In the month of May the RPT focused on two key objectives, pushing through RPT proposed legislation on Election Code reform, and working out details with the RNC to establish year round Victory and community engagement efforts. The State Party hammered out an agreement with the Democratic Party to support two pieces of legislation, one of which would be a comprehensive deregulation of Party rules, and the other granting the State Parties greater flexibility regarding allocation of delegates at the national convention to Presidential candidates. I am happy to report that SB 1398 authored by Senator Craig Estes and HB 3102 authored by StateRepresentative Geanie Morrison both passed the House and the Senate and have been sent to the Governor's desk for signing. If the bills are not vetoed by June 16th they will go into effect either when the Governor signs them or after 10:00 AM on that date.
The comprehensive bill allows, among other things, the State Parties to have flexibility as to how delegates to the state convention are picked, how caucuses are conducted, and the dates of state conventions. The national delegate bill will grant greater authority to the state convention to adopt rules as to the manner in which national convention delegates are allocated to Presidential candidates. The increased flexibility would allow either a proportional representation, modified winner-take-all, or a true winner-take-all determined by the will of the delegates as opposed to state government. The month of May also saw the conclusion of the 83rd Legislative Session. In addition to the Election Code reform, the State Party’s #1 priority was also to urge our State Representatives and State Senators not to increase taxes or fees and I am happy to report that taxes were not raised this session. We also advocated that a substantial amount of money be left in the Rainy Day Fund before the start of the next legislative session. Current estimates are that the Rainy Day Fund should have an excess of up to $8 billion by the start of the next legislative session. We will be providing a more detailed legislative update in the near future.
One issue that was not resolved however was redistricting. Most people are not aware that the maps from the 2012 elections were only temporary maps and are no longer in effect. Consequently, right now there are no district maps drawn for the State House, State Senate, and Congress. During the special session the Legislature will presumably pass new maps. In the absence of doing so, it is expected that the federal three-judge panel in Bexar County would draw new maps. Even if the legislature draws new maps there is a chance that lawsuits will be filed challenging them. In the event of lawsuits being filed it is anticipated that either the existing panel or a new federal panel would ultimately rule on the boundaries for the district lines for 2014. The potential for new legal disputes raises the possibility that the filing period and/or the primary dates could be altered in 2014 as they were in 2012. We here at the Party will try to keep everyone up to date on this situation as developments occur.
The second area we focused on in May was our ongoing discussions with RNC leadership, including National Chairman Reince Priebus and Regional Political Director James Garcia on the development of plans to increase our efforts in the areas of voter identification, persuasion, registration, and turnout. We also discussed a further expansion of our outreach efforts to ensure that the RPT is active in every community in Texas. Preliminary plans have been agreed upon which will yield a substantial increase in the number of RPT staff as well as additional RNC personnel being assigned to Texas full time. Once the plans are finalized we will make a formal announcement. In the meantime I can tell you that we anticipate establishing multiple Victory Centers around the state this year and adding additional Victory staff to man these centers year-round. We will also be adding a significant number of field staff to be embedded in the Hispanic, African American, and Asian American communities around Texas. Some of this additional staff will be paid for by the RNC and some will be paid for by the RPT. Chairman Priebus outlined some of these plans at a meeting we set up with 252 grassroots leaders from around the state on May 29th in Houston. Please click here for the full report from that meeting.
In addition to the additional field staff and offices, the RPT is finalizing plans, including a grant from the RNC, to target a couple hundred thousand African American households who we believe are open to voting Republican. Bill Calhoun with the Texas Federation for Republican Outreach pitched this concept to the RPT last month and I have decided to move forward with it as a pilot project.
We also made it a goal of ours at the RPT to complete work on helping the Asian Republicans of Texas to organize as a statewide auxiliary. Former Houston City Councilwoman Martha Wong and Tarrant County Commissioner Andy Nguyen have been instrumental in working with the RPT staff as well as with the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee, chaired by Tina Gibson, to organize this new auxiliary. The SREC voted to accept the Texas Asian Republican Assembly as the first official Asian American auxiliary at the SREC’s second quarterly meeting of 2013 on June 7th and 8th. Click here for the full recap of the SREC meeting.
In between working on these projects I had time to get back on the road to attend events around the state. During the first week of May I had a chance to travel back home to Houston to attend a meeting of the regional county chairs hosted at the Harris County Republican Headquarters with Fort Bend County Chair, Mike Gibson. After the regional chairs meeting I traveled to Bexar County to attend the annual Bexar County GOP fundraiser held at Retama Park. They had a Kentucky Derby themed fundraiser which was very successful. Bexar County Chairman Curt Nelson put on a wonderful event that was attended by many of the local officials. The following week I traveled to Beaumont to speak before the Golden Triangle Republican Women’s Club.
From Beaumont I traveled to Washington DC for a couple of days where I met with, among others, Congressmen Lamar Smith, Ted Poe, John Culberson, Jeb Hensarling, Roger Williams, John Carter, Randy Neugebauer, Mike Conaway, Kenny Marchant, and Bill Flores. I then returned to Austin at the end of the week to have a meeting with freshmen Republican State Representatives Craig Goldman, Rick Miller, Bennett Ratliff, Stephani Klick, Phil Stephenson, Cecil Bell, Trent Ashby, Ed Thompson, Drew Springer, and Scott Sanford. The following week we had our monthly statewide teleconference with party leadership followed by a teleconference with our Officials Committee the next day. The Committee dealt mainly with the issue related to the 2016 state convention.
At the end of the week my staff and I met with James Garcia, the new Regional Political Director for the RNC for the Texas region. James is from Houston and understands the state well. He was also in Colorado when Democrats made a major push to turn the state Democratic so his experience is invaluable when it comes to planning for the future of the Republican Party in Texas. I also attended the Austin Republican Women’s Club in Travis County that week,State Representative Danch Branch and Land Commissioner Candidate George P. Bush. I closed out the third week of May by speaking at a regional meeting of the Federation of Republican Women held in Sugarland.
The following week I attended a meeting of about 300 volunteers put together by Dallas County Chair Wade Emmert as part of his Battlefield Dallas campaign. Wade has put together an impressive plan to turn Dallas County back from the Democratic column to the Republican column. The fact that he was able to turn out several hundred people that wish to volunteer to register and turn out new Republican voters was encouraging. The following day I drove to Denton to attend a fundraiser for the Denton County Republican Party. Denton County ChairDianne Edmondson hosted the fundraiser which was successful for both the local and state party in bringing in new funds.
That evening I drove from Denton to Dallas to attend a fundraiser at the Harlan Crow library hosted by Mr. Crow himself. Our Finance Committee, headed up by Hal Lambert, did a fantastic job of insuring the event’s success despite it occurring during tornado warnings and heavy rain. We exceeded our goal for the event and I send out a big thank you to Mr. Crow for being such a generous and hospitable host. Click here for a recap of the fundraiser.
Upon my return to Austin later in the week I had an opportunity to meet with Bill Calhoun and representatives form the Texas Federation for Republican Outreach at the Capitol for their legislative day. I also had a chance to visit with Representative James White. Bill has done a wonderful job spearheading outreach into the African American community.
The last week of May was spent preparing for our statewide grassroots leadership meeting with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. Click here for the recap of this meeting. In addition to hosting the grassroots event I also attended two fundraisers for the RNC in Houston that day. Chairman Priebus did a great job making the case as to why it was important for donors to support party activities. I finished off the month of May by having several interviews with publications such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, who are writing stories on the current state of politics in Texas.
On the financial front, as a result of having another good fundraiser, we were able to yet again maintain a cash balance in excess of $1 million in our account after all of our bills had been paid to $0 at the end of the month. This figure is several hundred thousand dollars more than I projected we would have at this time of the year. However, I again wish to be cautious and advise everyone that we expect a several hundred thousand dollar drop in our cash reserves during summer months when there is little fundraising.
On another note, I am pleased to report again that we have had more party switchers in the month of May, bringing our total number since the November elections up to 30. This in turn has resulted in a new net gain of 275 more Republicans holding office today as compared to 2010 and 850 more Republicans holding elected office than in 2008.
As far as I can remember the RNC has never before committed year round resources to the state of Texas. Consequently, I am very appreciative of the fact that Chairman Priebus and the RNC leadership has heeded our call for assistance, and that for the first time that anyone can remember, we will be getting substantial ongoing financial help from the National Party. We are confident that we will have the staff, offices, and money to keep Texas a solid Republican state as long we also get substantial grassroots volunteer support. Thus it is up to you and all of our fellow Republicans to take advantage of this unique opportunity so that we can ensure that Republican elected officials continue to be elected in future elections. The way I see it, as goes Texas goes the rest of country. Let us work together to make sure both go in the right direction.
Stephen Munisteri, Chairman