As Gov. Greg Abbott attempts to ward off Republican opponents in the 2022 primary election, one of his challengers is boasting a national endorsement in his bid to replace him.

On Thursday, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R–Kentucky) announced his endorsement of Don Huffines, a candidate for Texas governor.

“It is my pleasure to endorse my friend Don Huffines for governor of Texas. I have known Don for over 20 years. He is a loyal, steadfast fighter for limited, constitutional government. He has been in the thick of every conservative fight since I have known him. He is unafraid to stand up to the establishment. He is someone who will defend our freedoms,” said Paul.

“When other Republicans would say, ‘Wear a mask. Stay inside. You must do this; you must do that,’ when other Republicans were siding with Dr. Fauci, it was Don Huffines who would stand up and say he will side for your freedom, for your freedom to make your own medical choices. He’s fiscally conservative; I think he’ll lower taxes in Texas and make Texas an even greater business haven than it already is. So, vote for my friend Don Huffines.”

This endorsement comes on the heels of a recent terse exchange between Sen. Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in which Paul accused him of lying to Congress regarding gain-of-function research done in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Many activists and Texans have taken issue with Gov. Greg Abbott’s response to the pandemic, including his executive orders related to mask mandates and the closure of businesses. In the lead-up to the 87th Legislative Session, many lawmakers expressed interest in reforming particular emergency powers. At the conclusion of the regular session, however, very little changed, including a lack of prohibition on things like mask mandates.

The current primary field for Texas governor includes incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, conservative humorist Chad Prather, former Congressman and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West, and former State Sen. Don Huffines.

In early June, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his endorsement for re-election from former President Donald Trump, and he also boasts the support of the former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who recently sent out fundraising emails on his behalf.