FILE - Downtown Houston Texas flag

The U.S. flag and Texas state flag fly in downtown Houston.

(The Center Square) – Retired Lt. Col. Allen West, a former congressman and leader of the Republican Party of Texas, is running for governor of Texas. West becomes the fourth Republican challenger to incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott in the GOP primary next spring.

West declared his candidacy at a July Fourth appearance at Sojourn Church in Carrollton, Texas. In a launch video shown at the church, he said, "I can no longer sit on the sidelines and see what has happened in these United States of America.”

West also told The Texan: “I’m not running against anybody. I’m running for Texas.”

A conservative Republican, West has been a vocal critic of Abbott’s. The state legislature this past session passed two of the Texas GOP’s nine priority legislative items, with a Republican trifecta government.

In October 2020, West participated in a "Free Texas" protest outside of the governor's mansion after Abbott’s COVID-related restrictions on individuals and businesses. He called on Abbott to reopen the state, arguing that many of the jobs lost because of the state shutdown would not come back.

"We call upon the governor to do what is right by the people of the great state of Texas so that Texas can continue to be a leader,” West said at the time.

Abbott was elected governor in 2014 and he was easily reelected in 2018. His approval rate plummeted over his handling of the pandemic, resulting in severe job and economic losses. A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll shows Abbott’s approval rating at 44%.

A recent Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll shows Abbott beating one of his opponents, Dallas businessman and former state Sen. Don Huffines, 77% to 12%.

While Huffines might have more campaign financing initially, West has greater national and statewide name recognition. He also has support across racial and socioeconomic demographics, including widespread support among conservatives and evangelicals.

In his video announcement, West included names of early Texas heroes who came from Georgia, where he was born, and from Tennessee, where he went to school. As a Black man, he said he related to Black Texans who formed the Republican Party of Texas on July 4, 1867, a party he would later head in 2020.

As a son of military parents and retired military lieutenant colonel, he invoked a tradition of service modeled by his parents, who are both buried in a military cemetery in Georgia. West spent 22 years in the army; as a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division in combat during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and later in Afghanistan. He’s received a Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service medals, three Army Commendation medals and a Valorous Unit Award.

After retiring from the Army, West was elected to Congress, representing Florida in 2010 where he served one term. He was narrowly defeated two years later.

Invoking his parents’ memory, his career of service, and his faith in God, West said he was asked to “come back for service, for God, country and for Texas for a time such as this. That’s why I’m running to be your governor.”