The first quarterly meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee met on Friday, March 28th and Saturday, March 29th. This meeting was the final meeting before the state convention in June at which time new members will be elected. If you would like to attend the state convention in Fort Worth from June 5th-7th, please click here.
On Friday, March 28th, the SREC committees met throughout the day to determine what business to bring forward to the full meeting of the SREC the following day. The Officials Committee met to discuss the current operations of the RPT, including our victory program, financial status, and convention planning. The Party Organization Committee met to discuss the convention and their work to increase participation. The Resolutions Committee, chaired by Assistant General Counsel Eric Opiela, met to consider a few resolutions before deciding to send just one, the TARC Resolution pertaining to the Chinese Exclusion Act, to the full body of the SREC.
The Grassroots Club Committee, chaired by Candy Noble, met to discuss the current status of the Grassroots Club and the GRC’s involvement at the state convention. The Rules Committee, chaired by Dennis Paul, discussed various changes to the RPT rules and bylaws and decided to send two bylaws changes to the full body, one allowing RNC members the ability to vote on the the Officials Committee and another relating to the relationship between the RPT and official auxiliaries. The Volunteerism Committee met to discuss the volunteerism needs of the state convention as well as what needs to be done in order to be prepared for the amount of work the convention will require. The Auxiliaries committee met to discuss the operations of numerous auxiliaries including the RPT newest auxiliary, the Texas Federation of African American Republicans.
That night, members of the SREC were invited to dinner sponsored by State Representative Scott Turner at El Mercado.
Saturday morning began with a very spirited prayer before the minutes were adopted and regular business got underway. Candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, gave a short speech about his family’s history growing up in Stephenville, Texas as well as his experience as a representative in the Texas House of Representatives, in which he was voted one of the most conservative members of the legislature. Following his speech we took a quick break to introduce our Hispanic Engagement staffer from El Paso, Crystal Rodriguez, along with a couple of High School Republicans from El Paso.
State Senator Ken Paxton spoke next on his campaign for Attorney General. He spoke about his goals to continue Greg Abbott’s fight for our rights and liberties against the federal government. Our nominee for Court of Criminal Appeals for Place 4, Kevin Patrick Yeary, then took a few minutes to thank the SREC for their support of his campaign to become our nominee. He then went on to better educate the SREC what the Court of Criminal Appeals does and a few of his goals he plans to accomplish once elected to the court in November.
The next speaker was our nominee for Place 9 of the Court of Criminal Appeals, David Newell. He took just a minute of his allotted five to thank the SREC for their support during the primaries. Chairman Steve Munisteri then took a minute to recognize and thank one of the RPT’s biggest supporters, Gene Seaman, who also served on the SREC with Chairman Munisteri. Munisteri acknowledged that Gene has been the first donor of the year every year since 1978 and through these $1,000+ donations every year he has donated $40,000 to the RPT over the past 37 years.
Next on the agenda were officer reports. Chairman Munisteri started off his officer report by noting he was coming to the end of his second term and that many members of the SREC will not be back next term as a result of term limits or not seeking reelection. Thus, he thought it would be appropriate to utilize his Chairman’s Report to provide an overview of the progress the RPT has made over the two terms he has been Chairman. He noted that when he campaigned for State Chairman, he ran on the platform of retiring the party’s debt, engaging traditional minority voters, establishing a youth outreach program, and building the party’s infrastructure. He reminded the SREC that when he first took office, the staff determined that the total amount of liabilities of the party was approximately $708,000. In addition, the party had committed itself to roughly $139,000 in spending per month, yet the party’s revenue from direct mail and telemarketing only averaged about $55,000 per month. As a result of the Grassroots Club, reestablishing the trust of major donors, as well as hosting numerous fundraisers over the last few years, the party has brought in over $16 million in contributions and close to $17 million in total revenue. This in turn allowed the party to not only retire its debt, but also have an average of over $1 million in its accounts since last summer after all bills had been paid. The party has now been completely debt free for three and a half years. He explained the only significant remaining major financial hurdle for the party is the state convention that will cost approximately $950,000 to hold the type of convention as in 2012. The party has already paid for $278,000 of these costs and has secured over $250,000 in corporate sponsorships, $100,000 in booth sales, and expects to sell over $55,000 in program ads. If the gala brings in over $150,000 and registrations total $400,000 the convention should pay for itself. He cautioned that attendance may be down this year as a result of it being an off presidential election year, and that this could cause the convention to lose some money. Fortunately, the party’s financial health is so strong that even if there is a loss, the party should still come out of the convention in excellent financial shape with a substantial cash on hand balance in accounts.
Regarding his pledge to expand minority outreach, the Chairman reported there are now 10 full time staffers working on outreach and engagement including a full time Youth Outreach Director, a full time African American Engagement Director, full time Hispanic Engagement Director, six additional full time Hispanic Engagement field staffers, and an Asian American Engagement Director. The Chairman was excited about the results from the engagement program and mentioned that he had just attended several Asian American events that yielded hundreds of signups from the Chinese and Vietnamese communities. He also attended numerous training sessions for new African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American party activists. Most encouraging, he noted that these efforts are showing dramatic and verifiable results. Specifically he mentioned the recent Gallup poll that showed the Texas Republican Party obtained 6% more support from the Hispanic community than the other 49 states. This Gallup study also showed that while support for the Republican party is rising in Hispanic communities, support of the Democrat party had declined 7% in the last few years.
Regarding infrastructure, the Chairman noted that for the first time ever the party has opened permanent Victory Centers around the state and that we have victory staff on the ground in Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Corpus Christi, and El Paso. He announced plans to open a new office in the Valley by the end of April. He informed the SREC that as they were meeting, we had close to 1,000 volunteers showing up to block walk in 11 cities around the state and that the party is using its new software which allowed the block walkers to download apps to their phones with maps and other features. The Chairman surmised that the net increase of over 900 Republican officials since he became Chairman is in large part due to the increased infrastructure. The Chairman also requested that all of the SREC members work hard to promote party unity. He reminded the SREC that while we have 269 platform planks, there are only a few which invoke major controversy and that as Republicans, our agreements far outweigh our disagreements. He said it was important that the party unify behind all of its nominees and, once the convention is over, put any dispute in the rear view and focus on November. The Chairman concluded by clarifying his intentions relative to seeking reelection. He noted that while he had not intended to run for a third term, that at the request of several candidates and as the result of a personal request from Attorney General Greg Abbott, that he has agreed to serve another year if the delegates at the convention want him to. This decision is due in part to General Abbott’s commitment of his support of the RPT and for the reason that the Chairman does not want any disruption in our Victory operations prior to the November elections. The Chairman thanked the SREC for being so supportive of him the last four years and that the success of the party has been a team effort and he hopes it will continue.
Vice Chair Melinda Fredricks followed Chairman Munisteri with her officer report. She spoke briefly on the strength of the SREC and the Republican Party of Texas through the unity the party has shown in recent years. She also spoke about her time serving on the SREC in 2000 and how much she has enjoyed serving on the committee and as Vice-Chair over the years. She then announced that she has decided to not run for re-election as Vice-Chair this year. National Committeeman, Dr. Robin Armstrong, then gave his officer report. He began with an update on his wife who is currently fighting breast cancer so please keep the Armstrong family in your prayers. He then spoke about the importance of remaining civil and united throughout the primary elections because we must be united as a party if we want to continue electing a record number of Republicans. He also gave an update on his involvement in the Republican National Committee’s convention planning process and the possibility of a Dallas hosting the national convention in 2016. Dallas has placed a bid for the National Convention for the week of July 18, 2016. While this is later than the preferred RNC timeframe, there are only two cities that can host in late June – Las Vegas and Kansas City. Therefore, Dallas remains a strong contender as the host city for the RNC in 2016.
RNC Committeewoman, Toni Ann Dashiell, then gave her report which included a presentation on the nationwide field operations the RNC is running currently. Her presentation also included a brief summary of the new digital capabilities of the RNC that Texas now has access to and will make handling data throughout an election easier than ever.
Treasurer Tom Mechler and Assistant Treasurer Tom Washington then gave their officer report. Tom Mechler began with an update on the party’s FEC reports. He announced that all reports had once again been filed on time, however they did have to file an amended report for the end of the year due to an in kind contribution that was not reported to us before our December report had been filed. Tom Washington then gave a more detailed report on the party’s finances an announced that we are still in a healthy financial status. As is tradition, the Toms brought an item to auction off to the SREC. This time the item was a 6 inch tall bobble head modeled after Chairman Munisteri as a boxer. Congratulations and thank you to Frank Morris who won the bobble head with his $500 bid. RPT General Counsel, Patrick O’Daniel, finished out the officer reports with an update on the lawsuit filed against the RPT in February pertaining to the Supreme Court race in which Jeff Brown received our nomination on March 4th. He also noted that the RPT is not currently involved in the redistricting case in the courts.
Following officer reports was a report from the Audit Committee that gave a very detailed report on the audit the party had conducted last month. The committee announced that there were no problems with the finances of the RPT and gave us the highest marks they offer. Thank you to Audit Committee members, Montie Watkins, Tom Roller, and Jim Borchert, as well as RPT Accountant Jennifer Stoner and Assistant Accountant Wanda Burnside for their work to produce the needed documents to help the audit firm to complete their work. The SREC then took a quick break for lunch and to take the official SREC photo.
Following lunch the SREC heard from Ryan Sitton, candidate for Railroad Commissioner. He spoke about his experience as an engineer and how his unique skill set as an engineer would help him as the next Railroad Commissioner. He also spoke about the status of his campaign as he heads towards the runoff in May. State Senator Glenn Hegar, who is also our nominee for the next State Comptroller, spoke next. He thanked the SREC for all their support in his primary and spoke about some of his experiences on the campaign trail this year.
George P. Bush, our nominee for Land Commissioner spoke next. He also touched upon the importance of the party coming together and uniting after the primary is over if we want to keep the state red and prosperous. He also spoke about the importance of engaging minority communities around the state because before too long they may not be the minority for long. Next up was Skipper Wallace, Chairman of the Texas Republican County Chairman’s Association spoke for a couple minutes about what they are doing to get county chairmen ready for the next legislative session.
Candy Noble, Chairwoman of the Grassroots Club Committee, gave the first committee report of the day and started off with some great news. Candy announced that there has been a 61% increase in Grassroots Club membership from 762 active members to 1,230 active members since the last SREC meeting held three months ago. She also gave an update on the new counties that have recently started recruiting GRC members and how the club is on track to meet its goal of 10,000 members if this rate of increase continues. To finish up her report she announced that the GRC will have multiple booths at the state convention in June in order to spread awareness even more and try to reach their goals.
Following Candy’s report the SREC heard from Neil Schrimanker from the GOP Data Trust. The GOP Data Trust is the company charged with creating the RNC’s new digital software for the states to use. He showed the SREC how to pull and upload data using the new software and showcased how easy it is to use. He also spoke about how volunteers will be able to use a new phone app that will allow them to view their block walk packet on their phone and submit their answers directly into the system. The new system is very easy to use and more efficient than ever and Texas will have access to begin using the software starting this week. Look for more information regarding this software soon.
The next speaker was State Senator Dan Patrick, candidate for Lieutenant Governor in the May 27th runoff election. He spoke briefly on how he has run his grassroots campaigns in the past and how he is using the same tactics to win his race for Lt. Governor despite being up in the polls. He also noted that if he was elected he would reduce property taxes as well as fight pass school choice and other conservative values he fought for in the State Senate.
Following Senator Patrick’s speech the Texas Federation of African American Republicans gave an auxiliary report on what they have been working towards since being accepted as an official auxiliary of the RPT three months ago. Chairman of the auxiliary, Fred Moses, spoke about about the importance of higher engagement amongst black Republican communities around that state that have traditionally been silent up until now.
Next on the agenda was convention proposals for the 2016 state convention. The first city to present their proposal was Dallas. They announced that they have recently renamed their convention center after former Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and detailed all of the different hotels and room deals the RPT would secure by choosing Dallas such as free use of the convention facility and competitive hotel rates. Following Dallas was a presentation by Houston. The representatives from the Houston convention center spoke about the size and ethnic diversity of Houston and why these traits would make it a good candidate for a Republican convention. Their facility fee was $55,000 for the convention, which they offered to offset by adding $10/night to each hotel room.
Before voting to select the 2016 Republican State Convention site there was a short speech from Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. He spoke about his campaign in which he is in the runoff election on May 27th and how his record makes him the best candidate for Lt. Governor.
Following Lt. Governor Dewhurst’s speech debate was opened on the site selection for the 2016 state convention. After some debate, the SREC voted and chose the city of Dallas as the location for the 2016 convention by an overwhelming majority. The deciding factor for choosing Dallas was the cost savings for the party and the delegates, as Dallas offered more competitive hotel rates. Next up was the 2014 budget. Chairman Munisteri went over the RPT’s 2014 budget in detail, including expenses for the 2014 convention in Fort Worth and our expansive Victory program that has included hiring 9 staffers and opening new offices in 7 cities. Once he was done reviewing the budget it was then voted on and approved.
RPT Executive Director Beth Cubriel then gave a detailed update on the current version of the tentative convention schedule for the 2014 state convention. She also provided some more detailed information about the Presidential Straw Poll that we are holding at the convention this year, including speeches by Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul, as well as Governor Rick Perry. She announced that every paid guest/delegate/alternate will receive a unique 4 digit pin to be used to vote in the straw poll when registration opens on Wednesday, June 4th. The results of the straw poll will be announced on the final day of the convention on Saturday, June 7th. She also announced additional changes to the convention agenda, including a new format for the prayer service on Saturday morning. It was formerly held as a prayer rally, this year the RPT will host a Faith and Fellowship Gathering with lots of music, including an appearance from Dan Dean of Phillips, Craig, and Dean.
Committee reports resumed with the Resolutions Committee, Chaired by Eric Opiela. The only resolution voted on at this meeting was a resolution stating that “The Republican Party of Texas endorses and supports the Proposed Congressional Apologies to the Chinese Americans for governmental actions that denied equal rights to and adversely harmed the Chinese Americans.” The resolution passed. Next up was the Rules Committee, Chaired by Dennis Paul. Two bylaws changes were voted on including amendments to section 8 of the RPT bylaws that clarify that “Auxiliary organizations are not prohibited from endorsing Republican candidates in a primary election if in agreement with the bylaws of the auxiliary organization.” This bylaws change passed. The second change put up to a vote was another amendment to section 8 of the bylaws that would give the RNC National Committeeman and National Committeewoman the ability to serve as a voting member of the Officials Committee however this bylaws change was voted down.
Marian Stanko, Chairwoman of the Party Organization Committee, reported on the committee’s progress in increasing participation in the convention process. Leslie Recine from the Volunteerism Committee reported on their work with the convention program as well as the volunteer work that will need to be done at the convention.
Jane Cansino from the Candidate Resource Committee spoke about status of the goals of the CRC as well as the financial status of the committee, which has raised nearly $40,000 to support local candidates. She also mentioned that SREC Member from SD-13, Bonnie Lugo, is currently working on a short video for candidates at the convention. Tina Gibson from the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee introduced Connor Griffin as the new state chair of the High School Republicans of Texas and spoke about the different events that the committee members have attended in recent months. Connor gave an introduction of himself and a summary of his plans for HSRT.
Next on the agenda was confirmation of new county chairs. All new county chairs were approved, including Robin McMahon for Duval County, Sharon Golden for Foard County, Lynard Olson for Jackson County, Sandra Sears for Ochiltree County, and David Shifflett for Reeves County. Thank you to these new County Chairs for volunteering to organize their local Republican Parties. The final order of business was to award keypins to the SREC members that have raised more than $1,000 for the RPT this year. Those members receiving pins this meeting included David Thackston, Danny Pelton, Deon Starnes, Rhonda Lacy, Tom Roller, Robin Armstrong, Nelda Eppes, Toni Anne Dashiell, Amanda Tschoepe, and Tom Mechler.
The next quarterly meeting of the SREC will be held at the 2014 Republican State Convention from June 5-7 in Fort Worth.