The Ector County Republican Party voted Saturday to censure Gov. Greg Abbott, accusing him of overstepping his authority in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, while state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, called for a special session so lawmakers could have a say in how Texas proceeds amid soaring caseloads.
The party executive committee in Ector County, home to Odessa, passed the censure resolution 10-1, with one abstention and three voting members who were not present, according to the chairperson, Tisha Crow. She said she was among those who supported the resolution, which accuses Abbott of violating five party principles related to his exercise of executive power during the pandemic.
While the resolution asks that delegates to the state convention later this month consider — and affirm — Ector County's action, Crow said consideration is "not guaranteed," and one precinct chair, Aubrey Mayberry, said the resolution "doesn't have any teeth" for now — but that it was important to send a message about what they consider Abbott's overreach.
Mayberry, who voted for the resolution, said he was working with precinct chairs in other Texas counties to get similar resolutions passed ahead of the convention.
The Ector County vote came two days after Abbott took one of his most sweeping executive actions yet, requiring Texans in most public places to wear masks. For months, Abbott has used his executive authority aggressively to respond to the pandemic, forcing hospitals to suspend elective surgeries, ordering Texans to stay at home in April except for essential activities, and shutting down certain businesses — and then reopening them before COVID-19 cases surged. Texas is now one of the nation's epicenters for the virus.
Perry wrote Saturday on Facebook that he is "deeply concerned about the unilateral power being used with no end in sight."
"This is why I urge Governor Abbott to convene a special session to allow the legislature to pass legislation and hold hearings regarding the COVID-19 response," Perry said. "It should not be the sole responsibility of one person to manage all of the issues related to a disaster that has no end in sight."
In the upper chamber, state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, has also called for a special session, as have several House Republicans.
Abbott has not explicitly ruled out a special session before the Legislature meets again in January. In a TV interview Friday, though, he made clear it was not his preference at this point.
"The important thing is that we have the capability of responding very swiftly, and now is just not the time [to call the Legislature back]," Abbott told KTRK in Houston. "I will say that all possibilities will always remain on the table, but right now we're just making sure that we do all the right things to ensure that we're putting public health and safety first and that we reduce the spread of the coronavirus."