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Matt Mackowiak launches last minute bid for Texas GOP chair

Matt Mackowiak — political consultant, chair of the Travis County GOP, and co-founder of the group Save Austin Now — launched a last-minute bid for the Republican Party of Texas’ (RPT) top spot, the election for which will occur at next week’s convention.

“This morning, I am proud to announce that with six days to go until the Republican Convention opens in San Antonio, I am now a candidate for Texas GOP chair,” Mackowiak told Mark Davis in a radio spot.

“The Republican Party of Texas has never been weaker as an organization. At RPT, our job is to pass a platform and legislative priorities that reflect the grassroots. Then fight like hell to get as much of that done as we can to recruit candidates to raise money and then to win an election.”

Mackowiak then specified that he thinks three of the candidates — current Vice Chair Dana Myers, Mike Garcia, and Ben Armenta — are “fine” but that his goal is to ensure former Collin County GOP Chair Abraham George is not the next state chairman. Weston Martinez is also in the race, who’s been endorsed by Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Myers had been running since before current Chairman Matt Rinaldi announced he wouldn’t seek re-election; Rinaldi made that announcement on March 15 and then endorsed George to succeed him in a clearly coordinated string of events.

Rinaldi responded to Mackowiak's candidacy.

"Matt Mackowiak is best known as a grifter and a self promoter. And he ran the Travis County Republican Party in the ground. He talks about the party finances which are good but he couldn't even pay as $1,000 a month rent for nine months and had the Travis County Republican Party in debt. And perhaps he's best known for his profanity laced tirade, threatening the only Republican female city council member and often so he's an absolutely unacceptable candidate."

"We don't need a party that's going to be the property of Karl Rove and TLR. We need a party that's going to be a grassroots party. And I do have faith in the grassroots that they're going to reject Matt, and choose someone like Abraham George is going to lead us in the right direction," said Rinaldi.

Before he announced, Mackowiak asked at least two of the three candidates he mentioned to drop out of the race and endorse him.

Armenta called it “insulting” and said he would not be dropping out.

Mackowiak’s candidacy is a direct effort to oppose George, who’s supported by Rinaldi, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and the growing-in-influence wing of the GOP behind them. Despite the Paxton endorsement, neither George nor any other candidate has really separated from the pack in this race.

“My concern is that Abraham George is an unacceptable choice to be state chair, period. Full stop,” Mackowiak told Davis. “His record in Collin County is weak. That is a Republican county that is becoming a purple county. And the most important thing that happened while he was county chair in Collin County is he lost a Republican state house seat. So that's his record there.”

Battle lines in this race do not mirror exactly those that surrounded the Paxton impeachment last year, but they are similar — a continuation of the long-running struggle over the direction of Texas’ majority party.

Mackowiak first became Travis County GOP chair in 2017 when he defeated former Austin City Councilman Don Zimmerman. From 2007 to 2009, he served as press secretary for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). He runs the political consulting firm Potomac Strategy Group.

A longtime operative and activist in GOP circles, Mackowiak founded the group Save Austin Now, which succeeded in reinstating the city’s public camping ban following its two-year experiment in unregulated homeless encampments. Mackowiak and Save Austin Now were unsuccessful in their second ballot initiative effort to establish a minimum staffing level at the Austin Police Department amid rampant attrition that still lingers today.

Convention delegates will choose the next chair on Friday next week following state Senate caucus conventions and the recommendation from the Nominations Committee.

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