Both my activities, as well as those of the Republican Party of Texas, during the month of August were focused squarely on the future. Our RNC Committee members Toni Anne Dashiell, Dr. Robin Armstrong, and I attended the RNC summer meetings in Boston during the third week of August. Many issues that will affect our Party’s future, including the presidential primary process, rules changes regarding delegate selection, upgrading the Party’s digital capabilities, the 2016 National Convention, as well as the Party’s overall Victory strategy for 2014 and beyond were discussed.
The RNC opened the week with a dinner put together by RNC National Secretary Demetra DeMonte. The following day various committees met. These included the Budget Committee who reported that the Party continues to not have any long term debt and has already exceeded its goal for its large donor program. The Budget Committee also reported the Party has been able to maintain millions of dollars cash on hand and that overall fundraising is outpacing the efforts of the Democratic National Committee.
I had been appointed by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to serve on the Commission on Convention Planning which is considering moving up the date of the national convention and seeking input pertaining how to have a better convention in the future. Chairman Priebus floated the idea of moving the convention up to June or July from late August/September. I spoke in favor of moving up the convention, but requested that the RNC not move it up so early so as to interfere with the Texas GOP’s plans to hold our state convention in 2016. I informed the RNC that the Texas State Republican Executive Committee had already voted to move up our state convention from June to early May in order to accommodate RNC changes, but that any convention earlier than late June would be near impossible for us to conduct. I told the commission that we could make late June work but it would be very difficult and that we would prefer the end of the first week or second week of July. The commission is going to consider a variety of wide ranging changes but no specific matters were voted on this meeting.
We heard from Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage Wednesday evening. He was very impressive and had a great life story to tell. He left home at 11 and was on his own as he worked his way through school, was very successful in business, and is now a Republican Governor in a Democratic area.
The following day we received an update on the Party’s new digital strategy and I was quite impressed with the RNC’s new Chief Technology Officer, Andy Barkett. He is the former Director of Infrastructure and Engineering for Facebook and also previously worked for Google. He gave demonstrations of some of the new software they have been tirelessly working on. He and a team of software engineers hope to have a new system available to us prior to the Spring primaries that will allow individual Republican activists to download maps and data onto their phones or computers, upload information from the field, chart the quickest walk routes, provide data on individual voters, etc. We are hopeful that they will complete the development in time for the Texas GOP to have access to the data files and software well in advance of the 2014 elections.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie keynoted the luncheon that day. The theme of his speech was that he had been able to win in a Democratic state as a result of obtaining support from members of traditionally Democratic constituencies. Later that afternoon there was a meeting of the Standing Committee on Rules, to which I had been elected by my fellow committeemen. Morton Blackwell and I opposed efforts to have the Rules Committee meet in secret. We initially lost that battle but then later prevailed on a motion I made to open up the deliberation to the public. Major rules changes were deferred to the Subcommittee for future consideration.
The next day the general session of the RNC was held and all resolutions recommended by the Resolutions Committee were passed. Chairman Priebus delivered a State of the RNC address in which he indicated that for first time in history there are more RNC staff members working out in the field than in the RNC’s headquarters in Washington. There are currently 157 field staffers working nationwide and Chairman Priebus is anticipating that there should be more than 200 field staff in the field prior to the 2014 elections. Chairman Priebus reported that fundraising continues to be successful and that they will continue deploying forces to states that have elections this year which will allow them to gauge the effectiveness of our new turnout and digital programs.
Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell commented on the RNC meetings saying: ““Making it Happen” was the RNC summer meeting theme. This was my second meeting as your National Committeewoman, it was happening in Boston. It started Tuesday night with an informal gathering then ended with breakfast Saturday. I could write a couple of pages on what happened each day, but a couple of my highlights were SpeakerNewt Gingrich’s presentation “Getting the Message Out” and Co-ChairSharon Day’s “Getting Ready to Run” report on how Women Unite.”
“The Co-Chair’s project “Getting Ready to Run” says it’s time to take the information from the blackboard to the blacktop. Her efforts in reaching out to the non-traditional groups will help make it possible for all women to hear the Republican Party’s message.”
“The Speaker’s powerful words of wisdom were “LISTEN-LEARN-LEAD”. If we can take this to heart we will accomplish his ideas of breaking out of the box with a message that the American People will hear.”
“Let each of us “Listen-Learn-Lead” then create a message that relates to whom we’re speaking. We can all help with “Making it Happen””.
Committeeman Dr. Robin Armstrong commented: “The Republican National Committee meeting in Boston laid the groundwork for more effectively communicating our conservative message to communities that we have not engaged. I am confident that we can and will engage the African American, Hispanic, and Asian communities with integrity and without compromising our values.”
“The RNC also passed three resolutions very important to advancing a conservative agenda, and ultimately obtaining a conservative presidential nominee. We passed a resolution in support of de-funding Obamacare. We passed a resolution calling for our republican legislators to reform the Internal Revenue Service and replace it with a fair or flat tax, so that it can never abuse its authority by persecuting innocent Americans. We also passed a resolution excluding NBC and CNN news networks from sponsoring a Republican Presidential debate if they continue to outwardly support our political opponents.”
“Steve, Toni Anne, and I are committed to standing strong for conservatism on the RNC. I will continue my travels around the state of Texas over the next few months and years working with you to advance our conservative movement, so that our great republic can remain for generations to come.” Armstrong concluded.
I have never been shy about voicing opposition to proposals, rules, or resolutions I haven’t agreed with; however I also think it is important to give credit where credit is due. I am very pleased that the RNC has responded to the Texas GOP’s request for assistance in increasing Republican field efforts throughout the state, community engagement efforts, and upgrades to our software capabilities. I believe Chairman Priebus’s emphasis on putting more people out in the field as opposed to the office and setting the goal of having year round Victory Centers is the correct course for the Party.
In addition to planning for the RNC’s future we continued to focus our efforts back here in Texas on Victory efforts for 2014 and expanding our engagement program. We finalized plans for opening up an office in San Antonio, completed agreements with the Harris County GOP for our Victory office there, and continued to gear up our operations in Tarrant County, where we have placed a Victory Director as part of an agreement with the Tarrant County GOP. We also continued to hire staff to fill our Victory and engagement positions. We added Melissa Fwu, a Rice graduate, as our Director of Asian American Engagement. We also added former prosecutor Tommy Coleman as our In-House Counsel & Director of African American Engagement.
In addition, we now have three people hired to work out of the Bexar County area. Mitch Carney will serve as our Regional Victory Director and Andrea Chavez and Rosalba Martinez will focus on our Hispanic engagement efforts. Luke Sheffield is our new Victory Director for our Harris County office and Rebecca McDavid will serve as our Victory Director for Tarrant County. We are currently interviewing for additional Hispanic Engagement Directors for Houston and Dallas that are already funded, and we anticipate in September we will be adding a Digital Director. We also expect that by the turn of the year we will be opening another four offices as well as hiring multiple new field staff. RPT Finance Director Keri Mason, who did an excellent job over the last few years, has left the RPT for a position on Senator Glen Hegar’s campaign for State Comptroller and we are currently interviewing for someone to fill her position.
Another issue pertaining to the future course of the Party we dealt with in August was a rewriting of party rules. The RPT was successful in lobbying for legislation to deregulate the State Party. This means that the State Party will have greater flexibility in how it is conducted. Thus the Rules Committee, under Chairman Dennis Paul, was charged with writing rules which state statute no longer mandated. The Rules Committee met in open session on Saturday August 10th and will be making recommendations to the State Republican Executive Committee.
Despite being occupied with the RNC meetings, Rules Committee meetings, etc., I still had time to travel around the state to various meetings. I spoke to the Clear Creek Republican Women’s Club in the Houston area. I attended and spoke at the Jefferson County’s announcement of recent party switchers. I also had the honor of being the keynote speaker at the Bell County GOP fundraiser.
The next day I traveled to Spring to speak to the Cherry Tree Republican. After briefly traveling back to Austin I turned around and headed back to Houston for a fundraiser for the State Party at which Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst spoke. The fundraiser was hosted by John and Cynthia Adkins. The fundraiser’s goal was $25,000 and the take far exceeded that goal.
On August 24th I spoke at a Hispanic Outreach Forum put together by the Texas Federation of Hispanic Republicans. Statewide Director of Hispanic Engagement, David Zapata, and I both spoke. Representative Larry Gonzales and Representative Aaron Pena both spoke as well. During the last week of August I had the privilege of attending a function for Senator Rand Paul in Houston as well as speaking in San Antonio at the Pachyderm Club.
On the financial front we went back over $1 million in our bank accounts and ended the month with slightly less than $1.3 million after paying all bills. Approximately $300,000 was money we raised for our upcoming victory efforts and we still have roughly $950,000 left in undedicated accounts.
The next meeting of the SREC will be on September 28th and we anticipate there will be a couple of vacancies on the SREC that will be filled at the next meeting. We also anticipate the Rules Committee will make recommendations to put forth to be voted on which will govern how our Party is conducted over next few years.
Now that the summer is over I am hopeful that everyone is back from vacation and ready to get to work. I am very optimistic that we are going to have some new digital tools to play with and increased staff to help organize our efforts around the state. Thank you for your involvement and continued support in the Republican Party. It is time to get back to work!
Stephen Munisteri, Chairman