for Sen. John Cornyn to get heckled at a Texas GOP convention. But delegates really let him have it at last week’s convention, constantly booing him over perceptions that he’s ready to make a deal with Democrats on curbing mass shootings.

Cornyn insists that he’s not supporting any policy that would impact the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. That didn’t comfort the delegates, who are most likely upset that Cornyn is having dialogue with Senate Democrats on the issue. A compromise has hit a snag and it’s unclear whether legislation will hit the Senate floor this week.

Sen. John Cornyn took flak from Texas Republican convention delegates for working with...
Sen. John Cornyn took flak from Texas Republican convention delegates for working with Senate Democrats on gun safety legislation in the wake of the Uvalde elementary school massacre.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

Texas’ senior senator is playing the long game. He’s taking the heat in Texas, but his efforts to come up with solutions to mass shootings could help Republican Senate candidates in tight races across the country.

Cornyn, who was reelected in 2020, will accept being jeered at a Texas convention if it means Republicans will take control of the Senate.

Republicans bragging about South Texas prospects

When former President Donald Trump in 2020 did better than expected with Hispanic voters in South Texas, it gave Republicans hope that they could make inroads into the Democratic Party stronghold.

Speaker after speaker at the Texas GOP convention mentioned the prospect of winning congressional seats and improving GOP vote totals in the area.

Cassy Garcia, Republican nominee for Texas' 28th Congressional District, is one of two GOP...
Cassy Garcia, Republican nominee for Texas’ 28th Congressional District, is one of two GOP female standard bearers in heavily Hispanic South Texas.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

They think their conservative message related to God, family and country is working, even as others view many of their policy proposals as extreme.

Last week Mayra Flores won a special congressional election in South Texas’ District 34, but she will have a hard time holding the redrawn and heavily Democratic district in November. Two other Hispanic women are standard bearers in South Texas congressional races — Monica De La Cruz in the 15th District and Cassy Garcia in the 28th District.

Lots of GOP money from inside and outside Texas will flow in the Rio Grande Valley, and Democrats are expected to respond with a push to hold their ground.

The November midterm elections will show us if GOP aspirations in South Texas are merely hype or reality.

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