There's an old saying – "No rest for the weary", and this was true for the staff and me in August. No sooner had we completed the July 31st runoff before we turned our attention to preparations for the Texas delegation to travel to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. This was no small task, as we had over 700 Texans travel to Tampa and the State Party was responsible for coordinating lodging, organizing daily delegate briefings, arranging speaker scheduling, hosting fundraisers, distributing swag, providing transportation info, as well as generally attending to the day-to-day needs of our delegation. Our Deputy Executive Director Chris Elam was charged with overseeing all of these efforts and we eventually sent Chris, Executive Director Beth Cubriel, Finance Director Keri Mason, Organizational Director Cassie Daniel, Minority Outreach Director David Zapata, Youth Outreach Director Nick Carona, and Victory 2012 Finance Assistant Rachel Wilson to Tampa, where in addition to the previously mentioned responsibilities, they also manned a TexasGOP headquarters at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Florida. The Texas delegation, possibly for the first time ever, included three delegates who have been State Party Chairman – myself, Tom Pauken and Cathie Adams – see the picture above. We will be sending out a full recap of the National Convention in a subsequent email.
I did have time prior to leaving for Tampa to travel to Republican groups around the state. During the first week of August, I went to Pearland for an SD11 & 17 District Caucus hosted by SD11 SREC members Dennis Paul and Sheryl Berg, and SD17 SREC members Tina Gibson and Marvin Clede. This delegate caucus meeting was an opportunity for the SREC as well as myself, to update party activists on what was occurring within the Party, as well as to update them on the upcoming election. The second week of August, Victory Chair Ed Emmett came to Austin and we had an opportunity to continue our Victory preparations and plan for the opening of the Houston Victory Center. Later in the week, I traveled to Brownwood and spoke to the Brown County Republican Women's Club where I was introduced by club Vice-President Shirley Keyes. You can see in the picture below that the club also made a generous contribution to the RPT! I had not been to Brownwood in a long time so it was a good opportunity to visit that area of the state. We had local media coverage and an excellent turnout so it was well worth the trip.
On the second Saturday of the month, the Party held its bi-annual County Chair training organized by our Organizational Director, Cassie Daniel. We view the County Chair and SREC training as one of the most important functions of the State Party.
Starting off the day we heard remarks from our Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson followed by a break out session of the SREC members and County Chairs. First, RPT Vice Chairman Melinda Fredricks spoke on rules, resolutions, party organizations, auxiliaries and coalitions, volunteerism, officials, Grassroots Club, and the Candidate Resource Committee. Dianne Edmonson, Denton County Chair, lead the County Executive Committee meeting shortly after Toni Anne Dashiell, Kendall County Chair, spoke about organizing County Parties. Jessica Colon, founder of Colon & Co. touched on Get Out the Vote efforts and during a lunch break we heard remarks from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Afterwards former SREC members Amy Clark and Russell Martinez discussed utilizing auxiliaries and effective outreach. Chris Elam, RPT's Deputy Executive Director and Communications Director Marie Mazzanti spoke on new and social media's role in party politics. Following was a topic discussion by Lampasas County Chair Skipper Wallace on building relationships with legislators and the legislative process. Finally, the day was concluded by a presentation by Party Treasurer Tom Mechler, Assistant Treasurer Tom Washington and Karnes County Chair and SREC General Counsel Eric Opiela, who all spoke on fundraising and finance best practices.
The following week, we met with a coalition of Republican-oriented groups concerning targeted races in Texas in the November elections. The next day, I had a chance to travel to Houston to see U.S. Senator Marco Rubio at an event sponsored by the Hispanic Republicans of Texas and the Associated Republicans of Texas. They have been putting together a wonderful series of events in diferent cities focusing on reaching the Hispanic community with the GOP message. Outreach Director David Zapata has been working with them to further promote these efforts. Senator Rubio gave an excellent speech and was a big hit.
I then traveled back to Austin to debate the ACLU and a liberal UT college professor, primarily on Voter ID and their untrue allegations of Republican voter suppression, before the Jewish Community Relations Council. Being Travis County, the audience was overwhelmingly Democrat, so this made for an interesting and lively debate. What struck me most was when I asked the audience how many of them liked how the Constitution was written, a significant number did not raise their hands. I am confident that at a Republican function, 100% of participants would have raised their hands. I find it a useful exercise to speak in front of Democrat and/or liberal leaning groups as a reminder that we still have plenty of work to do and what we're up against. We are not simply in a contest to win elections, but we are in an ideological battle between ourselves (who believe in the Constitution, individual rights, personal responsibility, and free enterprise) versus those who think that collectivism and government are the answer to most problems.
At the end of the week, I did one of my favorite things – meet with Republican youth leadership from around the state, at a forum put together by our Youth Outreach Director Nick Carona. The RPT hosted a meeting at our headquarters between myself and the College Republicans of Texas leaders Amanda Adamez, Kristopher Infante, Vanessa Cortez, Mike Johnson, High School Republicans of Texas leader Connor Pfeiffer, and representing the Young Conservatives of Texas, Jeff Morris. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways in which the RPT can assist our young leadership to effectively market the Republican Party to young people as well as to involve existing leadership more in the Party. As noted previously, our new High School Republicans of Texas recently won two national awards at the National Teenage Republican Leadership Conference.
The following day, the RPT hosted a summit and briefing for Tea Party leaders from around the state here at our Headquarters in Austin. Special thanks goes to Kaufman County Tea Party leader Ray Myers who helped organize and ensure attendance at the meeting. The summit served as an opportunity for Tea Party leaders to directly and frankly share their concerns with the RPT as well as an opportunity for RPT to provide them information on targeted races and invite their help in electing Republicans in key districts.
After the Tea Party meeting, I drove to Kendall County where I served as the keynote speaker at the Go Red Gala. Former TFRW President and current Kendall County GOP Chair Toni Anne Dashiell organized a very successful event that was well attended and raised a substantial amount of money for the Kendall County GOP. The following Monday I attended the kickoff for the Houston Victory Center located at the Harris County GOP headquarters. Senate nominee Ted Cruz and current Senator John Cornyn, along with Harris County Judge Ed Emmett (our 2012 Victory Chair) were the keynote speakers. The event was packed with an overflow crowd that spilled out into the hallway. Special thanks goes to Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill for his hospitality and especially for his having the local party work hand in glove with the State Party to operate this Victory Center.
The following day, I was off to Tampa for Republican National Committee meetings as well as the National Convention. There were actually two RNC meetings – one the week before the National Convention, and another the day after the National Convention. The meeting before the National Convention was Bill Crocker's last as our National Committeeman, although he will still be serving as RNC General Counsel. Special thanks goes out to Bill for his service to Texas! At the meeting after the Convention, Dr. Robin Armstrong began his service as our National Committeeman. There was a proposal at the RNC meeting after the Convention to allow the national chairman to spend large sums of money without either RNC approval, or even the Officials Committee approval. All he would have to do is have one officer sign off. I rose to speak against this resolution, as I do not believe it is prudent in an organization to allow the expenditure of large sums of money with the involvement of only two people. The entire Texas delegation was united on this point as Committeewoman Borah Van Dormolen and Committeeman Robin Armstrong joined me in voting "no" on this resolution, however it did finally pass.
On the financial front, the Party continues to pay its liabilities to zero by the end of every month. August marked the 22nd monthly report in a row with liabilities of zero. Cash on hand in our general purpose accounts totaled $785,000. There are several hundred thousand of previously committed funds in other dedicated accounts. Thus, the Party's financial condition continues to be strong.
Although this is the August Report, at the time that I am sending this out, we are only days away from the start of the voting process for the November election. By Saturday, September 22nd, election officials must send out military ballots by mail, and early vote by mail ballots are already being requested. Thus, as hard as it may seem to believe, voting in this year's Presidential election and other key races will probably start next week for some voters. Early voting for the rest of Texans is just a few weeks away. Bottom line – we are coming down to the final stretch for an election that will decide the future course of our country. The choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney couldn't be more clear. I urge everyone who believes in strong, conservative Republican principles to work as they have never worked before – be it blockwalking, phone banking, calling from home, etc, to ensure not only a Republican victory on November 6th, but a victory for America as well.
Let the value of the future of our country be your guide in determining how much effort you put into these elections.
Steve Munisteri, Chairman, Republican Party of Texas