As the battle for control of the Travis County GOP heats up, and its newly elected chair writes increasingly raunchy tweets at breakneck speed, Gov. Greg Abbott has stepped into the fray to condemn his fellow Republican.
“Robert Morrow in no way speaks for the Republican Party or its values,” read a statement from Abbott’s office Thursday. “He cannot adequately represent the Travis County GOP.”
Although Abbott rarely addresses controversies within his own party, the Travis County GOP — whose territory includes the governor’s mansion — has been roiled by Morrow’s recent election. Morrow, an outspoken conspiracy theorist who regularly opines on the sexual predilections of political leaders in both parties, was elected chair by a clear margin Tuesday night.
In a tweet, Morrow made it clear he disagreed with Abbott. “I am the elected face of the Travis Cty Republican party,” he tweeted Thursday, citing Abbott’s statement. “The people have spoken.”
And although Mackowiak has pledged to take any action possible to remove Morrow from office, those efforts will likely come to naught, according to ethics expert Buck Wood, an attorney familiar with county bylaws. Unless Morrow resigns or commits a felony, Wood said, the position is his to hold.
Morrow told the Tribune he had no intention of resigning, adding that anyone opposed to him could “go fuck themselves.”
“They elected him county chair, and for two years, he’s going to be county chair,” Wood told the Tribune. “They can try to talk him into stepping down — but other than that, they just screwed up.”
I’m not an election law expert, but I can use Google, and so I will quote from this Texas GOP Vote post from 2011 in which a question about removing a county party chair was sent to the Secretary of State:
You ask whether there is a method under which a county party chair may be removed by the state executive committee or by a county executive committee. We do not believe so. The Secretary of State’s long standing position has been that there is no means provided in the Texas Election Code (the “Code”) to remove a county chair, as most recently expressed in the attached letter to State Representative Joe Farias concerning a similar issue with the Bexar County Democratic Party chair. This office may in past correspondence have acknowledged the role party rules generally play in political party affairs, but the Secretary of State has not to our knowledge stated that a county chair may be removed from office by party rule. Chapter 171 of the Code provides procedures for party organization including the process of filling county chair vacancies, while Chapter 172 provides the primary election procedures.
As noted above, both chapters are silent as to removal of a county chair once the chair has been elected by party members of the county voting at the primary election. We note that there are no cases or Attorney General opinions directly on point on this subject. We suggest state law has in effect preempted the election process for the primary-holding parties, while the parties retain authority over the elements of their required rules as set out in Section 163.002 of the Code. A more recent example of this state authority is provided in Section 171.0251, which created a process by which a member of the executive committee called to active military service may appoint a replacement to serve on the committee during his or her time in active service. It is this office’s position that in the absence of express authority under the Code, the party may not by rule create a removal procedure for county chairs.
So there you have it. This is going to be so much fun to watch.