Normally my monthly reports contain a description of my travels around the state, groups that I have spoken in front of, projects we are working on, etc. However, this report will not contain any such descriptions since virtually the entire month was taken up with state and national convention activities prior to my leaving for summer vacation at the end of June.
I was in Fort Worth from June 1st-7th to oversee the 2014 Republican State Convention. For a full report see our convention recap here. The convention recap will tell you about the events, speeches, trainings, etc. that took place that week. Consequently, my comments on the convention will pertain to what I perceive as the overall goal of the convention and whether that goal was accomplished. From my point of view the main purpose of the convention is to kick off the fall elections by introducing our statewide ticket, which was finalized the week before with the conclusion of the runoff election, and to bring the various factions of the party together in a unified spirit committed to working hard in the fall. This was accomplished.
I know our opponents and some members of the media like to portray our convention as divisive as delegates wrestle with our platform, elect SREC members, debate our rules, etc. However, from my point of view they miss the real story of the convention. The important takeaway from the convention is that there was enthusiasm for our entire ticket, and everyone I talked to was sincerely and resolutely determined to work hard to keep Texas red and to sweep all of our statewide races this year. There was enthusiasm in the hall, candidates were well received, and delegates obtained training for the political battle ahead of them. There was not a single story I read which mentioned the fact that after a very divisive primary and runoff season, the party’s activist base represented by the delegates have come together to work in unison for a Republican victory in the fall. I guess good news is just not a story.
Another purpose of the convention is to showcase our candidates. I thought our entire ticket did a fabulous job of presenting themselves before the delegates and to the public. They were fired up, articulate, and on point. Counter intuitively I think the tough primary and runoff season actually increased our candidate’s chances of getting elected in the fall. Our nominees all survived primary challengers which required their being tested through debates, forums, and media scrutiny. They were all in peak form by the time of the convention and it showed in their performances. Again, I saw scant mention in the coverage of how fired up our candidates were and how well their speeches were received. Nevertheless, the fact remains that our ticket has already hit the ground running and all of the polls indicate that they are starting with significant leads over the Democrat opposition.
Another function of the state convention is to pick the statewide party leadership. In the past there have been divisive and contentious races for Chairman and Vice Chairman. When there have been such races there were front page articles in multiple newspapers. I know, because my race in 2010 attracted such coverage. However not a single paper wrote a story on the fact that I was reelected with only four dissenting votes out of approximately 7,000. Nor that Amy Clark was elected as Vice Chairman unanimously for the open Vice Chair seat. No one that I talked to can remember a time when there wasn’t a hotly contested race for an open statewide leadership post. Again, perhaps the fact that all the factions of the party came together to overwhelmingly support our officers wasn’t controversial enough to merit mention. Or perhaps didn’t fit the narrative of a divided an factionalized party that so many like to put forth.
What did get coverage was the vigorous debate over some of the planks in our platform. Some articles even described the convention as being boisterous and on verge of being out of control. If you were to read some of the articles you would think people were constantly shouting, booing, etc. The problem with this narrative is that it is not true. For those of us in the hall, as evidenced by the videos of the convention we will have posted on our website, you will see that the debate was amazingly civil, devoid of name calling, and people were respectful of others opinions. Yes there is a division in our party on a few key issues, but that is always the case. The RPT is after all a political party not a book reading club. Passionate people will always have vigorous debates on a few key points here and there. It is also important to note that our party allows open and free debate. We added an extra day to the convention so the platform could be debated for hours, not minutes, as has been the case sometimes in the past.
We blocked out a separate portion of time for debate on party rules as well so that all delegates had the potential to voice their opinions and whatever was ultimately decided on would be the result of a fair and open process. Most importantly, although I will express my opinion when asked, I don’t try to impose my views on the convention. Rather, I let the convention, through the grassroots delegates, decide what the will of the majority is. I truly believe what was missed by so many is that allowing a fair and open debate is what allows the various factions to come back together.
Finally, regarding the convention, what is not emphasized by outside groups are the areas of agreement. The party is united in its belief that the country is headed in the wrong direction. The party is united in its belief that the government has grown too big, too obtrusive, and too ineffective. The party is united in its belief that an environment should be created that strengthens families. The party is united in its belief that our foreign policy is a mess and U.S. influence is declining while our insecurity is rising. The party is fervently united in belief that the Obama administration is a failure.
Even on an issue such as immigration where there are some differences on policy among conservatives, the majority of Republicans are still united on some key points. Every Republican I know believes the current immigration system is broken. Every Republican I know believes the status quo is unacceptable. Every Republican I know believes that legal immigration has been a significant positive factor in the economic growth and prosperity in the United States and that we should encourage legal immigration. Every Republican I know believes the United States should protect its borders for national security reasons if nothing else. Every Republican I know is distrustful of the Obama administration undertaking all reasonable efforts to ensure our borders are secure. While there was some disagreement as to whether a guest worker program should be allowed or not, the majority of delegates passed an immigration plank that does permit, although does not mandate, consideration of a worker visa program for non specialty jobs once the border security issue has been addressed. Thus, the party is much more united than is sometimes portrayed in the media and I am absolutely confident that our party is 100% united in its goal to ensure Texas does not become a Democrat state. This is the important story that should be taken from our convention.
Because many in the media were so focused on trying to emphasize the divisions in the party, they missed another exceptionally important story from the convention. The convention also adopted party rules which for the first time set up a Texas two-step process for the selection of our national convention delegates. This means that instead of the presidential primary determining our entire delegation to the national convention, it will only determine 75% of the delegates. The remaining 25% of delegates will be selected at the state convention in May 2016 based on votes of the delegates at the state convention. It is anticipated we will have around 38 delegates available to be picked at the state convention with 108 selected by congressional caucus based on the primary results, and the remainder selected as at large delegates plus the three RNC members. In addition, a candidate that wins 51% of the vote in a congressional district will get all of that congressional district’s delegates.
The bottom line is that these changes put Texas in play twice, once on March 1st when the votes taken will determine who will receive the 108 delegates by congressional district (plus an anticipated six at-large) and then the state is in play again on May 6, 2016 when approximately 38 more delegates will be picked based on votes of delegates at the state convention. Our state is so large that the delegates picked at the convention will roughly equal the entire size of Georgia’s delegation and outnumber numerous other states. If the race is still going on in May, this means candidates are likely to return to our state a second time, thus Texas will have impact at beginning of the presidential primary process as well as the end. Add to this the possibility that a candidate that wins a majority of votes in the congressional districts wins all of the delegates from the March primary and Texas becomes an extremely important state in the process. Not a single reporter even asked me about this though I have volunteered this information to several media outlets since the convention ended. This is arguably the most significant story to take out of the state convention this year, though you would not know this by the media coverage.
Speaking of selecting our nominee in 2016, I spent the majority of the week after convention in Dallas lobbying members of the RNC site selection committee to select Dallas as the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention. Ray Washburn, the National Finance Chair of the RNC, who is a native Texan from Dallas, has also put together an impressive team to sell the city of Dallas. Ray Hunt of Hunt Oil, as well as Harlan Crow of Trammel Crow Corporation have been recruited as key players. They, along with the Mayor of Dallas and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau put on an exceptional show, complete with real elephants, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Kilgore Rangerettes, confetti drops, balloon drops, etc.
The real star of the presentation was the city itself and its facilities. American Airlines Arena and Dallas Cowboy Stadium showcased that they are first-class, amenity filled sites which are second to none in the nation. This combined with the commitment of the Dallas community to raise $60 million and the proximity of hotels to the convention site makes Dallas a front runner in my estimation. A key point in the presentation is that at least 70%, and maybe more, of hotel rooms will be within 1.1 miles of the arena and virtually all hotels will be within four miles of the arena. Dallas also has the advantage of numerous modern and first class hotels and an excellent transportation system that will make it possible for all delegates to get to the arena within minutes. In fact, just a few days ago it was announced that Dallas had made the cut as one of the final two cities left in consideration for the convention along with Cleveland.
On the financial front we ended June with over $1 million in all our accounts. We are still finalizing our convention figures but I am optimistic that the convention paid for itself. The convention was more expensive this year than normal because of the extra day we added for platform debate. Additionally, production costs have risen over the last two years, and we included more entertainment and events. Fortunately, sponsorships were up, booths sold out, program sales were up, etc., so that the primary goal of at least breaking even appears to have been met. There is a chance we made a little money on the convention but I do not want to claim this until we are sure all of our invoices have been received and paid. In any event, we came out of the convention in solid financial shape, which was the primary goal, so now we can be more focused on the fall elections.
Also in June I passed the four year mark of serving as your State Chairman and was granted the privilege of serving as your Chairman once more, having been re-elected with 99.94% of the vote. In 2012 I was re-elected with 99.966% of the vote so actually I am slipping a little bit. Nevertheless I am humbled by the overwhelming show of support, and I will do my best to finish out my service as Chairman in as effective a way as possible. I will not be seeking another term as Chairman so the 2014 state convention is a little bittersweet for me. Although this has been the toughest job I have ever undertaken, it has been worthwhile. I am proud of what all of us have accomplished together and I can think of no better way to top it off than to sweep the statewide elections once again this fall, hold our strong majority in the House and Senate, and increase our numbers in Congress. Borrowing from my campaign re-election slogan, let’s all “finish the fight together”.
Stephen Munisteri, Chairman