Last Wednesday's redistricting hearing in San Antonio made it clear that there would not be a Texas Primary in time for precinct conventions to be held at the same time as the primary election. Therefore, this made it an impossibility that the Republican and Democratic Parties could proceed under the provisions of the Texas Election Code relative to hosting state conventions. Upon returning to Austin from the trial that afternoon, the RPT swung into action to propose a remedy to the Court as the Court had instructed us to do.
Immediately following the Wednesday hearing, Chairman Steve Munisteri met with RPT staff to discuss all possible options regarding the convention process, in order to present alternatives to the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC). Working with the staff, the Chairman was able to determine relatively quickly that there were only a few viable alternatives. The next day on Thursday, the Chairman commenced a meeting of the RPT Officials' Committee, comprised of seven members elected from the SREC (Russ Duerstine, Josh Flynn, Rex Lamb, Jean McIver, Jason Moore, Hal Talton & Rebecca Williamson), the National Committeeman Bill Crocker and National Committeewoman Borah Van Dormolen, the General Counsel Patrick O'Daniel and Assistant General Counsel Eric Opiela, the Treasurer Tom Mechler and Assistant Treasurer Tom Washington, the Secretary Mandy Tschoepe, the Parliamentarian Butch Davis and Vice-Chairwoman Melinda Fredricks. The Chairman met with them by teleconference and went over the recommendations from the staff. In general terms, the recommended process allows for delegates to be picked directly at either a county or senatorial district convention without the necessity of precinct conventions. However, under this option, the functions of the precinct conventions are preserved – that being to allow maximum grassroots participation, presentation of resolutions, and a fair allocation of delegates.
Once the outline of a consensus plan was reached, the Chairman scheduled a statewide teleconference with the entire SREC on Friday, February 17th. The Chairman set up two calls at different times of the day so that all SREC could participate and allowed every SREC member as much time as they wished to speak. The end result was that the plan developed from the Officials' Committee was modified further so as to allow each individual county the option of attempting to hold precinct conventions if they determine it is feasible and logistically possible. It was then decided that the attorneys would be given the task of drafting proposed rules changes and they did so over the next several days. In addition to counsel for the party drafting the rules, input was obtained from Rules Committee Chairman Dan Pickens and Rules Committee member Clint Moore (who had drafted the revised national delegate selection process in the past), along with input from National Committeeman and RNC General Counsel Bill Crocker.
These rules were then distributed to every County Chairman via email on Tuesday evening, February 21st. Two separate statewide conference calls were setup on Wednesday, February 22nd, in order to obtain input from the county chairmen on the process. Based on these conference calls, along with feedback from other interested party leaders around the state, the proposed rules were tweaked further. An emergency SREC meeting has been set for next Wednesday, February 29th in Austin, to approve the proposed rules. We expect to have a draft of the proposed rules completed by early next week, and the Party will post them online via TexasGOP.org.
We have received a number of questions from around the state which we would like to address in this email.
Q: Why can't we simply have precinct conventions as normal?
A: The Republican Party of Texas has approximately 5500 precincts where we have precinct chairmen, and thousands more where we don't. Normally, precinct conventions are held where the primary is conducted, thereby affording the opportunity for a meeting space that doesn't cost the county parties any additional funds. Moreover, voters can easily identify where the location is, and if there is no precinct chairman – Republicans can still show up at the conclusion of voting and obtain a precinct convention packet from the election judge and conduct the precinct convention. Without a primary, it will not be practical for many counties to be able to locate sites for all their precinct conventions, and/or to bear the expense – a task made even more difficult in precincts without chairmen. Therefore, under the rules, counties would be given the option of either attempting to conduct precinct conventions, or if they can't, to proceed directly to county or senatorial conventions (as the case may be).
Q: Will the elimination of precinct conventions reduce grassroots involvement?
A: Under the proposed rules, we believe that there is a chance to actually increase grassroots involvement. This is because every registered voter who takes an oath of affiliation to the Republican Party will be allowed to attend their district conventions. Arguably, this allows more grassroots participation because under the existing system which starts with precinct conventions, a certain percentage of precinct convention attendees are not eligible to participate in a county / district convention. Under the proposed rules, everyone would be able to participate.
Q: Will people be able to propose resolutions as they normally do at a precinct convention?
A: Everyone will be able to have the same opportunity to propose any resolution at the district convention, that they normally would at a precinct convention.
Q: Why can't RPT simply move the State Convention?
A: There are many reasons. First, if we move the State Convention – to what date would we move it? As it is, there is no guarantee Texas would have a primary in time to allow precinct conventions on any date that we pick for the State Convention. The reason for this is that we have to have our State Convention in time to submit our delegate lists to the National Convention, 35 days before the National Convention starts. This means that we would have to conclude a State Convention no later than July 23. If, for example, Texas has a June 26th primary, there would not be enough time to follow the Election Code (which prescribes for precinct conventions and district conventions three weeks later) and then have enough time to process all the delegates. Consequently, under some scenarios, even moving the State Convention could not preserve the existing process. Second, where would the State Convention be held if moved? There are only four convention sites in Texas that can accommodate the number of participants that we expect at this year's event. Moreover, it is necessary to block out thousands of hotel rooms in order to accommodate the vast majority of delegates and alternates who come in from out of town. These facilities and hotels have to be reserved and contracted for well in advance of the convention. For example, this year's convention site in Fort Worth was decided upon 6 years ago, and we signed hotel contracts last year. Finally, there would be significant financial penalties to both parties if the conventions are moved. With all these considerations in mind, both political parties testified to the Court that it is simply not feasible to move State Conventions.
We hope that this email has provided you with not only a status report on where we are relative to the convention process, but also answers some questions about why the RPT is proceeding in the way that we are. If any of you have any additional questions, please feel free to email them to us via the TexasGOP.org website, and we'll get back to you as best as we can.