On Wednesday, Jared Woodfill, the former Harris County Republican Party chairman, announced his run to be chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, as pretty much everyone has anticipated. It is “time to fight the good fight!” he says.
Woodfill warned in an email to supporters announcing his candidacy that Texas is in the grips of a "cultural war," pinning himself as the man to make sure true Texas conservatism would win the day. And at least in Houston, Woodfill has certainly found ways to place himself at the front lines of the culture wars.
Perhaps most memorably, he helped quash guaranteed equality for thousands of Houstonians last November after twisting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance into a public safety threat in bathrooms, claiming that, somehow, the ordinance would make it legal for "gender-confused men" to enter women's bathrooms and assault daughters and wives. "No men in women's bathrooms!" he proclaimed. Sixty-one percent of Houstonians apparently bought into his messaging, choosing to vote no. (His message seemed a little emptier a week later, when we discovered he was representing a man sued for photographing women changing into swimsuits without their knowledge — in a bathroom.)
More recently, Woodfill has emerged as one of the attorneys representing one of two anti-abortion activists who used fake IDs to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic in an attempt to prove the clinic was selling fetal organs. After their videos prompted a local criminal investigation, a Harris County grand jury last week instead cleared Planned Parenthood and indicted both activists for using fake IDs and one for "unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly offering to buy human organs, namely, fetal tissue, for valuable consideration.” Woodfill has blamed the indictments on a "runaway grand jury" and has called for a new investigation.
As Woodfill begins to tour the state with the slogan "Take Back the Party!" it's clear that both of these apparent "good fights" will be a huge part of his campaign. As we noted months ago, defeating HERO would likely bolster Woodfill's future political prospects. His campaign relies on the premise that other Republicans simply aren't conservative enough to fight for conservative values in the way that he has, and that, somehow, true conservatives are floundering and at risk in the big red state of Texas. "Friends, we are engaged in a cultural war and our Republican Party of Texas leadership is running from the fight!" he writes. "One need only look at the 2015 legislative sessions to find evidence of the RPT surrendering our values." He has put down the likes of House Speaker Joe Straus and Representatives Debbie Riddle and Byron Cook, criticizing them for not being pro-life enough.
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Given the slim turnout at Woodfill's rallies to "take back" his party, it's unclear how substantial his chances are at the chairman seat. The Texas Tribune noted only 30 people showed up to one of them, at his brother's church in Spring; when we attended one at a Pasadena church in January, we counted about 25. At the rally, the 25 mostly older white supporters heard from a host of speakers who condemned homosexuals, transgender people, Muslims and liberals in general. As Woodfill reminded them that there are a host of problems facing Texas Republicans, here's how he suggested they start fixing them: prayer.