Much of April was dominated by RNC business. The first week of April culminated in the election of Toni Anne Dashiell as our new National Committeewoman to the RNC, replacing our beloved Borah Van Dormolen. The 64 members of the SREC were charged with selecting our committeewoman and all the candidates spent a great deal of time visiting individually with each member so that the SREC could make an informed decision. On April 6, the SREC elected former TFRW President and current Kendall County GOP Chair, Toni Anne Dashiell, as our new National Committeewoman to the RNC. Please click here for a more detailed report of this election.
The very next week, National Committeeman Dr. Robin Armstrong, our new CommitteewomanToni Anne Dashiell, and I traveled to Los Angeles to attend the spring meeting of the Republican National Committee. The main goal of the Texas delegation was to voice our concerns that the RNC rules not mandate to individual states the manner in which each state selects its own national convention delegates. We also received an update on the Growth and Opportunity Project; and members had an opportunity to have a frank discussion regarding their concerns or constructive criticism with the conclusions of the committee charged to evaluate how to improve the Republican Party’s performance in the next Presidential Election.
One of my goals was to ascertain whether the results of this self analysis yielded a commitment to provide resources to Texas to ensure the state stays in the Republican column. Texas has actually been competitive over the past several years but fortunately we have been able to win the vast majority of races around the state. Through the 2008 elections Democrats actually held a majority of the elected offices statewide. Moreover in 2006 and 2008, the statewide base vote of the Republican Party had declined by several points compared to previous elections, and we only had a slim majority in the Texas House, 76-74, at the conclusion of the 2008 elections. Fortunately, in part as a result of a revitalized, restructured, and refinanced state party, we have been able to increase the percentage of votes our statewide candidates have received since 2008 and obtained overwhelming majorities in the Texas House and Senate. In addition we now hold over 60% of all elected offices statewide as a result of Republican elected officials occupying 815 more offices statewide than we did in 2008. We have also won every statewide office since 1994.
Despite this overwhelming success, I have preached the entire time I have been State Chairman that we need to treat this state as a battleground state. In the past, these warnings seemingly fell on deaf ears as we received very little, if any, support from the national party. As a result, the RPT has basically gone in alone for some time to keep Texas a red state. I was heartened at the RNC meeting to learn from Chairman Priebus that they are taking the Democrat’s efforts to win Texas’ electoral votes in 2016 very seriously, and that we will be receiving some significant support from the national party as soon as this year. Stay tuned for some announcements which we hope to make in the next few months regarding this initiative. I also was heartened to learn that the RNC plans to mimic the successful 50 state strategy of the DNC, and to operate victory programs on a year round basis. What this means specifically is that initially, the RNC will spend at least $10 Million a year financing over 200 field operatives across the 50 states to organize year round voter identification, voter registration, and voter turnout efforts on behalf of the GOP. I also was told that the RNC plans to develop a new digital software platform that they hope will not only rival but even exceed the technological capabilities of the Democratic Party. In addition to visiting with Chairman Priebus there was a series of committee meetings, panel discussions, and a general business session during my week in Los Angeles. The primary issue at the general business session was the reforming of the RNC rules to be more grassroots friendly. Click here for our full recap of the RNC meetings.
Although about half the month was taken up with RNC business, I still had a very active month attending fundraisers, speaking around the state, and lobbying for legislation. In the first week of April we held a Grassroots Club luncheon in Austin at which Senator Cornyn was the featured speaker. This was an effort to encourage people to retain their Grassroots Clubs memberships by providing special benefits to members. We are currently planning some additional exclusive Grassroots Club member leadership events. This is a great way for the Party to raise money as the Party gets to keep approximately 90% of funds raised in this manner, as well as a way for us to keep in touch with the grassroots. If you sign up for the Grassroots Club you are taken off the RPT mail and call lists. For more info on the Grassroots Club please click here. After the Grassroots Club lunch I hosted our monthly leadership call featuring Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson where we discussed, the Texas Solution, firearms, and a legislative update as the end of the 83rd session draws nearer.
The next day I traveled to Midland for a fundraiser held by former RNC Committeeman Ernie Angelo. The fundraiser was a tremendous success, raising over $40,000. SREC memberRhonda Lacy was also in attendance. Please click here for a full recap of the Midland fundraiser. Then I was back to Austin where I spoke to the Austin Republican Women’s Club, giving me a chance to visit with Suzanne Bellsnyder, President of the ARW.
The following day I attended the Travis County Reagan-Lincoln Day Dinner, TCRP ChairmanRosemary Edwards held a successful event featuring Senator Ted Cruz, and they also held a very successful auction that raised thousands of dollars. I was the high bidder for a tour of the Ronald Reagan Ranch for 4 and I can’t wait to get out to see one of the homes of my all time hero. The week following the RNC meetings, House Republican Caucus ChairmanBrandon Creighton stopped by to present the RPT with a $5,000 check. We are very appreciative of all the support Chairman Creighton has provided to the Republican Party this session.
I also traveled to Denton County to speak to the University of North Texas chapter of the College Republicans. While there I had an opportunity to visit with SREC members Jean McGiver, Leslie Recine, and Tom Washington, as well as Denton County Chairwoman Dianne Edmondson. I came back that evening to Austin because the next morning I gave a speech before a contingent of High School Republicans of Texas members who were at the Capitol. Connor Pfeiffer, State Chairman of the High School Republicans of Texas, did his usual fine job of organizing a very successful event. The next day I was the opening speaker at the TFRW luncheon featuring Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, Comptroller Susan Combs, and Land CommissionerJerry Patterson. The TFRW turned out hundreds upon hundreds of Republican women for a day at the Capitol. You could see their red shirts throughout legislator’s offices as TFRW members met with their hometown representatives.
The following day I traveled to Brazos County where I joined County Chairman Paul Rieger for the opening of the new Brazos County Republican Headquarters. This was followed the next day by an address to the College Republican state convention being held at the State Capitol.
The following week I spent a good bit of time at the State Capitol testifying for various pieces of legislation. I testified on behalf of 4 bills, including 3 bills before the House Elections Committee, Chaired by former SREC member Geanie Morrison. Chairman Morrison has been wonderful to work with this session and has been extremely helpful in drafting legislation to accomplish the State Party’s goal of increasing Texas’s influence in the Presidential Primary process as well as deregulating party’s. I testified on behalf of the two pieces of legislation the State Party is sponsoring this session to advance these goals. I also testified on behalf of a bill by former Fort Bend County Chairman Rick Miller who introduced legislation to ensure Presidential electors actually vote for who they pledge to vote for. I also testified in front of the House Committee on Education on behalf of Senator Dan Patrick’s bill, SB-2. This bill introduces an element of parental choice into the educational system by expanding the number of charter schools allowed in the state, while at the same time ensuring the appropriate standards are met by the schools.
I finished the week out with a whirlwind trip around the state, traveling to Lubbock to speak to a combined meeting of the Texas Tech College Republicans and the Texas Tech Young Conservatives of Texas chapters. I also had chance to visit with Lubbock County GOP Chairman Carl Tepperwhile I was there. Chairman Tepper, by all accounts, is doing an outstanding job. From Lubbock it was back to Austin, and then on to Gun Barrel City where I spoke to the Cedar Creek Republican Club where SREC members Vicky Slaton and Nathan Derr were in attendance. I drove from Gun Barrel City directly to Houston that evening/early morning of the next day in order to meet with one of our Chairman’s Circle members, Ross Davis, who set up a meeting with a key Hispanic business leader who wishes to help the Republican Party.
That evening I attended the Harris County Reagan-Lincoln Day Dinner. There were over 600 people in attendance, making the event a smashing success. Harris County GOP ChairmanJared Woodfill fired up the troops prior to keynote speeches by Senator Cornyn andSenator Cruz. Former Harris County Tax Collector/Assessor and SREC member Paul Bettencourt conducted a very successful auction along with State Senator Dan Patrick who offered to donate $1,000 to the Harris County Republican Party if I would post a picture of Texas A&M coach, Kevin Sumlin, in my office for one year. You know the party means a lot to me and fundraising is of prime importance when a double longhorn (Attended undergrad and law school at UT) agrees to put anything maroon in his office for a day, let alone a year. But $1,000 is $1,000 so I will do it. However I do plan to have a calendar countdown clock next to the picture so that I am reminded on day 365 to take it down and replace it with a picture of a longhorn.
We also continued to spend a lot of time on outreach during the month of April. Our primary goal for April was to establish a new statewide Asian-American Republican Auxiliary with the help of Martha Wong, Commissioner Andy Nguyen, Tina Gibson, and others. We are very close to completing this task. Also, TFRO Chairman Bill Calhoun brought a team of African American Republican leaders and marketing consultants to the RPT offices to present a very detailed, data driven marketing plan to reach hundreds of thousands of African American households, which data indicate are open to voting for Republicans. I was very impressed with the plan and the RPT plans to commit some resources to it now with the hope of being able to eventually fully fund the entire program. This, combined with new field staff to work the African American community, will give us the opportunity to significantly increase our percentage of the vote from the African American community, which is one of my primary goals.
On the financial front, we again ended the month with 0 bills and over $1 Million cash-on-hand. While this is the best shape the Republican Party of Texas been in financially in any of the three Aprils I have been Chairman, we still expect a significant cash draw down from this balance as a result of it being an off election year and for the further reason that summer months are traditionally barren. Thus I hope people don’t get too excited about the cash-on-hand as and I have been fiercely resisting suggestions to spend this money since we will be lucky to end the year with half this amount in our accounts.
As we look ahead, we are coming down the final stretch of the legislative session which will be our primary focus in the month May. Hopefully the legislature will conclude all of its immediate business, which will allow us to spend the summer months organizing campaign schools, drafting victory plans for 2014, and hopefully with the assistance of the RNC, adding additional field staff to help organize the state for the 2014 midterm elections. I suspect as busy as we have been so far this year, that 2014 will be here in no time and we all need to be prepared.
Stephen Munisteri, Chairman