Allen West, the chair of the Texas Republican Party, announced his resignation on Friday as he teased a potential run for statewide office.
He will remain chairman until his replacement is picked on July 11, the Texas GOP said in a statement.
“It has been my distinct honor to serve as Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. I pray Godspeed for this governing body,” said West, who submitted his “irrevocable resignation” Friday morning.
The Texas GOP said West will “take this opportunity to prayerfully reflect on a new chapter” in his political career.
West, a one-term Florida congressman and retired Army lieutenant colonel, was first elected Texas GOP chair last year as a strong supporter of then-President Donald Trump and critic of Texas’ coronavirus restrictions.
The Texas GOP lauded West for his “tireless effort to make gains on our Legislative Priorities such as Constitutional Carry, the Heart Beat Bill, and Election Integrity.”
But West’s time as GOP chair, which was set to expire in a couple months, was marked by controversy as he broke with the norms of the role to criticize Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and fellow Texas Republicans rather than work to unite the party.
In interviews after the 2020 presidential election, West falsely suggested that Texas could secede from the United States and become an independent country. He also promoted Trump’s debunked claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
West protested last fall with other prominent conservatives against the Abbott’s Covid-19 restrictions and mask mandate and sued the governor for extending early voting amid the pandemic. Abbott plans to run for reelection in 2022 and already faces a GOP primary, but has Trump’s backing for a third term.
In an interview with CNN’s Ed Lavandera last week, West did not rule out a possible run for governor.
Speaking with reporters in Whitehouse, Texas, on Friday, West remained open to other statewide offices, including Texas land commissioner now that George P. Bush is running for attorney general, or a bid for Congress.
Asked why he felt it was time to leave after only a year on the job, West claimed that the party is in a “strong” financial position, concluded a legislative session and was successful in municipal elections.
“There’s a window of opportunity for you to consider something like this. I don’t want to have a conflict of interest and focusing on that, and not being able to fully give myself 110% to the Republican Party of Texas,” he said. “So I would rather be able to step aside from this and focus, and make sure that I can continue on service, maybe in a different way.”
But some Texas Republicans have been critical of Allen’s approach to the role.
The role of the Texas GOP chairman is to raise money, support elected officials and help Republican candidates get elected, which Allen did not accomplish, Chad Wilbanks, a former Texas GOP executive director, told CNN, claiming Allen’s actions soured state grassroots activists and alienated the GOP base.
“It was almost like he was angling for a statewide office by tearing down the Republican Party,” Wilbanks said of Allen’s past criticism of Abbott and others.
Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak accused West of using his tenure to “provide him a platform for his political future, not an opportunity to build the party.”
“Allen West has always been all about himself, leaving disaster in his wake,” Mackowiak wrote on Twitter, claiming that West inherited a strong party from former Texas GOP chairs that is now “in the weakest financial position in at least 10 years.”
“For 7+ months, our state chair has been unconscionably attacking our statewide officials, rallying with Alex Jones at the Governor’s mansion, attacking our new Speaker, and doing the rhetorical work of Texas Democrats,” he said.
He also said West had stuck the party with an expensive security contract, ended the voter registration effort and cut the party’s field program.
Mackowiack reiterated his sentiments to CNN, calling West a “total phony from the beginning” and arguing that West’s “ambition forced him to do the first decent thing he’s done as chair.”
CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.