The month of February was a busy for month for the staff and me. The staff was busy preparing for the March 4thprimaries while at the same time preparing for the upcoming state convention, which included conducting a series of training sessions across the state as part of our engagement program. Click here for a recap of those training sessions.
Although county parties are responsible for conducting the primaries, RPT personnel also spent a great deal of time involved in the process, in part, because of the constant county chair turnover between elections. It is the responsibility of RPT Organization Director, Cassie Daniel, to ensure that new county chairs understand the steps involved in conducting successful primary elections. Consequently, Cassie and other staff members spent time in February following up with county chairs to make sure all of their questions were answered. The RPT is also responsible for making sure each county knows which candidates to include on their ballots.
While the staff was busy preparing for the primaries, work also got underway on the 2014 state convention. In 2012, our state convention was the largest state convention in the US and there were more delegates to our state convention than there were to the Republican National Convention. As a result, it is a mammoth undertaking. With only three months to go until the convention, the staff is now meeting on a weekly basis to ensure we have enough booth sales, hotel rooms, sponsors, etc. In addition, there is a tremendous amount of logistical work to be done such as organizing registration, space planning, audio-visual setup, caucus setup, breakout sessions, volunteer recruitment, security, etc.
I have sat in on most of the convention planning meetings and I am proud of the job that RPT Executive Director, Beth Cubriel, and the staff have done so far preparing for June. We are hoping to have some exciting announcements on keynote speakers very soon, with Governor Rick Perry, Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator Rand Paul already confirmed. In addition, if you would like to sign up to attend or volunteer at the convention and vote in the presidential straw poll you may do so now HERE.
If preparing for the primary and convention weren’t enough, our staff also undertook an ambitious multi-city engagement tour to help get more people involved in the convention process. The engagement staff, consisting of African American Engagement Director, Tommy Coleman, Hispanic Engagement Director, David Zapata, and Asian American Engagement Director, Melissa Fwu set up training sessions in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. I attended all but one of the training sessions which I missed because of a car accident on the way to the event. I was encouraged by all of the new faces from many different communities. Our staff did an excellent job presenting information about the convention process and how to become more involved in the party.
The month was made even busier by the news from the RNC that they are ready to roll out their new digital platform. New RNC Director of Technology Development, Andy Burkett, who previously worked for Facebook and Google, came to Texas to update our staff and Victory personnel on the new platform. Texas has already been granted early access to the system and will perform a test of the system in late March in selected precincts during our statewide block walks. If everything goes according to plan we will begin to roll out the program to the rest of the state soon after that. The new system will have updated information on voter contacts as well as allowing users to download block walking maps straight to their phones, thereby creating the ability to download walk lists as well as uploading that information directly into the system on the go. The new system is a significant technological upgrade over anything we have had in the past and eventually this tool will be available to county parties and Republican candidates.
Meanwhile, the Victory Centers continue to operate with both victory and engagement personnel in Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth. We plan to open an office in the Valley in the coming months as well as an official Victory center in Dallas with additional staff.
February was a very busy month for me personally as there were many Lincoln Reagan Day Dinners held around the state and I always try to attend as many as possible. During the first week of February I had the opportunity to travel to Denton County to attend their dinner which had over 800 people in attendance. Denton County Chair, Dianne Edmondson, also added a conference on various issues during the day which I also spoke at and it turned out to be very worthwhile. The following week I traveled to Dallas and Fort Worth for the engagement training seminars, although as I noted earlier, I missed the Fort Worth training due to a car accident.
I was able to make it to Frisco, Texas for a wonderful event for Representative Pat Fallon which featured Ronald Reagan’s chief speechwriter who wrote the famous “Tear Down this Wall” speech. The following day I made it up to Wichita Falls where I was the keynote speaker at their first ever Lincoln Reagan Day Dinner. It was a complete success with over 150 people in attendance.
I flew back to Houston the next morning and co-hosted a luncheon for Senator Rand Paul. I then attended his speech that night at the Harris County Lincoln Reagan Day Dinner. Harris County Chairman, Jared Woodfill, and well known radio personality, former Tax Collector-Assessor, and candidate for state senate, Paul Bettencourt, arranged for me to auction off a picture of Texas A&M coach,Kevin Sumlin, hung in my office as part of a donor paying $3,000 to the party in exchange for my promise of hanging it in my office for one year, despite the fact that I am a Longhorn. I am happy to announce that Kathaleen Wall purchased the picture so that I no longer have to have Aggie maroon and white in my office. The Harris County dinner was a success with over 800 people in attendance. I stayed at home in Houston over that weekend in order to attend another engagement training the following Monday before heading back to Austin.
At the end of the week I was able to attend the Hays County dinner which bestowed on me the great privilege of introducing Michael Reagan as the keynote speaker. This was particularly meaningful to me as Michael Reagan endorsed me in my race for State Chairman four years ago, and I am a great admirer of his father, having been active in his campaigns in both 1976 and 1980.
The following day, former Executive Director of the RPT, Dr. Wayne Thorburn, who is also a book author and former college professor, made a presentation of his findings on the current status of the Republican and Democrat parties. One very interesting statistic he provided us was the fact that the Democrat party has not fielded a county-wide candidate in 86 of the 254 counties across the state, even though a number of these counties have relatively large populations. There are an additional 35 counties in which the Democrats have only fielded one county wide candidate. Thus, despite the Democrats beating their chests this past year about the organizational work they have done in Texas, the fact remains that they have made very little progress in a number of Republican held counties as evidenced by the fact they cannot field many candidates in those areas. The RPT is focused on gaining control of the courthouses in many counties around the state and our efforts have included an aggressive program to encourage conservative Democrats to switch to the GOP, which is one of the reasons we have been successful in shutting the Democrats out in a number of counties.
The following day I traveled to Galveston to participate in their dinner at the South Shore Harbor in League City. County Chairman Barbaba Meeks hosted the event which attracted approximately 700 people. It was then back to Austin the following day before a trip to Sun City where I emceed the Williamson County dinner at the request of County Chairman, Bill Fairbrother. Bill has been a longtime Chairman and has done an outstanding job turning the county Republican.
The next day I was on to San Antonio to attend the Bexar County dinner. Relatively new County Chairman, Robert Stovall, hosted his first Reagan Day Dinner and did an outstanding job. There were hundreds of people in attendance and Senator Ted Cruz delivered a rousing speech. After a quick stop back in Austin it was back to Dallas for a fundraiser for Representative Cindy Burkett. Representative Burkett is former member of the SREC and solid supporter of the party during my entire time as Chairman.
After a quick trip back to Austin, I was on to Houston that weekend to speak at a Houston Young Republican delegate training session.James Tolbert organized the event as part of efforts to engage more young voters. I traveled that night to Grimes County where I had the honor of introducing Senator Cruz. This is the second year in a row that County Chairman Joe Fauth has invited me to participate. This year’s crowd was the largest yet with almost 550 people in attendance, no doubt due to Senator Cruz speaking and the County Chair’s hard work.
From there it was on to Fort Bend the next day where I attended the Fort Bend Chinese American Association Gala for the Chinese Lunar New Year festival in Houston along with RPT Asian American Engagement Director, Melissa Fwu and members of the Texas Asian Republican Assembly. I was very encouraged by the roughly dozen Republican elected officials that attended and spoke. Republican leadership far outnumbered the Democrats attendance. I believe we are making great strides in the Asian American community in part due to the wonderful efforts of Melissa Fwu.
There were several conference calls in the last week of February, including one with the Executive Committee in which we went over the budget for 2014 for presentation at the first quarterly meeting of the SREC in March. We also discussed the relocation of RPT headquarters in order to expand our space while at the same time saving money. Following that conference call I had another one with the Vanguard PAC, which is a nationwide group of Young Republicans.
I ended February with another engagement training session in San Antonio followed by a trip to Mount Pleasant to speak with SREC member Sue Evenwel’s club, the Republican Women of Northeast Texas. I also had a chance to sit down with TFRW President Jody Rushton, TFRW staff Shannon Tracy and Elexis Grimes, TFRW District Director for SD15 Cynthia England, RPT Executive DirectorBeth Cubriel and RPT Statewide Victory Director John Jackson, to talk about ways that TFRW and the RPT could work closely together moving forward.
From there it was on to Dallas for an interview with the local media before attending the Dallas Lincoln Reagan dinner. Attending that dinner was a fitting way to end the month considering how many I attended in February. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley gave a rousing speech in front of a crowd of more than 800 with County Chairman Wade Emmert doing his usual outstanding job. Chairman Emmert was also helpful in organizing our Victory and engagement efforts in Dallas County and we are currently in discussions to open a separate Victory office from the Dallas County Republican headquarters.
Having been at a half dozen Lincoln Reagan Day dinners with Senator Cruz as the keynote speaker, it struck me how hard he is working to keep in touch with our grassroots base despite his national prominence and schedule, and talking with him in Grimes County I learned that in addition to the dinners I saw him at, he has also attended many others that I was unable to make. He also told me that in between these dinners he has given numerous speeches in other states. He had an exhausting schedule in February that no doubt could have been scaled back, but the fact that he didn’t, shows his commitment to help support the local county parties that were instrumental in his election.
On the financial front, the RPT continues to be in a solid financial position despite how difficult it can be to raise money when there are so many Republican candidates competing in multiple races. As a result, as I previously predicted, our discretionary cash balances have come down from well over $1 million to just under a million. However, we have been able to maintain a higher balance this year than we have in the past at the same time of the election cycle. We ended February with a little over $800,000 in discretionary cash and just under $1 million total in all of our accounts. Moreover, we have prepaid $186,000 in convention bills from the discretionary accounts, which will be reimbursed from the convention account, assuming we break even. We have another six figure payment to make in March for the convention but we are in a strong enough position to make the payment without negatively impacting RPT activities.
This update is being sent to you on March 4th, election day, to encourage you to get out and vote if you haven’t already done so. It is my hope that we can significantly outvote the Democrats in their primary, thereby demonstrating the Republican Party’s strength. I also urge you to attend your precinct convention, most of which are scheduled at polling locations following the close of the polls. Click here for more information regarding precinct conventions.
Participating in your precinct convention is the first step to becoming a delegate to the state convention in June. I would urge you to become involved if you have never attended our state convention as it gives people the opportunity to help pick the party leaders, take part in the adoption of new rules and platforms changes, and this June will also feature a Presidential Straw Poll that will have immediate impact on the 2016 presidential race. Finally, I think it is important to note that despite having spirited and, frankly sometimes negative, campaigning during the first round of the primary season, it is important that once the election is over, we all come together. The differences between our Republican candidates pale in comparison to the Democrat candidates on the other side of the ballot.
The Democrats are spending millions of dollars in our state, including substantial sums of money collected from outside the state in an effort to turn the state blue. Because they have so few candidates in primaries right now, they don’t have the heated primary election we do this year and are able to unite behind their candidates much sooner than the RPT. This is yet another reason why it is so important that once the election is over, Republicans must put any hurt feelings aside and support our nominees whoever they are. The only way we fail in 2014 is if we are not united and putting forth our best efforts.
Some of the races will be decided today. If your candidate doesn’t win, we encourage you to show your support for our nominee by calling immediately to volunteer for the fall campaign. The rest of races will be decided in a runoff election in May. We must be prepared to work hard to bring people back to the polls in May and be prepared for another strong Republican election in November. United we will not be defeated.
Stephen Munisteri, Chairman