Robert Morrow’s short, weird and nationally famous tenure as Travis County Republican Party chairman is over.
Unsurprisingly, the end was accompanied by a farcical moment as Morrow tried to crash Friday morning’s press conference by party officials who were eager to announce that he was out as chairman, only to be thrown out of the room.
As he was being escorted away, Morrow said he agreed that his recently launched write-in candidacy for president had, under state election law, disqualified him from continuing to serve as county party chairman.
“Their interpretation of election law is correct,” Morrow, in the colorful jester cap he’s often worn since becoming chairman at the end of June, called out in answer to a reporter’s question.
Morrow was elected chairman during the March 1 state primary, generating national headlines because of his unorthodox views on almost everything, which he tweeted with unabashed enthusiasm. It lasted scarcely two months, but Morrow’s leadership seemed an eternity for party officials who found him a perpetual embarrassment and who had been looking for some way, any way, to remove him from office.
Morrow handed officials what they wanted when he filed paperwork with the secretary of state’s office a week ago to be certified as a write-in candidate for president.
Under state election law, a party chairman cannot run for public office unless it’s for another party position, and so, as soon as Morrow filed his declaration of candidacy, he was out.
David Duncan, executive vice chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, will serve as acting chairman until the county party’s executive committee, made up of precinct chairmen, meet to elect a permanent successor, probably on Sept. 20.
At the press conference, Duncan said he hasn’t yet decided whether to seek election as the chairman, but he had by then already cast aspersions on a potential rival for that position — James Dickey, the man Morrow unseated as chairman in the primary election.
“Our previous chairman left us with no money, no ability to pay staff, and we had no planned fundraiser,” Duncan said. “There are still unanswered questions about where the money was spent, but having no money, we were left with no money for a proper audit.”
Dickey, who wasn’t present, was caught off-guard by Duncan’s statements.
The Travis County GOP has always been a hand-to-mouth operation, and, Dickey said, Morrow’s election had made fundraising nearly impossible. Of the meager resources at its disposal, Dickey said, “the executive committee publicly voted to donate the majority of party funds to local candidates in May.”
“David has not raised any concerns about this to me, either privately in those meetings, or in the eight weeks since he’s taken office,” said Dickey, who added that if he were persuaded that he could best do the job of chairman, “I would be willing to put my hat in the ring.”
If the immediate future for Travis County Republicans is a contest to replace Morrow, it promises to be less flamboyantly newsworthy than what preceded it.
Morrow offered an unusual combination of attributes. He is smart, independently wealthy, imposing in stature and willing and able to stand his ground.
He also is well known to political reporters across the country for his steady stream of negative research on and assertions about Lyndon B. Johnson, Rick Perry, the Bush family, Bill and Hillary Clinton and, most recently, Donald Trump.
He is the co-author, with longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, of the 2015 book, “The Clintons’ War on Women,” about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged treatment of the women in Bill’s life. Morrow made news by protesting Trump’s recent Austin visit with a large red sign proclaiming, “Trump is a child rapist,” referring to an anonymous lawsuit filed in a federal court in New York.
Asked about his legacy as chairman, Morrow said it would be that he was a truth teller, whether the truth was about Hillary Clinton or Trump.
Asked about his presidential platform, Morrow said what he always says.
“Well, I want to promote boobyliciousness every day,” Morrow said. “I want to start having bikini contests on the South Lawn of the White House. On the Fourth of July, I want to have a wet T-shirt contest. I think this is a way to bring America together and de-escalate political tensions.”
At the close of the party’s press conference, spokesman Andy Hogue noted that the party had struggled mightily to keep its “tent” big enough to function as a respectable party even as Morrow did “his thing.”
“Now we are glad that he is stepping outside of our big tent,” Hogue said.