When I retired from practicing law three years ago, I thought my days in the courtroom were behind me. Unfortunately, the majority of my focus in January has been on the redistricting lawsuits and other legal matters. In fact, we are still involved in multiple lawsuits over redistricting (including one in which the City of Austin and Travis County are plaintiffs at taxpayer expense.) As we've reported through a series of redistricting updates, there is still uncertainty as to when our Texas primaries will be held and this makes it impossible for us to make final arrangements for delegate selection to our State Convention and to prepare for ballot drawings, candidates to re-file, etc.
What I believe is clear at this time is that we will not have an April 3rd primary, nor an April 10th primary. There is still some chance we will have an April 17th primary if maps can be put in place by February 20th. As reported on Monday this week, the Attorney General has put forth proposed maps. These maps were agreed to by a significant number of plaintiffs groups, but were opposed by the Texas Democratic Party and other Democratic groups. The San Antonio three-judge panel did not accept these maps and indicated rather that the two sides should continue to negotiate. My best guess is that there will not be an agreement between all the parties, and therefore we will move forward with a trial this week on the State Senate seat currently held by Democratic Senator Wendy Davis, as well as moving forward with a hearing on (presumably) all the issues, next Wednesday – February 15th.
We continue to advocate the Republican Party of Texas' position that it is still within the Court's power to accomplish a single unified April primary. This will require the Court to make a decision shortly after the hearing next week as to which districts (if any) need to be redrawn, then accomplishing the redrawing of the maps by the following week. In the event that this does not happen, I have been evaluating several fallback plans that I will discuss with Party leadership and our attorneys over the next few weeks. However the Court rules, certainty is an ally of accomplishing an orderly convention and primary process.
Fortunately, the Presidential race appears to still have a long ways to go and this increases the likelihood that even a later Texas Presidential primary will still have an impact on the selection of our nominee. There has been a lot of misinformation put out by the media indicating that the race is farther along in the process than it really is. For example, several news media outlets list Governor Mitt Romney as having over 100 delegates. This number is inaccurate – these media outlets apparently include, for example, an allocation of the 28 Iowa delegates despite the fact that no Iowa delegates have been selected yet. The Presidential vote at the Iowa caucus was just a straw poll – the actual delegate selection is a three-step process starting with precinct caucuses, then district caucuses, then finally, Congressional district caucuses at which the final delegates are selected. Delegates don't even have to state their preference as to who they are pledged to until the final convention.
The Republican National Committee puts out an official delegate tally every week or so (click on the photo at right to see the latest chart.) Just last night, there were contests in three states that have received much media attention – but all three of those states were non-binding caucus or primary states! The official current delegate count which I received today from the RNC is: Romney at 73, Gingrich at 29, Paul at 8, and Santorum at 3. Thus we have a very long way to go in deciding our nominee – as it requires 1144 delegates to get the nomination and it is mathematically impossible for any candidate to obtain a majority of the delegates before the end of May. Therefore, if we have a Presidential primary in April – there is still a good chance that Texas can have an impact on the Presidential nominee choice. I would also note, that even through Super Tuesday – only 642 total delegates will have been selected. Texas is a huge prize. There are only two states which have more than 76 delegates – one is California with 174 and Texas has 155. Our impact is magnified by the fact that numerous of the early primary states had their delegate allocations cut in half for violating the RNC's primary schedule. For example, Florida (which normally would have 100 delegates) only has 50 this year – meaning that Texas is worth more than three Florida's. In my opinion, the race is far from over and any one of the four current candidates still has a chance to accumulate significant delegate blocs. There is also an outside chance that we could have a brokered convention which would make Texas a huge player in picking our Republican nominee.
Speaking of the Republican National Committee, National Committeeman and RNC General Counsel Bill Crocker, National Committeewoman Borah Van Dormolen and myself, all attended the RNC's bi-annual meetings which were held in New Orleans the week of January 9th. There, we received the good news from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus that during the past year of his chairmanship, he was able to significantly reduce the outstanding debt of the RNC by several million dollars while at the same time increasing the party's cash balances into eight figures. This is a strong improvement of the party's financial position as compared to when he took office in January 2011. There were various committee meetings and seminars presented at the national meetings and I was asked to make a presentation on our Grassroots Club to the State Chairmen at the State Chairman's Association meeting. I also made a presentation to the Southern Regional Chairmen and Committeepersons as to the importance of outreach among the Hispanic and African-American communities. Borah Van Dormolen is on the committee of Convention Arrangements and worked on that issue. Bill Crocker, who also serves as RNC General Counsel, attended all official committee meetings in addition to the regular sessions and he also dealt with all the legal issues affecting the national party. Bill Crocker is serving his last term as National Committeeman for Texas. He has served very ably and will be missed. Fortunately, he will continue on as General Counsel for the RNC – we are very glad to have a Texan represented on the Officials Committee of the national party!
The third week of January, after I returned from the RNC meeting, I was back on the road, as I traveled to Harris County where I spoke to the San Jacinto Republican Club. SREC members Rex Teter and Glenda Bowles were there, and there was a terrific turnout. The following day we had a tele-townhall conference with statewide Republican leadership where Senator John Cornyn provided an update on events in Washington, D.C. and answered questions from the callers. Later in the week, I had an opportunity to have a meeting with Bill Crocker and Borah Van Dormolen to discuss RNC issues, as well as to meet with a group of Republican judges concerning the judicial elections.
The following week I had an opportunity to be a guest on Lubbock radio, met with several of our legislators in Austin, and traveled to San Marcos to speak at Texas State University College Republicans' meeting. That week was also taken up with our lawyers filing an advisory with the San Antonio three-judge panel, requesting that they move up their scheduled February 1st hearing to an earlier date. The Court accommodated this request and scheduled a hearing for Friday, January 27th. Thus the end of the week was taken up preparing for and attending that hearing, which went into the evening on Friday the 27th. The following day I traveled to Waller County and was their keynote speaker at the Waller County Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner. I closed out the month by visiting with Comptroller Susan Combs, who has maintained a very active interest in the health of the RPT and she visits with us from time to get an update and status on our progress. She not only provides excellent political and financial advice, but is also a strong financial supporter of the RPT and recently renewed her Chairman's Circle membership by donating an additional $25,000 to the Party. If you see her, please thank her for her generosity!
In previous Chairman's Updates, I noted concern that fundraising has been difficult in the current environment with so much uncertainty over the election dates and so many candidates raising money at the same time we are. I set a goal of attempting to maintain at least a half-million dollar cushion for the RPT, while continuing to pay all our bills to zero every month. Part of my concern on the finances is the constant drain of legal fees for all of the various suits in which we are involved. Fortunately, we receive a lot of free legal help as well as work on a reduced-fee basis. For example, Chris Ward at the law firm of Yetter Coleman LLP, saved us a considerable amount of money in January by filing a brief for us before the U.S. Supreme Court, pro bono. Moreover, because of the primary season we've had to add additional full-time temporary help in order to have adequate staff to handle filing and to be available to answer questions from candidates which are voluminous because of the uncertainty of the primaries. Fortunately, I'm happy to report that we have been able to continue to pay our bills to zero every couple of weeks and currently have on-hand approximately $600,000 of non-dedicated funds, including the $100,000 in our Rainy Day Fund. We have also been able to sign up people for the Grassroots Club and now have had more than 1,300 sign up since the inception of the program 16 months ago. I have also been encouraged by the continued support of some of our elected officials and specifically by elected officials either signing up, or renewing their Chairman's Circle membership. In addition to Comptroller Susan Combs renewing her membership last month, State Senator Glenn Hegar was also added to the Chairman's Circle and he has been providing very generous financial support to the RPT as well. Membership renewals have recently gone out in the mail, and we encourage you to renew your financial membership in the Party if you have not already done so – early returns have been very positive.
We continue to plan for the 2012 Election working closely with our Victory Chairman, Ed Emmett, on timelines and budgets. We will have a specific report on this shortly.
I am presuming that a significant portion of my time over the next few weeks will again be spent on the redistricting issues in front of the San Antonio three-judge panel. Once the Court finally issues new maps, I suspect we will be in a sprint to get ready for our primaries and State Convention. I appreciate everybody's patience in the meantime.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our hard-working County Chairs and Precinct Chairs who are under increased stress as a result of not being able to plan for ballot drawings, precinct conventions, district conventions, etc. I know it is creating extra stress for you – as the situation is also creating extra stress for myself and the RPT staff. I hope you will stick with us and continue your work for the Party despite these trying circumstances. I feel confident that if we can avoid getting discouraged, that we will be able to come up with solutions and in the end, all the aggravation will be worth it if we prevail in November.
For any of you who may be a little down over the situation, I suggest you visualize Inauguration Day next year… as we watch President Obama leave the Oval Office and our Republican nominee being sworn in. That should put a big smile on your face – it certainly does mine.
Steve Munisteri, Chairman, Republican Party of Texas