ROUND ROCK — As voters across the state head to the polls Tuesday to decide the statewide primary elections, candidates for some of the most powerful elected servant positions in Texas gathered at a restaurant near Austin to speak out on one of the state’s most urgent issues: protecting Texas children.

“The fact that we have this child gender modification issue—to me, that’s evil. To me, it’s heinous,” said Lt. Col. Allen West, one of three primary Republican challengers for Texas governor. “And we are promoting something that would tell our kids that we’re chemically and physically castrating them, and we’re not standing up against that.”

Indeed, the issue in Texas drew an international spotlight several years ago with the child abuse case of Dallas-area 9-year-old James Younger, whose mother told him he was a girl and wanted to force him—against his father’s wishes—to take sterilizing puberty blocker and cross-sex hormone drugs and eventually be castrated.

James’ case became a statewide rallying cry on the issue, with the Republican Party of Texas making it a legislative priority and more than 2 million GOP primary voters supporting a ban on the operations. However, at the Capitol in Austin last year, top Republican lawmakers repeatedly killed the effort, and Abbott refused to include the issue in the Legislature’s three special sessions.

“I tell you, our battle in Austin, Texas, wasn’t generally with the Democrats; it was with the RINOs—the Republicans In Name Only,” Don Huffines, current candidate for governor and a former state senator, told the crowd Monday. “They didn’t want to deal with this issue then, and they still don’t want to deal with the issue.”

Texas Scorecard extensively reported on the entire saga, which included Gov. Greg Abbott and top lawmakers blaming each other and passing the political hot potato to other state departments and even Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Last week, Paxton announced a 13-page legal opinion on the gender experiments, confirming they are child abuse, but candidates said Monday that Abbott and the Republican-controlled Legislature still need to pass a state law.

“It’s too little too late by this entire administration, everybody holding office. This is something that should have been done Day One, immediately,” said Chad Prather, media personality and Republican candidate for governor. “If you can’t protect your children, you can’t protect your culture, and you certainly can’t protect your legacy and your future.”

“[The attorney general’s opinion] does help my son in this respect: it binds the agencies in the Texas government,” said James Younger’s father, Jeff, at Monday’s press conference. Jeff is currently running for state representative of House District 63 in the Dallas area. “Texas agencies are bound to follow Texas attorney general opinions, and that includes Child Protective Services. … [So] if we have this opinion, then why do we need a law? It’s because courts are not bound by attorney general opinions.”

Jeff emphasized that point by describing his experience with Dallas County Judge Mary Brown, who turned his son over to school administrators and medical officials who are conducting the beginning stage of experimentation on James—the psychological stage.

“He goes to school as a girl. He uses the girls’ bathroom. All the authorities are teaching him that he has a girl’s brain in a boy’s body, and the schools were doing this without my consent and without my knowledge,” Jeff said.

“[Governor Abbott,] when will you stand up for the people that have voted for you for years? We need a special session. We need laws and we need the Legislature to act,” Jeff concluded.

“I will tell you that I have never been more disappointed in finding out how our Legislature works against our kids and the will of our Republican voters than I was this last session,” said Jill Glover, committee chairwoman for the Republican Party of Texas.

“[Republicans] have been running the show for 20 years, yet we can’t pass a bill that outlaws gender mutilation,” said Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller. “I call it mutilation; they want to use a nice word like ‘modification.’ No, that’s mutilation.”

“As far as we’re concerned, this game is over with this group [of politicians],” said Trayce Bradford, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. “We need new people who have the guts to protect our children.”

“Primaries are tomorrow. I urge everyone: please vote for the challengers,” Glover concluded. “If we continue to vote for the incumbents, we’re going to continue to get what we have had before.”