Chairman’s Update: September 2012
September marked the beginning of the final stretch towards Election Day. In fact, voters in 30 states including Texas already began voting during the month of September. Therefore, almost all of the staff’s attention was focused daily on monitoring the toss-up races around the state, supporting the Victory 2012 efforts under Judge Ed Emmett, recruiting volunteers for our Texas Trailblazer program, scheduling block walk weekends, and instituting a Call From Home program. We will soon publish a Victory 2012 Update from Judge Emmett but briefly – our call centers are up and running, and we are daily monitoring their output. In addition, the Party mailed out 650,000 early vote by mail ballot applications and over 90,000 Republican voters so far have requested a ballot as a result of this effort.
The staff has also made an assessment that there are 17 toss-up races involving the State House, State Senate and U.S. Congress. In addition to ensuring that we maximize the utilization of the Victory Centers to assist these candidates, the staff has also worked to help arrange direct mail pieces and paid GOTV efforts in critical races. As a result of the generous support of RPT donors and the Party’s improved financial position, the RPT has also made and will continue to make direct cash contributions to candidates in targeted districts. As of the time of the writing of this report, the Republican Party of Texas has directly contributed $196,000 to 85 Republican candidates statewide. The Party anticipates making additional and significant cash contributions to those in targeted races over the next several weeks.
In addition to the campaign work, in the first week of September I was able to speak to the Young Conservatives of Texas Chapter at the University of Texas. The following day I traveled to Houston to attend a noon luncheon sponsored by Hispanic Republican leaders who are supporting Governor Mitt Romney. The featured speaker was Romney National Finance Chairman, Houstonian L.E. Simmons. That evening, I had the privilege of introducing Congressman Jeb Hensarling at a Houston fundraiser. I first met Congressman Hensarling over 30 years ago when we were both conservative student activists and later attended law school at the same time as him at the University of Texas in Austin. He is one of Texas’ brightest conservative stars with a sharp mind and strong commitment to conservative principles. What I admire most about him is that he has not let Congress or Washington D.C. change him – he is the same person today that he was in college.
The following week, I had the opportunity to speak to the College Republicans at Texas State University. I left San Marcos that evening to drive to the Canton area to attend a fundraiser for Representative Dan Flynn the next day. Representative Flynn’s son Josh was a longtime member of the State Republican Executive Committee who was recently term-limited. Representative Flynn himself had also been a member of the SREC. We were also joined by State Representatives Bill Zedler, Phil King, Dennis Bonnen, and Burt Solomons. I then drove from the fundraiser back to Austin, in order to speak to the University of Texas College Republicans that evening. The following day was spent hosting a Hispanic Republican leadership conference at RPT headquarters (please see previous recap), and then a meeting with leadership of the Young Conservatives of Texas.
On that Saturday, I was particularly busy as I drove from Austin to Trinity County where I attended the county party’s campaign rally in Trinity. I was the keynote speaker and the crowd was very impressive with approximately 200 persons in attendance. Senator Robert Nichols and National Committeeman Robin Armstrong also spoke at the event. State Representative James White also spoke as well as Representative-Elect Trent Ashby. I immediately drove from there to Lufkin, TX for the Angelina County GOP Headquarters Grand Opening, where I spoke along with Senator Nichols, Representative White and Trent Ashby. Angelina County also had a large turnout of approximately 200 people. It was very encouraging to see both of these counties have enthusiastic and large crowds in an area which used to be solidly Democrat. From there, it was on to Houston for some meetings the following Monday. After the meetings, I drove to Round Rock to speak to the Heart of Texas Young Republicans club. The rest of the week was spent in preparation for the third quarter meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee, held on September 21-22. (Please see the report below.)
The following week I did some fundraising in Houston which netted the Party $30,000. I also had a chance to attend the Paul Ryan event in Houston, which was held on September 25th. The event was emceed by Houstonian and Romney national finance chairman L.E. Simmons and attracted a sizable crowd at the St. Regis Hotel. I drove back to Austin that evening, but was only able to spend a day in Austin prior to having to leave for Dallas. I had two events in Dallas on the 27th. One was to speak to the Greater Dallas Republicans Club and then attend a meeting of the Dallas Eagle Forum. From there, it was back to Austin for a couple days of work, followed by a trip back to Dallas two days later to attend the funeral of former State Party Chairman Fred Meyer.
Normally, the funerals I attend are a mixture of sadness and fond memories, but I actually found this funeral to be an uplifting and inspiring celebration of Fred’s life. Fred planned the funeral himself and it was able to do justice to his accomplishments and memory. I found the recitation of his accomplishments to be inspiring because many of them came late in life. In addition to being a very successful businessman, including being a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Fred served as State Chairman of the RPT while in his 60’s. He was even a downhill ski racer until his mid-60’s. When he was no longer physically able to downhill ski, he took up car racing in his 70’s. He remained active until the end of his life, raising funds for various causes, promoting numerous organizations, including his church and health organizations. What struck me most was that despite knowing the end was near – Fred continued to actively reach out to people that he had met throughout his life and express to them his gratitude for their friendship and help. I had a chance to visit with Fred multiple times by phone and in person after I assumed the Chairmanship. I originally reached out to him to solicit advice on being State Chairman. Fred was generous in the time he spent and insightful as to what made a successful Chairmanship. When the Party was in financial trouble, he was not only one of the hosts of a fundraiser for us in Dallas, but also personally gave a significant amount of his own money to the RPT in its hour of need. Fred had long since paid his dues to the Republican Party when he went above and beyond the call of duty to help me as a new chairman.
Approximately 1,000 mourners paid their respects to Fred, including in attendance: former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Supreme Court Justices Nathan Hecht, U.S. Congressmen Jeb Hensarling, Joe Barton and Sam Johnson, former Secretary of State Roger Williams and former Congressman and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett.
Fred Meyer was 84 when he passed away, but was active in his support of his country and community until his very last days. His life of public service should serve as an example to all of us as we get ready for the November elections. I was told by a longtime friend who helped take care of his business in his last days that one of the final things on his mind was asking about the status of his early vote by mail ballot. Fred thought this election was that important. His attitude and commitment should remind all of us that we need to do everything we possibly can in advance of the November 6th election to ensure Republican victories up and down the ballot.
3rd Quarterly SREC Report
Because SREC committee membership needs to be confirmed by the entire body, the newly proposed SREC committees could only meet informally on Friday, September 21st, with the exception of the CRC Committee which is appointed in the Spring of odd-numbered years. Nevertheless, the SREC members who have been nominated to be on individual committees met on Friday. These included: Party Organization, Volunteerism, Auxiliaries & Coalitions, Resolutions, Rules and the Grassroots Club Committee. The Candidate Resource Committee was able to perform its official duties and voted to distribute approximately $100,000 to 80 candidates statewide. Congratulations to Jane Cansino and all of her committee members: Steve Findley, Jean Killgore, Valoree Swanson, Don Zimmerman, Becky Berger, Ben Zeller, Johnnie B. Rogers, Jan Koehne, Marian Stanko, Rena Peden, Harold Jenkins, Steve Atwell, Paul Bettencourt, Rosemary Edwards, Scott Gailee and Fred Tate.
That evening, Ted Cruz spoke to SREC members and other Republican candidates and elected officials at a local Austin restaurant. He thanked all of the attendees for their support to his campaign in the upcoming election and that he looked forward to working to help elevate the full Republican ticket in November. Cruz also took the time to discuss one of the campaign strategies he employed in his primary race where his team took special effort to reach out to Republican voters who had only begun voting in primary elections in 2010 after witnessing the failures of the Obama administration. He remarked that he and his team found these voters to be highly energized and motivated to become involved and take our country back – something that bodes well for ongoing Republian growth in our state!
Prior to the SREC meeting being called to order on Saturday, September 22, 2012 – a traditional prayer service was held, at which RPT Chaplain Rex Johnson, along with his music minister Randy Davenport, provided an opportunity for prayer and reflection prior to the meeting. Rhonda Lacy kicked off the meeting with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, followed by a speech by Christi Craddick – Republican Nominee for Texas Railroad Commissioner. She spoke at length about her ongoing campaign for the Railroad Commission and her willingness not only to travel around the state on her own behalf, but to work with other candidates and Republican organizations to Get Out The Vote and fundraise for Republicans up and down the ballot.
The SREC then approved the appointments of several county chairs. Two years ago, there were 21 vacancies among county chairs and the RPT was able to fill all of these vacancies last spring so that we had 254 chairs for 254 counties. However, 19 county chairs did not wish to serve another term. Organizational Director Cassie Daniel has recruited 8 new County Chairs to fill the vacancies, but there are still 11 vacancies which she is working hard to fill.
The SREC then heard officer reports. Chairman Munisteri briefly reviewed the goals which the RPT set two years ago for the benefit of the new SREC members who were not present then. 24 of the 62 SREC members are new for 2012. The Chairman outlined that his goals during the first term were to improve the Party’s finances as the RPT had over $700,000 in debt and was insolvent when he took office. He also set the goal two years earlier, of rebuilding the Party’s infrastructure once the finances were stabilized. Specifically, to add a fundraising department, political department, youth outreach and minority outreach to the RPT’s functions. He also noted that it was a goal to fill county chair vacancies, improve relations with elected officials, work for conservative legislation at the State Capitol, provide training seminars, and to initiate a program to increase the percentage of Texans of Hispanic descent who vote Republican.
The Chairman outlined the progress the Party has made in each of these areas and reported that in addition to the Party being totally debt-free for 22 months, that the RPT had approximately $1,000,000 in its general accounts, approximately $200,000 in the Victory account, and other various monies in its dedicated accounts. Chairman Munisteri indicated that because fundraising normally drops off significantly during the last two months of the year that it was important to maintain $500,000 in cash reserves in order to maintain the Party’s longtime financial stability. Nevertheless, the Chairman reported that he thought the Party’s balances were sufficiently high as to justify the Party making significant contributions to the targeted State Representative, State Senate and Congressional races. The Chairman informed the SREC that he was going to ask the new Officials Committee for permission to utilize a significant portion of the Party’s funds currently in the Party’s general accounts to provide financial assistance to Republican candidates during the last few weeks of the election season, in addition to what is being expended by Victory 2012. The Chairman indicated that one of his goals to bring back the Victory operations completely under the RPT’s umbrella had been accomplished and that this move saved duplicating overhead, as Victory was utilizing RPT office space, accounting and other administrative staff. The Chairman outlined his goals for the next two years as: maintaining the Party’s financial stability, assisting counties in bolstering their infrastructure, specifically in helping them recruit new precinct chairmen, increasing the Party’s lobbying efforts at the State Legislature to promote conservative legislation, and increasing the Party’s outreach to numerous voting blocs.
Vice-Chairwoman Melinda Fredricks then provided her report. She gave five words to remember in relation to the role of the SREC and Republican leaders during the Presidential Election: Faith, Focus, Fearless, Finish, and Fight. Vice Chair Fredricks encouraged the members to keep strong in the weeks to come before November 6th and to always stay unwavering in the belief that we will win! She was followed by National Committeeman Robin Armstrong, who detailed his efforts to organize volunteers to travel from Texas to Ohio to assist the Romney campaign in a key battleground state. These efforts will take place from November 2nd through Election Day on November 6th and Dr. Armstrong is working with a full-time staffer in Ohio to set up an agenda, accommodations and a plan of action. National Committeewoman Borah Van Dormolen had a speaking engagement that Saturday, and issued her report in writing to the body. Borah specifically wished to welcome the new members to the SREC and used the report to draw attention to the RNC’s “GOP Social Victory Center”, which allows volunteers to find an online hub for helping to elect Republicans and GOTV for November from home.
Statewide Victory Chairman Judge Ed Emmett detailed the present status of Texas Victory 2012. Specifically, he reviewed the early vote by mail program and reported on the opening an operation of the half-dozen Victory centers around the state. Treasurer Tom Mechler and Assistant Treasurer Tom Washington provided a report on the finances. Included in that report was a breakdown on the State Convention finances which they concluded netted the Party $164,000. (since the date of the report, another $5,000 of convention funds has been received so the total convention profit is $169,000). Treasurer Mechler reported that all FEC and TEC filings were up to date and accurate, that the Party was in excellent financial condition, and that he had been able to raise some additional monies to print push cards outlining the differences between the Republican and Democrat platforms targeting the Hispanic community.
Former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt then provided an update on redistricting and various court actions. He started by briefly addressing the actions being taken to keep the voter rolls up to date, especially the news items that had garnered attention in Harris County around the attempts to remove deceased voters from the rolls. Bettencourt also discussed the late August ruling from the Washington D.C. federal panel regarding the challenge to Texas Redistricting maps under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
After lunch, reports were presented by some of the Party’s auxiliaries, TFRW, TRCCA, TYRF, GOPisForMe, and HSRT. Following the reports a bylaws change proposed by the Chairman to allow the Finance Committee to add Deputy Finance Chairmen was approved. The SREC then voted to confirm the Chairman’s appointments to the Finance Committee, including the appointment of George P. Bush as State Deputy Finance Chairman. The SREC then voted on the Chairman’s committee appointments. You can download a full list of the committees and members by using this link.
The next order of business was the Officials Committee election. Five members of the committee are elected from the SREC at-large. Russ Duerstine, Montie Watkins, Neal Katz, Becky Berger and Tom Washington won election – congratulations to these new members. After the Officials Committee election, there were reports from the informal meetings of the committees who gathered together on Friday.
The bulk of the afternoon was taken up by a minority outreach presentation put on by Chairman Munisteri and Outreach Director David Zapata. The presentation included numerous charts from Census data, polling, and other sources which showed the dramatic demographic changes occurring in Texas and the significant impact these changes could have on the outcome of elections. The data showed that there were dramatic percentage increases in the Hispanic and Asian-American populations of Texas over the last 10 years, and that both of these ethnic groups will become a larger and larger share of the Texas population over the next generation. A copy of the presentation is available from David Zapata upon request.
The last order of business was the presenting of key pins for obtaining SREC fundraising goals. These pins are presented to SREC members who raise at least $1,000. Key pins were awarded to: Jean McIver, Tom Washington, Jane Cansino, Russ Duerstine, Rosemary Roe, Michael Truncale, Clint Moore, Valoree Swanson, Candy Noble, Neal Katz, Jim Borchert, Sheryl Berg, Davida Stike, Becky Berger, Ben Zeller, Jason Moore and Rhonda Lacy.
Upon adjournment of the SREC meeting, the new Officials Committee met for approximately an hour. The Chairman wished for the Committee to decide whether to plan for a three or a two day state convention in 2014. The Committee voted to put on a three-day convention if there were enough hotel rooms available. Tom Washington and Neal Katz were tasked with determining whether or not there would be enough hotel rooms available to make a three-day convention feasible, as well as looking into reserving ballrooms at adjacent hotels for caucus meetings so as to help mitigate the noise problem that occurred when too many caucuses were too close together last convention. The committee also considered Chairman Munisteri’s request for authorization to disperse funds from the Party’s general accounts in addition to what is spent by the Victory Committee to assist candidates. The Officials Committee voted unanimously to let the Chairman and RPT staff determine how to disperse financial assistance to targeted races as needed, as long as the balances of the Party’s general accounts did not fall below $700,000. The SREC’s next meeting is December 1-2, 2012 in Austin.
Steve Munisteri, Chairman, Republican Party of Texas