The winter meeting of the RNC took place in Washington D.C., commencing with an informal dinner on Tuesday, January 21st and ending with a Saturday morning breakfast on January 25th. The main order of business was the consideration of significant rules changes pertaining to the 2016 presidential primary process. Chairman Munisteri serves on a 17 member subcommittee charged with rewriting the RNC rules in such ways to increase the chance that our 2016 nominee will win the general election. The general consensus was reached within the committee that the current overall process is too long, too divisive, and too easy for states to break the rules by holding their primary elections prior to the official start date for the primary process.

As a result, the subcommittee unanimously passed a proposed set of rules that went on to the full Rules Committee. The Rules Committee met prior to the full meeting at the RNC general session, at which time they took up the subcommittee’s proposed rules changes. Virginia National Committeeman, Morton Blackwell, proposed some amendments to the proposed rules changes. The most significant of which was that he wanted to compel any state that held a primary in March to only be able to pick its delegates proportionally. The Texas delegation, consisting of Chairman Steve MunisteriNational Committeeman Dr. Robin Armstrong, and National Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell, were united in their belief that a strictly proportional system not be imposed on Texas.

Historically, Texas has used a modified winner-take-all by congressional district system. The Texas delegation is united in its determination to support rules that allow the Texas GOP to utilize this system, or at the very least, one substantially similar. Thus, Chairman Munisteri opposed Mr. Blackwell’s amendments to the Rules Committee. Moreover, Chairman Munisteri proposed an amendment at the Rules Committee to the subcommittee’s report that made it clear that Texas and other states that were affected by the proportional requirement could still pick their delegates by congressional district and award the winner of an individual congressional district all of the delegates if that candidate received 50% or more of the vote. In addition, Munisteri’s amendment would also allow the states to set a minimum threshold that candidates had to receive in order to be awarded any delegates. Munisteri proposed a threshold of up to 20 percent at the state’s discretion.

The Rules Committee passed the proposed rules change with only two dissenting votes.

At the general session there was a debate on the proposed rules with National Committeeman Morton Blackwell again voicing his opposition to the rules changes.  Chairman Munisteri spoke in favor of the rules changes, noting that it is very difficult to obtain a consensus in a diverse body and the fact that the subcommittee unanimously voted for the rules and the Rules Committee’s nearly unanimous vote, was as close to a consensus as could be expected. The package of rules changes passed by a margin of 153 to 9 with all three Texans voting in favor.

The key changes in the rules are as follows: an inconsistency in the rules was cleared up pertaining to the start date for primaries. The official start date is March 1st but a rule in existence prior to the amendment did not prescribe penalties for states that went between the last Tuesday of February and March 1st. This discrepancy could allow some states to jump before March 1st and argue that no penalty be imposed.  As Texas is currently scheduled to have our presidential primary on March 1st, 2016 it is in our interest that there are no other states jumping in line before March 1st, with the exception of the four carve-out states.

Under the amended rules, severe penalties will be imposed to any state (other than the carve-out states) that tries to go prior to March 1st. The existing carve-out states are New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada. These states are allowed to go up to one month prior to March 1st. The Texas delegation opposes these four states receiving special treatment but it would take 75 percent of the RNC to change this and there are not enough votes to do so.

The next best alternative is for Texas to preserve its place in line as the fifth primary. In addition to firmly establishing March 1st as the non carve-out start date, the proposed rules increased the penalties for states attempting to jump in line. Under the amended rules, any non carve-out state that attempts to go early will lose all of their delegates except for nine plus their three RNC members if their delegation is over 30 delegates. For states that have fewer than 30 delegates, they will lose all but six plus their three RNC members. This proposed rules change makes it very likely that no state will jump in line, thereby preserving Texas as an early primary state.

The new rules allow for states to adopt whichever delegate selection system they want if they hold their primary after March 16th. For states such as Texas that hold their primary prior to that date, the state’s delegation selection process must be proportional with the exception that they can adopt a modified winner-take-all system which allows for the allocation of all delegates on a statewide or congressional district basis to be awarded the winner, as long as the winner receives 50% or more of the vote. The bottom line is, with the amendment proposed by Chairman Munisteri, Texas will have several options as to how it allocates delegates.

Texas can be strictly proportional, adopt a modified winner-take-all system based on statewide results, can adopt a modified winner-take-all system based on congressional district results, or Texas can have a hybrid system. This flexibility will allow for the delegates to the June 2014 state convention to decide on the issue and adopt an allocation process designed to increase Texas’s influence in the presidential primary process. Regardless of whichever allocation method is adopted, it is clear that Texas should be a major player in the 2016 presidential nomination process.

The subcommittee also increased the deadline for states to submit their delegate lists to the national convention from 35 to 45 days. This effectively ends the majority of the delegate selection process in mid-May, with the exception of a half dozen currently non-compliant states that will be granted waivers if their Democrat controlled government does not allow for compliance with RNC rules. This means that the presidential primary process, instead of being about six months long, will be about three and a half months long. This should be an adequate amount of time to allow even lesser known candidates to compete while at the same time, not allowing the process to drag on so long as to drain the party’s and candidate’s resources. Moreover, having the four smaller carve-out states scheduled prior to all other states will still allow lesser known candidates to have an opportunity to campaign for months in these early primary states so they have better chance against better known candidates.

During the RNC meeting, Chairman Munisteri also participated as a member of the Convention Planning Commission. Their recommendation to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is that the national convention be held between June 27th and July 18th. Having an earlier convention will allow our nominee to have a longer period of time to campaign, enable the nominee access to nearly $100 million in funds earlier, and will allow more time for the party to heal and unite after a potentially divisive primary contest.

A Site Selection Committee was also selected at the RNC meeting. Cities bidding on the convention at this time are Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Kansas City, and Columbus. Munisteri also made the suggestion to the Convention Commission that no city be picked where delegates have to stay more than 10 miles away. He noted that at the 2012 national convention the Texas delegation being placed 28 miles from the convention site, and 32 miles from the transportation center resulted in lengthy commutes that detracted from the convention experience.

The RNC session also provided an update on the new digital platform, engagement programs, and party finances. We are excited to announce that Texas will be one of the first states to receive access to the new digital platform and the RPT staff will be trained on the new software in mid-February with a rollout to campaigns across the state coming in March. The party ended the year with no debt and more than $9 million cash on hand, which is approximately $5 million more than had been projected. Chairman Priebus is to be commended for straightening out the RNC’s finances. The next meeting of the RNC will be held in Memphis, Tennessee in May. Chairman Priebus indicated that he would like to have some additional amendments to the rules pertaining to presidential debates.

Comments on the RNC meeting are as follows:

Chairman Steve Munisteri: “I am very pleased that the RNC has reformed the presidential primary process in a way that increases Texas’s impact in the selection of our nominee. During the past several election cycles, Texas has had a diminished role because so many states had jumped in line without fear of the penalties against their delegation to the national convention. It has been one of my goals since I became State Chairman to increase Texas’s influence and these rules should accomplish that goal by increasing the likelihood that Texas will remain fifth in line with a huge block of delegates.”

National Committeeman Toni Anne Dashiell: “Building to Victory” was the theme of the winter meeting. Before going into the details of the meeting, I would like to give major kudos to Chairman Reince Priebus for adjusting Wednesday’s agenda. This allowed RNC members to attend the March for Life event. My Texas blood was too thin to do the march since it was single digits outside, but many of our members did march wearing red hats with “RNC” across the front.

There might be an element of frustration in the grassroots, of not knowing what the RNC is doing for Texas and the U.S. right now since most of the work on “Building To Victory” is being done behind the scenes.

After attending two RNC update meetings—the first was Technology, Political and Communication, and the second was Strategic Initiative, Youth Outreach and Faith Engagement—it confirmed the extent to which the RNC is working for victory in 2014 and 2016. It is projected that the new technology will roll out this spring. The Technology department is partnering with many companies, for example, White Pages is expanding our data. Instead of out-sourcing it they will keep everything in-house. They have 20 engineers currently on staff and will soon be expanding by 20 more positions.

Co-Chair Sharon Day took the time to recognize the “Women Are More” project out of Texas, which serves to combat the false idea in the media and on the left of a “war on women” and promote the message that all issues are women’s issues.

The RNC elected a great group of members to its 2016 Convention Site Selection Committee. I have again expressed to many of the committee members the importance of having large enough rooms for the committee meetings—especially the Rules and Platform. This would allow delegates and alternates the opportunity to listen to the discussion. The Texas delegation also expressed the importance of having hotels closer to the convention site.

As many of you know, the vote on the rules changes were a major part of the week. Chairman Steve has addressed the details on the changes above. To those who took the time to contact me, thank you. I want you to know your voice is being heard.”

National Committeeman Dr. Robin Armstrong: “The RNC meeting in Washington DC was a very productive meeting for our party nationally and for Texas in particular. If the liberal court system does not change our primary date, Texas is poised to play a very important role in determining who our next Republican Presidential nominee will be. These are exciting times in our great state!  Let us continue to be a shining city on a hill and an example of conservative leadership in our great Nation!”