State Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican from The Woodlands, has withdrawn his support of Gov. Greg Abbott, arguing the GOP leader has "betrayed the trust of conservative Texans" over his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Throughout this crisis, you have shown an appalling lack of consistency, leadership, and concern for the small business owners that are the primary driver of the Texas economy," Toth wrote in a letter to Abbott the lawmaker shared on social media Tuesday. "What started as 15 days to flatten the curve has turned into six months of misery to the small business owners of House District 15."
Toth, who is a member of the hardline Texas House Freedom Caucus, is the latest from that faction of the GOP to express disapproval with how Abbott has handled shutdowns to the state economy in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. As of Sept. 22, nearly 15,000 Texans who tested positive for the virus have died, though the number of daily new cases and hospitalizations have been trending down.
Various Republican lawmakers and other conservative activists have argued that Abbott has overused his emergency powers in responding to the pandemic and that his timelines for reopening parts of the economy are arbitrary and hurting businesses. Abbott has also faced pushback from many Democrats and local officials who say he moved too quickly to reopen.
"Having exhausted every attempt at persuasion," Toth wrote, "I am writing to inform you of my decision to withdraw my support for your leadership as the elected Governor of the State of Texas."
A spokesperson for Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Throughout the pandemic, Toth hasn't been shy to defy Abbott and his reopening orders. In May, Toth, along with state Rep. Briscoe Cain a Deer Park Republican and fellow member of the Freedom Caucus, broke state law by receiving haircuts — an act of civil disobedience they argued was designed to help make the case businesses should be allowed to operate as long as they follow precautions. Hair salons are now allowed to operate in the state, with some restrictions.
In his letter, Toth wrote that the governor's "own original guidelines ... have made it impossible for these entrepreneurs to predict when they can reopen without restrictions" and suggested Abbott does not care "that many of them are likely to close and enter bankruptcy as you continue to wield your Emergency Declarations in an unprecedented way."
"What has become clear that you have no plan for how and when to end this nightmare," Toth wrote. "Stop using polling data to shape your response instead of using the ample downward data on hospitalizations and new infections."