The fourth quarterly meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee met at RPT headquarters in Austin on Friday, December 5 and Saturday, December 6. This meeting marked the first official meetings of the individual committees following the appointment of committee members at the third quarterly meeting in September.
The committees that met on Friday included the Officials Committee, Party Organization, Resolutions, Grassroots Club, Rules, Auxiliaries and Coalitions, and the Candidate Resource Committee. They discussed the information to be included in their full report to the SREC on Saturday, including debating which rules and resolutions the SREC should consider as a whole.
Saturday morning began with a prayer and music session conducted by Pastor Rex Johnson and Randy Davenport and the SREC members were also treated to a round a Christmas carols before the meeting began.
The general session began with the usual order of business including pledges to both the United States and Texas flags, led by JT Edwards and Sam Dalton respectively, the National Anthem, led by Chris McDaniel, and Tom Washington leading the singing of Texas, Our Texas. The Proxy Committee was then appointed before roll call was taken and SREC packets were reviewed.
Agriculture Commissioner-elect Sid Miller (who also sponsored breakfast for the SREC) was the first speaker of the day. He thanked the SREC for their help during the election and revealed his recent hires for his new staff at the commission, including Representative Kleinschmidt who has decided to step down from his seat to join the Commissioner-elect’s team.
Numerous members of the Texas Supreme Court decided to come speak to the SREC starting with Chief Justice Nathan Hecht. He spoke about his time served on the bench and how far the state has come since reconstruction when the Supreme Court only had three Republicans on the bench. Up next was one of the newest members of the Supreme Court, Justice Jeff Boyd. Justice Boyd spoke about getting appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor Perry just two years ago before he had to begin campaigning immediately for re-election. He also spoke about how much time he has spent traveling the state during his campaign.
Next up on the agenda was officer reports from the Chairman and Vice-Chairman. Chairman Munisteribegan his report with a quick video of his speech from the election night party in which he spoke about how much we crushed the Democrats. Following the video he spoke about the recent elections and praised how the party was able to come together after a contentious primary and beat the Democrats more than we even thought would happen. He also spoke about the successful Victory program that the RPT operated this year and how far the Victory operations have come since he became involved in politics. He then took a moment to thank the RPT staff and how the party’s continued success rests on the idea that the staff is the RPT staff and not the Chairman’s staff, and that even after he steps down next year, the staff will stay on board and keep the machine moving as we head into the 2016 elections. Before ending his report he also spoke about the excellent financial state of the party and how it has allowed the party to grow such a robust engagement program that led to the Texas GOP receiving the highest number of votes from minority communities than ever before. He then ended his report by showing a graph of the number of elected Republicans in the state and how it has changed in the 4 years he has spent as Chairman.
Amy Clark, Vice-Chair of the RPT, then gave her officer report. She spoke about the importance of coming together as leaders of the party to continue reaching out to Republicans across the state and never let the Democrats turn Texas blue. She also spoke about the importance of training precinct and count chairs over the next two years to yet again have the best grassroots organization in the state.
Next up on the agenda was Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick, who also served as the 2014 Victory Chairman. She spoke about the reasons why the Victory program is so important and why it was necessary to show the Democrats that we don’t just win, but win big. She also spoke about how the real goal is to win the next election cycle and the next one after that, and in order to do that our Victory centers need to remain open year round. She then presented Chairman Munisteri with a check for $242,216, the amount remaining in the 2014 Victory account at the end of the elections last month.
U.S. Congressman-elect Will Hurd was the next speaker. He spoke briefly about his election to Congress and how excited he is to get to work with the Texas delegation next year. He also spoke about his 9 year history as a member of the CIA where he traveled the world and will be able to use this experience for his new position on the Committee on Homeland Security as well as the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown spoke next. He thanked the Chairman for all of his support throughout the elections and spoke about how he has helped work to turn Hays County red since he got into politics. Officer reports then continued, starting with RNC National Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell. She announced that Committeeman Armstrong would have liked to attend the meeting but was busy helping Senator-elect Cassidy win his runoff election in Louisiana at the time. She then spoke briefly about what she was up to throughout the election cycle, including how important the New Mexico, and North Carolina strike forces were to the national elections this year. She also spoke about what is in store for the Republican National Committee next year, including officer elections for Chairman, Vice-Chairman, etc. She also mentioned that Chairman Reince Priebus is expected to win re-election for Chairman without opposition.
Legal Counsel was the next officer report on the agenda. General Counsel Patrick O’Daniel and Assistant General Counsel Eric Opiela spoke briefly about the legal status of the party and how there are not currently any lawsuits pending against the RPT. Dustin Burrows, State Representative-elect from District 83, spoke next. He spent a few minutes to speak about the grassroots activists that helped him win his election and spoke about some of the issues he has begun discussing with members of the State Legislature throughout orientation.
Next up on the agenda was drawing for speaking order for State Chair candidates. Three candidates have announced intentions to run for State Chair following Chairman Munisteri’s announcement that he intends to step down next year, and candidates were then given five minutes each to speak to the SREC. The first speaker was Jared Woodfill, former Harris County GOP Chairman. Followed by RPT TreasurerTom Mechler, and Dallas County GOP Chairman Wade Emmert.
Next up on the agenda was a few members of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, starting with Justice-elect David Newell. He thanked the SREC for their support and how excited he was to receive the second most votes of any candidate on the ballot this year. Justice-elect Kevin Yeary spoke next about some of the duties of the Court of Criminal appeals and thanked the SREC for their support. The next speaker was Justice-elect Bert Richardson. He spoke briefly about how difficult it is to raise money for a Court of Criminal Appeals race and running for a seat that most people don’t know about.
The final officer report to be given for the day was the Treasurer’s Report. Treasurer Tom Mechler and Assistant Treasurer Tom Washington spoke about some of the financial reports filed by the RPT throughout the busy election year and highlighted a few of the numbers as part of Chairman Munisteri’s desire to be as transparent as possible.
Next on the agenda was the confirmation of County Chair and SREC Committee appointments. The SREC voted unanimously to confirm Maggie Gunn as the new Chairman of the Uvalde County Republican Party, JT Edwards to the Party Organization Committee and Candidate Resource Committee (CRC), Steve Atwell as the new Chairman of the CRC, and Vergel Cruz as the new Vice-Chair of the CRC.
SuZanne Feather, State Director of the Grand order of Pachyderms, gave her auxiliary report next. She spoke about the recent growth of Pachyderm clubs around the state and encouraged SREC members to reach out to her in order to start up their own Pachyderm clubs in their area.
Next on the agenda was to break for lunch but because the SREC was ahead of schedule for the first time, they decided to move into committee reports. Jane Cansino took to the mic to give reports on the Volunteerism and Candidate Resource Committees. She spoke about how successful the RPT was in recruiting volunteers this year and how it was a driving force in our landslide victories. She also spoke about her time served as Chairman of the CRC but she would be stepping down to work for Representative-elect Burrows.
Tina Gibson, Chairman of the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee, spoke next about the committee’s goal for expanding the RPT’s auxiliaries and congratulated multiple groups for continuing to grow throughout the election cycle. Candy Noble, Chair of the Grassroots Club Committee, spoke next about the status of the GRC and revealed the new signup cards for members to take back to their districts to encourage more people to sign up.
The SREC then broke for lunch, which held at the UT Club at the University of Texas Football Stadium and was sponsored by Governor-elect Greg Abbott. He also gave a short speech at the lunch in which he spoke about the election and thanked his family, including his wife Cecilia who also attended the lunch. He also spoke about the reasons why he decided to run for the seat after Governor Perry announced his intentions to not seek re-election and a few of his plans for his first year in office, including suing President Obama for his recent executive order for amnesty. Governor-elect Greg Abbott then presented an award to be given annually to the Texas Republican Party’s most committed and effective volunteer. It is modeled after sports awards such as the Heisman trophy for the best player in college football or the Davey O’Brien for the best college football quarterback. This award is the Steve Munisteri Award, who is also the first recipient.
Following lunch, RPT Executive Director Beth Cubriel and Chairman Munisteri then presented the SREC with the proposed 2015 budget, which passed unanimously. Next up was Randy Samuelson, Chair of the Party Organization Committee, who spoke briefly about the committee’s goals as well as the training materials they are working on for county chair’s that will be of use in the next election cycle.
The Rules Committee, Chaired by Jim Wiggins, was next to give their report. The first rule debated was an amendment to the standing rule on video recording of SREC meetings. After much debate, the SREC voted to require that all future SREC meetings be livestreamed and archived on the RPT website. A rule was also adopted that will allow a new State Chairman to take over immediately following the resignation of the current Chairman as long as he has given the SREC 30 days’ notice.
Next up was the Resolutions Committee, chaired by Mark Ramsey. He spoke about the numerous resolutions brought forward at the committee meeting the day before and the SREC then voted on a few that were chosen to be sent to the full body, including a resolution urging the 84th Legislature to protect Texans’ property owners’ inalienable rights against over-reaching HOAs and cities by prohibiting the removal of any constitutional rights allotted to all Texas citizens, which includes, but is not limited to, the display of sanctioned or authentic replicas of any historical Texas and American battle flags.
Following committee reports was a presentation by Dave Carney, Governor-elect Abbott’s Chief Political Consultant, and Wayne Hamilton, Governor-elect Abbott’s Campaign Manager. They gave a detailed presentation about how they ran Abbott’s campaign differently than any Republican in Texas history, including a robust digital effort that would rival the operations of President Obama’s 2012 team. They also took some time to answer questions from SREC members about what strategies worked and which ones didn’t so we could learn from them and use them in 2016 and beyond.
The final presentation of the day was an election recap from RPT Political Director, John McCord, and former RPT Victory Director, John Jackson. They went over the details of the RPT’s very successful victory operation that included offices around the state, a robust mail program, constant door knocking and phone banking, and tracking early vote totals from across the state. They announced that throughout the 2014 cycle, the RPT mailed over 5,000,000 voters, made 4,923,236 phone calls through paid and volunteer work, and knocked on 503,342 doors across the state.
Following the election recap, Chairman Munisteri announced the newest members of the Audit Committee; Jim Wiggins (SD-3), Montie Watkins (SD-15), and Tom Roller (SD-31). The final order of business was the announcement of keypin recipients for members that reached their CRC funding goals. This quarter’s recipients were Nelda Eppes, Mark Dunham, and Tom Washington.
The next meeting of the SREC will be held at the RPT headquarters on March 6th and 7th, 2015.