The State Republican Executive Committee met for their second quarterly meeting on Friday, June 7th and Saturday, June 8th. The various committees met on Friday including the Officials Committee, Party Organization Committee, Resolutions Committee, Rules Committee, Grassroots Club Committee, Volunteerism Committee, Policy & Procedure Committee, Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee, and the Candidate Resource Committee. On Friday night,Senator Glenn Hegar was kind enough to treat the SREC and RPT staff to dinner at Third Base.
On Saturday morning the SREC meeting began with an invocation byPastor Rex Johnson and an amazing performance of the National Anthem played on the violin by Connor Pfieffer, State Chairman of the High School Republicans of Texas.
State Representative Dan Branch, who also provided breakfast for the SREC, started the meeting off giving a short speech on the success of the Republican Party in Texas and how our conservative policies throughout the state continue to drive more companies from around the country to operate in our state. He also touched upon his disapproval of the federal government amid the recent scandals of the Obama administration and how important the grassroots will be over the next few years in taking back our country by electing Republicans nationwide.
Following Rep. Branch’s speech, the SREC heard from the RNC State Party Director, Matt Pinnell. Matt spoke about the RNC’s new voter outreach plans which include working with the RPT to open fully staffed victory offices year round throughout Texas. He also talked about what the RNC is doing to bridge the technology gap between the Republican and Democratic Parties so we won’t be outmatched in the next elections. Matt also introduced the new RNC Regional Political Director for Texas,James Garcia. They made sure to note that the RNC is in the process of hiring more Hispanic Outreach Staffers than they have ever employed, in addition to the current outreach staffers the RNC has on board already.
The next speaker was Gubernatorial Candidate and former RPT Chairman Tom Pauken. He gave a short speech on what he would like to achieve as Governor, including pushing for the necessary changes to the Patriot Act in order to prevent the federal government from illegally spying on its citizens through phone records or private data mined from the internet. He also spoke on the importance of term limits throughout all levels of government and imposed a self term limit for himself if he were to be elected as the next Governor.
Officer reports began with Chairman Munisteri. He noted that this SREC meeting marked the half-way point of his second term as well as being approximately three years since he was first elected. Consequently, he thought it was an appropriate time to review the progress the Party has made over the last three years, where the Party is today, and the remaining challenges over the final year of his term. He reported that financially the Party has not had any serious financial issues in over 2.5 years. He noted the party had $708,451 worth of debt when he assumed office, was spending substantially more per month than it was bringing in and had been in debt continually for over 18 years. He reported that since November 2010 the Party has paid all received invoices to 0 at the end of every month, that the Party has not had less than $500,000 in all accounts since 2010, and for the last nine months in a row the Party had over $1 million in its accounts at the end of each month. He reported that 2012 was the best year financially of his chairmanship with the Party receiving approximately $6.6 million in total revenues. Excluding primary fund reimbursement from the state,the Party brought in over $6 million in contributions and transfers. He reported that significant progress has been made in restoring the major donor base to Party. He also reported that all three of the 2013 fundraisers, which were held in Austin, Dallas, and Midland, had exceeded their goals so the party is better off financially than he predicted it would be at the last meeting. He predicted that in the second half of 2013 revenue will fall below expenditures since it is an off year, the summer months are typically barren, and there are no other fundraisers on the books yet. He cautioned that the Party should expect cash balances to fall several hundred thousand dollars before the end of the year but it was his hope and goal to still end the year with at least $500,000 and up to $700,000 in the account, which would be comparable to 2012 and 2011. He predicted fundraising would pick back up in the Spring of 2014 as we enter election season, membership renewals, and Spring fundraisers. He noted that there are still fundraising challenges to be overcome as direct mail and telemarketing typically max out at a level not sufficient to meet all of the Party's needs. He also reported regarding the small donors program. He said he was encouraged by the fact that approximately 2,300 people had signed up since its inception, however the amount of credit cards expiring caused a much higher than expected drop in membership. Therefore a challenge has arisen as to how best ensure that once a person signs up they maintain an ongoing membership. Possible solutions include an increased push for Grassroots Club memberships at the state convention, involvement of SREC members to push memberships, and the new county-state split program.
The Chairman reminded the SREC that in addition to his promise to pay off the Party's debt when he ran for the position, he also promised to expand the Party's outreach efforts to the young and traditional minority communities. He said he was most gratified by the results in this area and noted that a recent Austin American Statesman political fact check article confirmed the Republican Party's statements as well as Republican Party leaders that the Party has averaged 40% of the Hispanic vote over the recent elections. The Chairman outlined some of the numerous steps the RPT has taken to increase the Republican share of the African American, Asian American, and Hispanic communities. He noted that we are chartering the first statewide Asian American Auxiliary, the details of which will be outlined in a subsequent email, and that we have chartered four statewide Hispanic auxiliaries, and one African American auxiliary. He noted the success of the January outreach conference and how that has influenced the National Party as well as pointing out that the party has had a full time Outreach Director and effort which has yielded positive results. Specifically that we have increased the number of elected Republican Hispanic officials from 58-78 during the last election, increased the number of minority delegates at state convention, and have identified tens of thousands of potential Republican households in diverse communities. Chairman Munisteri outlined a new partnership with the RNC which will increase these efforts, including adding 12 full time staff members to engage the Hispanic community throughout the state and additional staff members to engage the Asian American and African American communities. He also discussed the Party moving forward with funding direct mail and data operations targeting African American and Asian American Texans who we believe are open to voting Republican. The Chairman also noted that the addition of a full time Youth Director has yielded positive benefits, such as the creation of the High School Republicans of Texas which boasts 20 chapters after just one year.
On the organizational front, the Chairman reported that, in conjunction with the RNC, there will be permanent full time victory centers established in half a dozen cities across state and that the party is already moving forward interviewing people to run these victory centers that will be focused on voter identification, persuasion, registration, and turnout. The Chairman concluded his remarks by noting that he was more optimistic about the future of the Party than he has ever been during his time as chairman and that for the first time he believes that all of the goals that he laid out for the Party are obtainable within a short period of time.
RPT Vice Chair Melinda Fredericks spoke about her experience meeting with RNC Chairman Priebus in March and how excited she is about the new staffers that the Republican Party will be hiring through the new partnership with the RNC. She also spoke on the importance of the grassroots and how we need to get Republicans across the state more active and engaged with their neighbors and friends.
National Committeeman Dr. Robin Armstrong spoke about the recent RNC meetings in Los Angeles and the resolution he authored celebrating the life of Borah Van Dormolen and another resolution strengthening NASA. He also spoke about an interview he did on Hardball with Chris Mathews which gave him a chance to discuss the resolution passed by the RNC on traditional marriage.
National Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell reported on her first RNC meeting and the relationships she was able to develop. She also reported on her recent trips across the state and her 3-3-3 challenge to get people to knock on 3 doors a week, make 3 calls a week, and post 3 times a week on social media in an effort to get the grassroots more active and more involved in the conservative movement.
RPT Treasurer Tom Mechler informed the SREC that all FEC forms had been filed on time with no amendments needed so far. Assistant Treasurer Tom Washington mentioned that the Party’s financial state is extremely healthy due to the outstanding fundraising efforts by Chairman Munisteri and the entire RPT fundraising team. They ended their report with an auction starting off with a bobble head of Senator Ted Cruz as well as a Texas flag themed wind chime.
RPT General Counsel Patrick O’Daniel reported on the state of redistricting litigation. He mentioned that even if the same maps were passed as the 2012 elections that the Democrats would still sue to get new maps drawn. The next hearing is set for July while we wait for the Supreme Court to announce a decision on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. Following Officer Reports the Audit Committee invited the RPT’s audit firm up to the microphone to review their recent audit of the Party’s financial state. The auditors reported that they had complete cooperation from the RPT staff, that the books were in good order, that proper procedures were being followed, and that the party was in excelent financial health. The auditors noted that Chairman Munisteri's estimate of the party having approximately $700,000 in usable cash at the start of the year was correct and that there are no known or forseeable problems with the accounting or compliance.
After the audit report Chairman Munisteri offered a motion to confirm two new appointees to the Finance Committee, Joseph DeWoody and Heath Cheek. They were both unanimously confirmed to the committee and we are grateful for their hard work to help keep the party in a strong fiscal condition.
State Senator Ken Paxton spoke for a few minutes to give a session overview from the Senate perspective, highlighting legislation that the conservative group of Senators were able to block using the Senate rules. This includes bills that would have expanded ObamaCare in Texas, bills that would create new occupational regulations, and bills that would violate our stance on traditional family values. He also talked about the Governor's veto of SB 346 and how it is a great victory for the grassroots.
Following lunch State Representative Harvey Hilderbran presented the RPT with a check for $20,000 from the Texas Republican House Committee. Following the check presentation the SREC heard from Nghi Ho, President of the newly formed Asian-American Auxiliary, the Texas Asian Republican Assembly. He spoke on the importance of outreach to the growing and vocal Asian-American population throughout the state.
Prior to the committee reports Chairman Munisteri was presented with a signed and framed picture of Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin that the Chairman (devoted Longhorn for life) will have to hang in his office for one year as a result of Mr. Bettencourt and Senator Patrickdonating $3000 to the Harris County GOP in exchange for Chairman Munisteri hanging the Aggie photo in his office for one year. Following the presentation the SREC Aggies broke into a spontaneous line dance to the tune of the Aggie War Hymn.
Next up were committee reports beginning with the Resolutions Committee. Chairman of the Resolutions Committee, Eric Opiela, presented four resolutions for consideration of the SREC. The first resolution was regarding setting primary dates of future Presidential Primary elections. The second resolution asked for an interim study on illegal fishing in Texas waters and investigates steps the State Legislature can take to solve the problem. The third resolution was regarding ratification of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. The fourth and final resolution to Support the Texas Three-Step Voter Outreach & Voter Engagement Campaign of The Texas Federation for Republican Outreach. Chairman Munisteri then moved to pass the motion celebrating the amazing life and accomplishments of Borah Van Dormolen that National Committeeman Dr. Robin Armstrong had passed at the most recent RNC meetings in Los Angeles. All five resolutions passed unanimously.
Next up the Party Organization Committee, chaired by Marian Stanko, gave an update on the different manuals and handbooks that they are working on for all of the county chairs, precinct chairs, and candidates. Then the Volunteerism Committee, chaired by Leslie Recine, hadDavid Wyile speak about the upcoming State Convention to identify jobs and number of volunteers that will be needed to execute the various tasks. They also passed around a list with the names and contact info for the Volunteer of the Year nominees from each SD. They discussed the Volunteer of the Year Dinner (VOY) which will be at the Austin Club on Friday, September 27th.
The Rules Committee, chaired by Dennis Paul, presented two rules changes plus a proposed standing rule. The first rule change proposed was a bylaw change to publicly post audit reports. The second proposed rule change addressed RNC Committee Members' Terms. The third and final rule change was a proposed standing rule that requires the RPT staff to provide official audio and video recordings of all future SREC meetings for posting and viewing on the RPT website. After a debate on whether to record or livestream the meetings, the body ultimately decided to record the meetings and make those recordings available. All three proposed rules passed.
Following Committee reports, State Senator Tommy Williams then provided the SREC with an overview of the State Budget. He urged the necessity for transparency in the state’s budgeting process including use of the surplus, reduction of GR-D balances, and tax and fee relief.
The Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee, chaired by Tina Gibson, then gave their report which included accepting the Texas Asian Republican Assembly as an official auxiliary of the Republican Party. The SREC voted and accepted the new auxiliary unanimously. They also presented a newsletter put together by Angie Flores for the SREC that they plan on sending out on a quarterly basis. Next the Grassroots Club Committee, chaired by Candy Noble, reported on the current state of the Grassroots Club and what needs to be done to get the number of GRC members back up to the amount of supporters it had during the last election cycle. They are also encouraging county GOP organizations to start recruiting GRC members using custom donation forms for their county so they can identify more Republican donors that they may not have known about before.
The final committee to report was the Candidate Resource Committee. Chair of the committee, Jane Cansino, gave a report on the fundraising events they are planning around the state, including an event that Jane already has planned for her hometown of Amarillo. President of the Texas Federation of Republican Outreach, Bill Calhoun, gave a short auxiliary report on what the Texas Federation of Republican Outreach is working on as well as the importance of the Texas Three-Step Outreach Campaign that the SREC voted on earlier in the meeting. He highlighted the necessity of data mining to use for better party building and the importance of Get Out the Vote operations in continuing to elect Republican elected officials in future elections.
Chairman Munisteri then gave the SREC an update on the contracts for the 2014 State Convention. He discussed with the SREC whether or not they wanted to hold another enhanced convention, which would cost approximately $950,000. He reminded the SREC that the Party took a big gamble in 2012 by increasing the state convention costs from approximately the $600,000+ level to the $900,000+ level in order to ensure a more worthwhile and engaging convention. He reported that the feedback he received from delegates and activists is that they loved the enhanced convention which included videos, entertainment, panels, increased production value, and more amenities. The Chairman explained that undertaking this type of convention poses the risk of losing a few hundred thousand dollars so that if the SREC wishes to keep the enhanced format they need to be aware of this risk and be sure to keep cash balances high enough to absorb any potential losses. On a positive note, the enhanced convention yielded record revenues and made over $150,000 in 2012 so the Chairman believes that the possibility exists of actually making money again. He then explained that in addition to wanting a straw poll at the state convention to increase Texas's influence nationally, a secondary goal would be to increase participation and interest in the state convention which in turn could help ensure revenues are sufficient for the convention to pay for itself or even possibly make money. The SREC then voted to accept the budget for the 2014 state convention. The Chairman assured the SREC that the budget includes an allocation of revenues to help solve the noise problem some caucuses experienced at the last convention due to the location of their meeting where multiple caucuses were in close proximity to each other. The budget now allows for the renting of ballrooms around the convention hall which will provide more caucuses their own space and reduce the number of caucuses that have to share the convention hall to a bare minimum, so it is anticipated that noise should not be a factor this time.
Chairman Munisteri then moved to confirm four new GOP county chairmen including Jody Smith (Hall County), Maggie Kerr (Irion County), Bruce Dury (Reeves County), and Carol Rodriguez (Zavala County). All four were confirmed with a unanimous 'Yes' vote. The final order of business for the day was to award the keypins for SREC members that met the fundraising goal of $1,000. The members that were awarded the keypins this quarter were RNC Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell, Nathan Derr (SD-2), Vicki Slaton (SD-2), Linda Butts (SD-23), Candy Noble (SD-8), and Rex Teter (SD-6).
The next meeting of the SREC will be the third quarterly meeting of 2013 on September 27th and 28th at the Republican Party of Texas headquarters in Austin.