Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak announces run to lead state Republican Party

Matt Mackowiak at an Austin on Sept. 20, 2024. (John Jordan/The Texas Tribune, John Jordan/The Texas Tribune)

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Travis County GOP leader Matt Mackowiak said Friday he is running for chair of the Republican Party of Texas, offering a scathing condemnation of the party’s current leadership.

Mackowiak, a longtime political consultant who has chaired the Travis County party since 2017, joins a crowded field to replace outgoing state Republican party Chair Matt Rinaldi when delegates meet next week at the party’s biennial convention in San Antonio. The race has to some extent become a referendum on Rinaldi, under whom the party’s divisions have significantly deepened, and its fundraising and staffing levels have plummeted.

Mackowiak cited the disunity and dilapidated fundraising in his announcement, blasting the “current crop of clowns who have destroyed our party” and noting that the state party only has five employees with months to go before the 2024 presidential election.

“It is time to have a competent fundraiser and someone who knows how to win tough races in the office of RPT chairman,” he said in a statement. “We need someone who will actively raise money, unify our party, seek to win general elections (not just primary elections), recruit GOP candidates, seek to grow our primary turnout, train volunteers, assist our county parties and auxiliaries, win elections, and successfully push to pass our conservative reforms in the platform and through our legislative priorities — through constructive partnership, not attacks, threats, and childish insults.”

His foray into the race comes amid an ongoing civil war between the party’s far right and more moderate, but still deeply conservative, wings. Rinaldi has been a key figure in that division, using the chair to attack incumbent Republicans and more closely align the party with Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, two West Texas oil tycoons who have for years funded attacks on the party establishment.

Under Rinaldi, Dunn and Wilks have become by far the party’s biggest donors. In turn, Rinaldi has used the chair to defend their the billionaires’ political network from a series of scandals and setbacks, including after the leader of their political action committee was caught last year hosting Nick Fuentes, an avowed white supremacist who frequently praises Adolf Hitler and has told his followers to beat women. Rinaldi was spotted outside the Fuentes meeting in October, but denied meeting him or knowing he was inside. He condemned Fuentes, but spent the next months attacking critics of the billionaires’ network — while also quietly working as an attorney for Wilks.

In his statement, Mackowiak, 44, cited what he said was “five years of neglect, dishonesty, self-dealing, and blatant anti-Semitism” within the party, and argued that Rinaldi’s chosen candidate for chair, Abraham George, would leave prominent Republicans vulnerable in November.

George is a former Collin County GOP chair who recently ran for the Texas House with heavy backing from Dunn and Wilks. Other candidates for party chair include Dana Meyers, the RPT’s current vice chair; Houston-area businessman Ben Armenta; Mike Garcia, executive director of the Texas House Freedom Caucus; and former Real Estate Commissioner Weston Martinez.

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