The month of January was the start of a New Year filled with optimism as a result of our overwhelming election victories in November. This optimism was reflected during the first week of January when I, SREC member Jean McIver, and Communications Director Chris Elam traveled to Washington D.C. for the swearing in of the Texas Delegation. There was much to celebrate as Texas has three new members of the Congressional delegation: Bill Flores, Francisco Canseco and Blake Farenthold. More importantly, the mood was festive among Republicans because the party obtained a net gain of 63 seats in Congress resulting in a conservative Republican majority which will allow us to put the brakes on much of President Obama’s and the Democrats’ agenda. While in Washington, I had the opportunity to talk at length with Congressman Joe Barton and Congressman Jeb Hensarling regarding the state of the RPT. Both meetings were fruitful yielding constructive input from both Congressmen and both Congressmen pledged to do what they can to assist in the rebuilding of the RPT. Our Texas contingent also had the pleasure of attending a unique swearing in ceremony featuring Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Ron Paul. Their joint swearing in was historic because it was the first time ever that a son has been elected a U.S. Senator while a father has served in the U.S. House.
The optimism in Washington was matched by the optimism in Austin which was apparent during the inauguration of Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst on January 18th. Vice-Chair Melinda Fredricks and I were extended the privilege of being seated on the inaugural stage as personal guests of Lt. Governor Dewhurst for which we both thank him. SREC member Jim Borchert and his wife were also invited to sit on the stage. We all had a bird’s eye view as both Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst laid out their vision for the future and detailed the Republican legislative agenda that they plan to push.
Lt. Governor Dewhurst took the stage first to issue his inaugural address where he stated, “My priorities this Session are clear. In addition to securing our borders, we will pass legislation to encourage more job creation; to protect the integrity of our elections, we will again pass voter ID; we will continue to improve our public schools because a quality education gives every child a chance to realize their dreams; we will continue building a world-class transportation system because quality roads without congestion are the economic arteries of future prosperity; we will make healthcare more accessible and more affordable with better medical outcomes at a lower cost by passing reforms that will lead the nation because Texans deserve better health care, not more bureaucracy; and we will achieve all these goals while balancing our budget without raising taxes because I want a budget that grows the Texas economy, not the Texas government.“
In his inaugural address, Governor Perry emphasized that as the nation works to climb out of economic turmoil, Texas will lead the way. “Americans once looked to the East Coast for opportunity and inspiration, then to the West Coast. Today they are looking to the Gulf Coast – they are looking to Texas. Our state is the new, best hope for entrepreneurs and small businesses – the place where Americans can redeem their promise and fulfill their potential. We have the resources to meet our challenges, and the vision to apply them for a more prosperous future. This is our time, this is our place in history. We must seize the moment!”
The inaugural event was rounded out by a fantastic bar-b-que on the Legislature grounds following the ceremony and the Inaugural Gala that night – a good time was had by all.
In between the Washington and Austin inaugural ceremonies I traveled to Fort Worth to review the convention site for our 2012 state convention and to participate in a site inspection of the facilities along with the SREC convention planning committee headed up by SREC member Hal Talton. Along with several other members of the committee we spent an entire day visiting convention hotels, checking out facilities, meeting with visitor bureau staff, etc., to help ensure that we will have a wonderful 2012 RPT state convention. This is the first time that there has ever been a specifically appointed SREC committee charged with the sole purpose of improving the convention experience. I believe that it has turned out to be one of my best decisions. We are receiving great ideas and wonderful feedback on how to improve our next convention, and it will be a terrific event.
The next day I had the opportunity to meet with national conservative leaders in Dallas to obtain feedback about what is happening nationally within the conservative movement. Also that week I had an opportunity to speak to approximately 300 grassroots Republican leaders from five different counties in San Marcos at an event sponsored by the San Marcos Republican Club. I received input from the grassroots as to which issues are at the forefront of their minds in the upcoming legislative session. The next day I had an opportunity to meet with the President of the National Pachyderm Club John Wiemann as well as Greater Houston Pachyderm Club leader Bob Schults. We discussed ways in which the RPT and Pachyderm Clubs could work together to support Republican principles and candidates. The balance of the second week of January was spent at the Republican National Committee meeting at which we selected our new RNC Chairman (Please see report below for extensive report on the RNC meeting.)
Upon my return from the RNC meeting, the staff and I focused on two major areas. The first was expanding the marketing of the Grassroots Club which I specifically did by hitting the road for a couple of weeks to push memberships. We also concentrated on our planning for the upcoming legislative session, including which bills we would focus on, planning for possible future rallies at the Capitol, legislative days and setting up meetings with Republican leadership. My push for GRC memberships began with a speech to the NW Tarrant County Republican Club. At that meeting I was presented with a check for $1000 from the club, as well as a personal $1000 check from Mona Bailey. Mona’s contribution of $1000 came on top of a previous contribution of $1000 that she had given during my last speech. All told Mona is responsible for raising $3000 for the RPT, for which I would like to extend my thanks to her publicly. I have joked with Mona that since every time I’ve spoken in front of her clubs the RPT has picked up $1000 dollars. I should come back more often!
My next pitch for the Grassroots Club was made in Kerrville before the Republican Women of Kerr County. This is the home club of SREC member Rebecca Williamson and they had a packed house of over 150 attendees. The following week I spoke to the Northwood Republican Women’s Club at the Dallas County Republican Party headquarters. The morning prior to the club meeting I had an opportunity to sit down with ART Finance Chairman George Seay who is the grandson of our first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Bill Clements. We had a chance to visit about how the RPT and ART could work together on various projects. Both George Seay and his grandfather Governor Clements made generous contributions to the party during last year’s fundraisers.
A couple of days later it was on the road again to Houston where I spoke in front of the Village Republican Women’s Club. It was like a homecoming for me as the speech was at the Houston Racquet Club where I was a member growing up. In fact, one of the TFRW members in the audience, Carolyn Hodges, was actually one of my junior high teachers. The following day I traveled to River Plantation Country Club in Conroe to speak at the Montgomery County Republican Women’s Club. They had approximately 160 attendees and it is the home club for SREC member Rosemary Roe. Vice Chairman Melinda Fredricks was there and after the speech she and I had an opportunity to visit the Montgomery County GOP headquarters and their chairman Dr. Wally Wilkerson (Wally has been serving as county chairman since 1964!)
The following day was especially busy as I flew to Lubbock to speak at the SD28 Republican leadership luncheon which was also a fundraising benefit for our Candidate Resources Committee. SREC member Jane Cansino was the host and the benefit raised over $12,000 for the committee which helps fund lower-ballot races on behalf of the party. There was a very large crowd and I was especially pleased to see that one of the tables was filled with members of the Texas Tech Young Conservatives of Texas which is part of the group that I founded 31 years ago. I then immediately flew back to Houston so that I could drive to Sugar Land to attend the Fort Bend GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at the Safari Texas Ranch. They had a huge crowd of over 800 people and a very successful auction. It was especially fun for me as I sat next to Karl Rove at dinner. I have known Karl since I was 19 years old so it was a chance for me to catch up with him. Fort Bend County Chairman Rick Miller was the host of the event and it was also attended by SREC members Tina Gibson, Bruce Campbell, and Ben Zeller. I also had a chance to visit with State Representatives Charlie Howard and Dr. John Zerwas.
In addition to visiting with the State Representatives at the Fort Bend LRD, I spent a lot of time in December and January visiting with various representatives in order to discuss the upcoming session, RPT legislative priorities, and the RPT in general. I have had the chance to visit with Harvey Hilderbran, Myra Crownover, Todd Hunter, Warren Chisum, Tryon Lewis, Beverly Woolley, Chuck Hopson, Lois Kolkhorst, Bill Callegari, Dan Branch, Jason Isaac, Jose Aliseda, and State Senator Tommy Williams. Speaking of the Legislature, we have also made a major effort to back the election contest of Dan Neil in the House District 48 race. Special mention should be given to Rep. Todd Hunter who took the time to meet with not only myself, but a committee of the SREC to give us an extensive update on the upcoming session and to discuss with us various ways in which we could move forward the RPT legislative agenda.
Financially, the party continues to be standing on sound footing. We continue to pay our debts to zero every week and as of last report, we still had significant cash reserves over $600,000. However, we still have to raise approximately another $1.5 million for the year so we have begun to schedule various fundraisers. We have a fundraiser scheduled February 19th in Dallas featuring Tea Party favorite, U.S. Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky. If you would like to attend please contact us here at the RPT offices and we can get you the details. Plans are also in the works for a major dinner in Austin in March featuring our statewide elected officials and legislators. On Saturday April 9th we will have a fundraiser with U.S. Senator John Cornyn in San Antonio and if you would like to attend that event please contact our headquarters for information.
The priority over the next couple of months will be to move forward RPT legislative priorities, among these are the Voter Identification bill, immigration reform, reducing the projected budget shortfall by spending cuts, etc. With everyone’s help I am optimistic that we will have a very successful session of the Legislature.
Finally, let me say that now Republicans are in solid control here in Texas our election victories will be for naught if we as a party do not produce. I believe that one of the reasons we lost the 2008 elections was because our party was perceived as having moved away from its principles and as having not delivered on its promises. We got a second chance in 2010 and to make good on that chance our party must deliver on its promises. I plan to do my very best to ensure that happens.
Republican National Committee Report
From Tuesday, January 11th through Saturday, January 15th, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Republican National Committee quarterly meeting. I was joined by our committeeman Bill Crocker and our committeewoman Borah Van Dormolen. This was an extremely important meeting as we held the election of new RNC officers for the next two years.
All three of us felt that it was necessary that there be a change in leadership. I personally felt it very important, that at least to the extent possible, that myself, Bill Crocker and Borah VanDormolen vote as a bloc in order to maximize the influence of the state of Texas. All of us were united in our beliefs that Michael Steele should not be re-elected, however there were several acceptable alternatives to me, such as Ambassador Ann Wagner, who had come highly recommended to me, and Maria Cino who I had a high opinion of having worked in a campaign where she was the political director. In the end all three of us agreed to support former Michigan State Chairman Saul Anuzis. He was acceptable to all three of us because he had a record as a solid conservative, a grassroots activist, successful tenure as a State Chairman of a major state and articulated the party’s principles well. Another consideration for me was the fact that our senior representative Bill Crocker was part of the Anuzis leadership team and I felt that it was important that Texas have input with a new chairman. All three of us voted for Saul Anuzis on all seven ballots. Mr. Anuzis came in second, but ultimately lost to Reince Priebus. Mr. Priebus is a 38 year old lawyer who is also the former State Chairman of the Wisconsin GOP. I do not know him well, and although he was not my choice for Chairman, I wish him good luck and sincerely hope that he succeeds.
I was distressed to learn at the meeting of the RNC that reportedly the organization is $21 million in debt. During the August RNC meeting I was one of only four out of 168 members of the RNC who voted against ratifying the previous budget because I predicted that we would be $16 million in debt if we approved it. Unfortunately, I was wrong, the debt after the election was not $16 million, but reportedly, $21 million – so again I opposed the new budget for the reason that if approved and followed, the RNC would still be $12 million in debt at the end of 2011. I spoke against the budget at the Southern Regional meeting of the RNC and again spoke against it in front of the entire RNC as well as speaking against the practice of the RNC deficit spending at all. This time I was joined by the State Chairman of North Carolina who also rose to speak against the RNC practice of deficit spending and this time we were joined by several dozen RNC members who voted against the budget with us in protest of the RNC’s practice of operating with a deficit. Bill Crocker and Borah Van Dormolen also joined me in voting against the budget.
Also elected as co-chair was Sharon Day of Florida who defeated the incumbent, Jan Larimer of Wyoming. Sharon Day’s margin of victory was a very close two votes. Tony Parker of Washington D.C. defeated incumbent treasurer Randy Pullen and California State Chairman Ron Nehring for the Treasurer’s post. Bill Crocker was part of the leadership team for Randy Pullen and gave an eloquent nominating speech on his behalf. Demetra Demonte squeaked by Dee Dee Benkie by just five votes to win the Secretary’s race. I was one of the Benkie floor leaders and actually believe that she had a majority of support of RNC members, but lost the vote because 38 RNC members had to leave early, the majority of which were her supporters, and they gave proxies to supporters of her opponent.
In my opinion Chairman Priebus has already made several very positive moves and from my point of view it’s so far, so good for our new chairman. He has reduced the staff from 124 down to 82. He has also paid off $1.5 million worth of vendor bills during his first three weeks. He has also replaced key staff members and asked for the resignation of convention consultants which I believe was warranted. On another RNC topic, during a recent teleconference with our new Chairman, I did raise the issue of RNC telemarketers repeatedly calling our Texas contributors and asked if they would please consider cooperating with us by removing Grassroots Club members from their call lists as well. That request is under consideration.
National Committeeman Bill Crocker had the following to say regarding the meeting: “In the biggest decision made at its recent Winter Meeting, the RNC made a very good decision when it elected Reince Priebus to be its Chairman for the next two years. He has hit the ground running, and is already producing fantastic results, both in the operation of the RNC and in fundraising. He is restoring integrity to the RNC, and it will again be an organization Republicans can be proud of and Republican donors can trust.”
On behalf of myself, Borah and Bill, we wish the new Chairman the very best and want him to know that we are all in his corner.