The SREC held its third quarterly meeting on Friday, September 27th and Saturday, September 28th. On Friday, the Officials Committee met. Chairman Munisteri discussed recent rulings in the redistricting cases, the Party’s financial status, staff changes, and the upcoming convention. Executive Director Beth Cubriel also gave an update on the 2016 state convention. Because it is anticipated that the RNC will be moving the 2016 national convention to an earlier date, the RPT is being forced to move its state convention from June of 2016 to May of 2016. Houston was originally going to be the site of the convention but because of the change of dates, Houston does not have a sufficient number of hotel rooms to accommodate the state convention due to a conflict with oil and gas technology companies that will be in town at that time. Beth reported that Fort Worth and San Antonio were not options because of conflicts. She reported that the staff had viewed the Austin Convention Center and has sent a request for a proposal to the city of Austin. She also noted that Dallas and Corpus Christi had expressed interest in hosting the convention and requests for proposals have been sent to both cities. It is anticipated that it will be several weeks before those cities can respond and indicate whether or not they will be able to accommodate the convention with the required number of hotel rooms and proper facilities.
The Rules Committee, chaired by Dennis Paul, met to again modify the State Party rules in response to the legislature delegating to the State Parties the ability to adopt rules in a variety of areas. Because there were questions as to whether or not rules could be made permanent, and the extent to which the SREC can delegate rulemaking ability to the convention, it was decided to postpone decision making on many of the rules until the next meeting. However, amendments to rules 8 and 9 were passed out of committee.
The Resolutions Committee, chaired by assistant general counsel Eric Opiela, met to consider various resolutions pertaining to defunding Obamacare, honoring the life of the late James Leonard, and a resolution rejecting American military involvement in Syria.
The Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee, chaired by Tina Gibson, met to discuss the status of our auxiliaries and coalitions as well as a proposed bylaw change allowing the state party to assist organizations that have been decertified as official auxiliaries but are still associated coalitions. They also heard from representatives from several auxiliaries including Martha Wong with the newly formed Asian American Auxiliary. The Grassroots Committee, chaired byCandy Noble, met to discuss ways to increase membership in the Grassroots Club. Candy reported that the decline in membership as a result of credit cards expiring has been reversed and membership is back on the rise. The committee also reviewed two new brochures to promote the organization and discuss ways to sell new memberships at the state convention.
The Candidate Resource Committee, chaired by Jane Cansino, met and approved a request from the State Chairman to allocate funds to special election candidate for House District 50,Dr. Mike VanDeWalle. The committee approved a contribution to the candidate and the RPT will also match the contribution. Jane also reported that the CRC fund already had approximately $33,000 in it so far this year which is a very good number for this time of year. The Party Organization Committee, chaired by Marion Stanko, met to consider, among other things, the policy and procedures manual for the RPT. The Volunteerism Committee did not meet as they were busy getting everything set up for the Volunteer of the Year dinner that evening.
Saturday morning started with a prayer service led by Pastor Rex Johnson. This prayer service by far had the largest attendance of any SREC prayer service since Chairman Munisteri was elected three years ago. After the general session was called to order, SREC member Rhonda Lacy provided us with a treat by singing the national anthem, and RPT’s ownCassie Daniel provided a stirring rendition of Texas Our Texas.
After the minutes were approved, the SREC heard from a number of candidates. The first one up was Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples who was also the SREC breakfast sponsor. Commissioner Staples talked about how Republicans need to stand together to combat the Democrats’ efforts in the state and how he plans on fighting for Texas conservative values as Lieutenant Governor. Next up was Jani Jo Woods, candidate for Criminal Court of Appeals, Place 4. Followed by Texas Railroad Commissioner candidate Ryan Sitton.
The next order of business was officer reports. Chairman Munisteri reported that the Party continued to be in excellent financial shape. He deferred to a more detailed report from the Treasurer but noted that the Party had over $1 million in the bank after all debt had been paid and the Party had exceeded all of his previous predictions as to the funds the Party would have available at this time in an off-year. The State Chairman also introduced some of the new staff members and explained their positions and titles. Tommy Coleman was introduced as the new Director of African American Engagement and In-House Counsel; Melissa Fwu was introduced as the new Director of Asian American Engagement; Rosalba Martinez and Andrea Chavezwere introduced as the new Hispanic Engagement Field Staff for the Bexar County Victory Center; Mitch Carney was introduced as the new regional Field Representative for the Bexar County office; Ben McPhaul was introduced as the new Data Director; Luke Sheffield was introduced as the new Field Representative for our Houston Victor Center; and Rebecca McDavid was introduced as the new Field Representative for our Fort Worth Victory Center.
The Chairman reported that the party was entering the final phase of his long term strategy for his time at the Texas GOP. The first phase was restoring the Party’s financial health, which was accomplished in his first year. The second phase was improving the Party’s infrastructure by hiring new department heads. The third phase was assimilating the Victory operations back under the Texas GOP staff, which was accomplished in 2012. The fourth goal was to create engagement programs with the Hispanic, Asian American, and African American communities which have now been accomplished. The final goal, which is currently being worked on is to create full time Victory Centers to work on strengthening and utilizing infrastructure year round, including in between elections. He reported that we have started completion of that task and that John Jackson and John McCord would provide a detailed update later in the meeting. Finally, Chairman Munisteri presented charts of the Electoral College which demonstrate the importance of keeping Texas a Republican state if the Party is planning to reclaim the White House any time soon.
Vice Chairwoman Melinda Fredricks spoke about Party unity in which she indicated that there was no problem in having hotly contested primaries and having Republicans occasionally disagree, but that is was very important that at the end of the day, all Party factions and activists come back together to provide a united front to support our candidates against the Democrats in the fall. National Committeeman, Dr. Robin Armstrong, reported on the RNC meetings in Boston. He went over the resolutions that were passed and also noted that it was his opinion that Texas was now being paid attention to by the RNC. National CommitteewomanToni Anne Dashiell had taken ill and was unable to present her report.
Treasurer Tom Mechler and Assistant Treasurer Tom Washington presented detailed information on the Party’s finances. Tom Washington reported that this year’s revenues wererunning ahead of last year’s revenues when you back out last year’s Victory and Primary funds. He noted that the Party was in excellent financial shape and that we expect to end the year with all bills paid and several hundred thousand dollars in our accounts. Treasurer Tom Mechler reported that all FEC filings were in order and there are no present actions against the Party. He also reported that the Policies and Procedures Subcommittee had updated the employee manual and revised the outdated policies and procedures. SREC member Montie Watkinswent over the specific changes with the SREC.
General Counsel Patrick O’Daniel noted that the State Party is only involved in two remaining redistricting lawsuits with one expected to wrap up soon. Two days after O’Daniel’s report, the Party was removed from one of the lawsuits, denying any relief against the Party and relieving the Party from any further obligation to participate.
After the reports, several SREC members made announcements that they were running for office and went over their qualifications. SREC member Danny Pelton from SD 30 announced he was running for House District 59. Sheryl Berg, SREC member from SD 11, announced she was running for House District 129. Dennis Paul, SREC member from SD 11, announced he was also running from House District 129. Non-SREC member Jeff Larson also was allowed to announce he was running for the same House District as Dennis and Sheryl. SREC memberBecky Berger from SD 18 addressed the SREC on her campaign for Texas Railroad Commission. SREC member and Assistant General Counsel Eric Opiela also addressed the group regarding his campaign for Agriculture Commissioner.
The Chairmam, SREC, and staff took a slight break to present former RPT Finance Director,Keri Mason, with a gift as a thank you for doing such an outstanding job fundraising for the RPT over the past few years. Chairman Munisteri noted that since he became Chairman the Party has raised approximately $14.5 million in contributions and has brought in approximately $15.5 million in total revenue in large part because of Keri Mason’s hard work.
Texas Railroad Commissioner and Attorney General Candidate Barry Smitherman, who was also a co-sponsor of the SREC meeting, then spoke. He was followed by another SREC meeting sponsor, Texas State Senator Glenn Hegar. Senator Hegar is running for Texas Comptroller and spoke about the accomplishments made by the Texas legislature last cycle as well as the importance of the Comptroller’s office and why he wants to help lead that agency.
Malachi Boyuls, candidate for Texas Railroad Commission, addressed the SREC regarding his campaign and qualifications. The SREC meeting sponsor was House Republican Caucus Chairman and candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, Brandon Creighton. In introducing Chairman Creighton, Chairman Munisteri noted that Creighton had kept him apprised of developments at the legislature during the last legislative session, that he had sought the Party’s input on critical issues, and that he had been part of the group of legislators that helped assist the Party financially. Chairman Munisteri thanked Chairman Creighton for his service and Chairman Creighton went on to address to the SREC regarding the importance of Republicans working together over the next few years to keep Texas red. He then went on to talk about why the Agriculture Commissioner is an important office and how his experiences growing up a life-long Texan have prepared him to be a successful Agriculture Commissioner.
After Chairman Creighton’s speech, Chairman Harvey Hilderbran, who was also a meeting sponsor, spoke to the SREC concerning his candidacy for the State Comptroller as well as fighting President Obama and restrictions enforced by the Federal government to ensure that Texas remains a safe place for free enterprise and maintains a growing economy. Following Chairman Hilderbran’s speech, the SREC heard committee reports from the Party Organization Committee, Volunteerism Committee, Grassroots Club, and Candidate Resource Committee on the work they completed in committee meetings the day before.
After the reports, Chairman Dan Branch, who is running for Attorney General, spoke to the SREC about importance of the Attorney General’s office in defending Texas values and standing up for those values against the overreaching federal government. He also spoke about his desire for more transparency at all levels of government. His speech was followed by and expanded on in an auxiliary report from Texas Federation of College Republicans Chairman Kristopher Infante. During the early afternoon, a proposed bylaw change was considered. It would allow auxiliaries that no longer met the RPT requirements, but still wanted to push to be coalitions, to receive assistance from the RPT. The bylaw passed. After the bylaw report, Senator Dan Patrick was expected to speak, but he fell ill and was unable to make it. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, also a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, spoke to the group about his campaign.
RPT Political Director John McCord and Victory State Director John Jackson provided an update on the 2014 victory efforts. They gave a very detailed report on the progress the RPT has made so far in getting our most recent Victory operations up and running. They spoke about the goals for the Victory program that include new neighborhood captains across the state, registering new voters, engaging and encouraging more minority groups and communities to participate in our convention progress, and more. They also updated the SREC on the current Victory field offices we have open in Bexar, Harris, and Tarrant Counties and our plans to have offices open in Dallas, Corpus Christi, The Valley, and El Paso by January 2014.
Following the Victory report, State Director for Hispanic Engagement David Zapata presented a detailed report of progress he and his team have made in the Hispanic community. David’s presentation outlined the perception and engagement problem that the Hispanic community has with the Republican Party. He talked about the basic engagement goals we must accomplish in order to reach out to these communities to help improve our Party’s image. He also detailed which different groups we will be reaching out to as our Hispanic engagement programs continue to grow across the state.
The next order of business was the adoption of a supplemental rule to govern the election of SREC vacancies. The SREC adopted the same rules that we used for the RNC Committeewoman’s election. An election was held to fill SD23 and Jonathan Boos was elected. There was also an election to fill SD30 and Deon Starnes was elected to fill that seat. That election was followed by ratification of new county Chairman. New county chairs appointments included Kathy Walker from Edwards County, Jason Williams from Hall County,Rita Jordan from Karnes County, Susan Williamson from Menard County, and Jeff Steelefrom Refugio County.
The SREC also considered a rule change regarding quorums. These are part of the new rules being drafted. While the committee recommended we table most of the major rule decisions until December, they pushed forward with rules pertaining to meetings of the Executive Committee. Changes to the state election code allows parties to now define quorum for the purpose of filling vacancies. To ease the quorum burden for county parties in their efforts to fill precinct chair vacancies, the SREC voted to allow county parties to set their own standards for a quorum for this purpose as at least ¼ of their membership but not more than a majority of their membership.The SREC used the RPT emergency powers rule to make a temporary change to the RPT rules concerning this issue. The RPT convention will make a permanent acceptance of this change at the stateconvention in 2014.
Prior to conclusion of the meeting, RPT honored SREC members that earned their keypins. Keypins are awarded to members that raise over one thousand dollars for the party. Keypins were awarded to Davita Stike, Naomi Narvaiz, Linda Kinney, Jane Cansino, Russ Duerstine, and Nelda Eppes.
The next SREC meeting will be the fourth quarterly meeting of the SREC on December 6th and 7th at RPT headquarters in Austin.