I am happy to report that March was one of the most productive months at the RPT in the 4 years I have been Chairman. The staff and I made progress on multiple projects. Much of our time these days is spent on the convention, which is rapidly approaching. We meet on a weekly basis to go over progress on such things as registration, hotels, speakers, events, the gala, volunteers, etc. Putting on a convention for approximately 10,000 people is a monumental task. Fortunately we have made a lot of progress selling booths and looks like we are on course to surpass the total from the last convention. Likewise, we’ve got a large portion of the program sold out, and that too looks like it will equal or exceed last time.
We are finalizing an exciting lineup of speakers and we are focusing our attention now on ensuring that the gala will have many attractive features including speakers. We’ve also added additional entertainment this year, with everything from a barber shop quartet, to bands, and even a Davey Crocket impersonator, etc. We are also updating our videos from the last convention and having some new ones made to show during the convention. RPT Organization Director, Cassie Daniel, with help from Primary AssistantCindi McIntyre, has been busy ensuring that the county chairs and senatorial district caucus chairs understand the necessary steps to hold successful SD Conventions. They are also in the process of collecting delegate information from around the state and we hope to start mailing convention attendees directly in the weeks ahead with more details about the convention.
At the same time the organizational staff had to make sure the Senatorial District and County Conventions went smoothly on March 22nd. By all accounts, everything went reasonably well around the state. In order to ensure we have enough funds to pay for the convention, our Finance Director, Christin Evans, with support from Leia Lineberger have been lining up booth registrations and sponsorships. We are confident we will meet our goals for the sponsorships necessary to meet our budget. Christin also helped oversee two very successful fundraisers in March. This helps us ensure we have enough cash up front to meet convention obligations prior to registration fees coming in.
The first fundraiser was at the home of Gail and Ross Davis and it featured speeches from Harris County Judge Ed Emmett as well as State Senate nominee Paul Bettencourt. 46 people attended the event and close to $40,000 was raised. Two weeks later the party held its 4th annual legislative dinner. The dinner was a smashing success and was sold out with 219 attendees. We had our best attendance of Legislators of any the dinners I have previously hosted. 62 state legislators, 9 state senators, General Abbott,Speaker Straus, Commissioner David Porter, and Commissioner Christi Craddick all attended. If all the pledges for the dinner are collected, the dinner will total approximately $134,000 raised, which is more than we raised at the last off legislative session dinner.
The staff was also busy preparing for the first quarterly meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee. Please click here for a recap of that meeting.
If all this wasn’t enough, during the same weekend the staff and I were having the SREC meetings, our Victory staff was overseeing a very successful statewide block walk in conjunction with Attorney General Abbott and Senator Cornyn. Look for a detailed event recap soon, as staff is still entering data collected during the walk. I was very excited to learn that approximately 1,000 volunteers knocked on approximately 10,000 doors. We plan to have another one on April 12th and will continue have more throughout the year. It has always been a goal of mine to have year-round Victory Centers and field staff to do the ground work well before the November elections.
Speaking of Victory, we have a leadership team in place for our state Victory efforts which we are confident should be able to raise millions of dollars for our fall elections. Look for an announcement with more details soon.
In between all of these activities, I had an opportunity to do my usual traveling around the state and country. During the first part of March, I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington DC. Both Senator Cruz and Governor Perry gave outstanding speeches that were very well received. Upon my return to Texas I hosted a tele-town hall conference with Senator Cruz for Grassroots Club members. Please see recap here. The GRC has built its membership back up to over 1300 since SREC member Candy Noble took over the committee. We are hoping to increase membership even more by promoting the club at the convention in June. I am excited to inform everyone we are working with Senator Cruz to set up an exclusive, in person event with him later in the year. Join the GRC now so you don’t miss out on your opportunity to meet Senator Cruz.
I also had a chance to travel to Grand Prairie in March to speak at the Texas Asian Republican Assembly of North Dallas. I was very pleased with the exceptional turnout. This reinforces my belief that our outreach and engagement efforts are yielding results. We signed up several hundred Texans of Chinese descent at the Chinese lunar celebration a few weeks ago to go with the over 400 Texans of Vietnamese descent we signed up at a similar event. These results, combined with the turnout I am seeing at local meetings, has been very encouraging. The following day I traveled back to Austin to debate a Democratic Party staffer in front of the realtors who hosted a statewide video conference.
From there it was on to Houston where I attended my Senatorial District convention. I was elected a delegate from SD-17 which was chaired by Jim Hotze. I was very impressed by the way Jim conducted a fair caucus. The following week I had surgery on my ankle to address an injury I received in a car accident in February while I was on my way to a speaking engagement in Tarrant County. This knocked me out of commission for several days but I was able to still chair the SREC meeting at the end of the month and then had to drive from the meeting to Bee County to be a speaker along with Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown and Comptroller nominee Glenn Hegar.
On the financial front we are in exceptionally good shape, especially considering the financial obligation of the convention. We have over $1.1 million total in our accounts after we paid all of our bills for March, the April rent, and end of March payroll. Of this we have over $900,000 in discretionary funds and the balance is even more impressive when you take into account that we have not collected all of the funds from our March fundraisers, and we have prepaid $278,000 in convention bills.
I would like to urge all of you that are delegates to the state convention to do your best to attend as it is important we have Grassroots involvement. In addition, in order for the state convention to break even we need to have a strong turnout. Speaking of the state convention, I would like to urge everyone who attends to keep in mind the party must be unified coming out of convention in order to give General Abbott and the rest of the ticket the best chances in November. The Democrats are united in their efforts to turn Texas blue so we must be united in our efforts to Keep it Red.
This does not mean that we all have to agree with each other. To the contrary, I expect there to be disagreements on several major issues as well as very passionate people on all sides. Debate only makes our party stronger if we conduct the debate in such a way as to not make it personal against any other delegates and that we all make a commitment that once the debates over, we move on. I think it is important to note that while there were 269 party platform planks last convention, there are only a handful of controversial planks I expect to see this year and this means that the vast majority of the delegates agree on vast majority of the remainder of the platform. We can disagree without conducting ourselves poorly and we can be divided on an issue here or there and still be united as a party in our goal of electing Greg Abbott as the next Governor of Texas, reelecting Senator Cornyn, electing Senate Hegar as our next Comptroller, and George P. Bush as our next Land Commissioner.
Finally, I want to thank all of you for allowing me the privilege and honor to represent the party as your State Chairman these last four years. As many of you know, I had not intended to run for reelection for a third term. However several of our nominees, including the top of ticket, General Abbott, asked me to place my name on the ballot one more time and stay on long enough to get us through this next election and hopefully help transition a new Republican administration. I have informed General Abbott that after much thought, this election is too important for me to not do my part if that is what the delegates want. Thus, if the delegates at the convention wish for me to remain a while longer, I will do so. If they don’t, it will still have been an honor to serve the party, and a very worthwhile endeavor for which I will be forever appreciative. Thank you for allowing me to serve you as State Chairman.
Stephen Munisteri, Chairman