Chairman's Monthly Update: February Report
The priority for the month of February was pushing the Republican Party of Texas' legislative priorities. To accomplish this I invited leaders of numerous conservative groups to the RPT headquarters to discuss legislation of mutual interest as well as to afford me the opportunity to hear their concerns as well as their analysis of the current legislative session. I met with representatives of Right to Life groups, 2nd Amendment groups, taxpayer protection groups, Eagle Forum and conservative legal groups. In addition to meeting with the leadership of conservative groups, both myself and SREC leadership held numerous meetings with our Republican legislators to obtain updates on current legislation and to coordinate strategy on moving key pieces of legislation forward. I had the chance to visit with Representatives such as Harvey Hilderbran, Warren Chisum, Wayne Christian, Todd Hunter, Tryon Lewis and Four Price among others. Rep. Todd Hunter has been particularly helpful in meeting with SREC leadership and providing us updates on key pieces of legislation moving forward which he is in unique position to have knowledge of since he is Chairman of the Calendars committee. He is also keeping us apprised of redistricting.
As a result of the efforts of our Republican State Senators, legislators, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Speaker Straus, SREC members and with the support of our grassroots Republican activists, we were able to achieve several significant legislative victories during the month of February. Voter ID passed the Senate and has passed through a select committee on Voter Identification & Voter Fraud in the Texas House. The Sonogram Bill also advanced during the month of February, passing out of the Senate and out of the State Affairs committee on the House side. The month of February also saw the filing by Republican legislators of key legislation regarding sanctuary cities.
On the fundraising front, the RPT hosted a fundraising reception featuring Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Lake Jackson, TX native. The event grossed approximately $13,000 (for more information on this event, please see our previous report). At the end of February we received word from Governor Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Speaker Straus that they would host an RPT dinner in March so during the latter part of February we worked hard to ensure that this event would be a success (a full report will be forthcoming).
The RPT, as has been its practice since the end of November, paid all of its account payables and debt to zero by the end of the month and never dipped below $600,000 in liquid assets during the month of February. Thus the party ended the month as it began - on solid financial footing.
I also continued my tour around the state to interact with local leadership, push membership in our Grassroots Club and to update the grassroots on party activities. During the week of February 6th I traveled to Beaumont and spoke to approximately 150 members of the Golden Triangle Republican Club in Beaumont, TX, attended a luncheon sponsored by the Conservative Republicans of Texas, attended a meeting of the center-right coalition, spoke to the Republican Business Women of Bexar County and then finished out the week keynoting the El Paso Lincoln-Reagan dinner. I also met with the chairman of the Texas Conservative Coalition, Wayne Christian to discuss legislation and other matters of importance to the party.
The following week of February 13th, I spoke to the Nueces County Republican Women's club, attended the Galveston County Lincoln Reagan Dinner and then traveled to Dallas to speak at the Young Conservatives of Texas annual convention as well as host the fundraiser event with Senator Rand Paul. At the YCT convention, I was the featured speaker at the Saturday breakfast meeting. Also that evening, I was given the chance of introducing Senator Paul at dinner. I really enjoyed attending the Young Conservatives of Texas convention since I was its founding chairman 31 years ago. But more importantly it gave me an opportunity to observe our new generation of Conservative leadership. The conference was well attended and the young people were enthusiastic and committed.
The following week, I spoke to the New Braunfels Republican Club, presented Governor Dewhurst his Chairman's Circle Award at the Williamson County Reagan Dinner, attended the Travis County Reagan Day Picnic as well as the Denton County Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner. I also had an opportunity that week to visit with the leadership of the Latino National Republican Committee. The leadership was hosted by SREC member James Barnes. I had a chance to visit with them for about an hour and came away encouraged about their success and our ability to outreach into the Hispanic community. Comptroller Susan Combs also came by that week to check up on the party and to offer her usual sound advice and suggestions. Comptroller Combs has not only been very financially generous to the party but has also been very helpful to the party by providing her expertise on budgeting, financial matters and administration.
The month of February was also a sad month for us as both Jenny Sykes, our longtime Organizational Director, and Justin Hollis, our Outreach Director, were offered significant positions with Commissioner Michael Williams and Governor David Dewhurst, respectively. We had previously lost Lauren Simcik to Representative Geanie Morrison's office so their departures presented a challenge to us. All three did a fabulous job for the party. Although I am sad to lose them, I am happy for them as all three were provided opportunities for advancement. Jenny Sykes was the longest continuous serving staff member for the party having worked here six years, and was universally beloved. Justin started our outreach program and had done an excellent job for us. I had received positive feedback from virtually everybody he worked with about the fine job that he had been doing. Lauren had made my life easier by volunteering to help with my scheduling while at the same time accomplishing her other tasks in the finance department. I would like to thank them all on my behalf and on behalf of the RPT for being wonderful employees.
On other matters of upcoming importance - we continue to evaluate the feasibility of a Presidential Straw Poll. We were beginning to finalize plans when we were informed that the types of contributions and sponsorships we could accept because of FEC regulations would limit us far more than we first thought. Therefore we are evaluating restructuring the straw poll into a different format than first planned, but we are still moving forward on the presumption that we will still hold one on the third week of September (most likely in Travis County.) After a great deal of thought we have also determined that it is not feasible to move up the Presidential Primary date because of new federal restrictions pertaining to mail-in ballots. Therefore, we plan to move forward with our idea to move the primary to the first week of April so that we can apportion delegates as the RPT sees fit, rather than the RNC. RNC prohibits non-proportional delegate apportionment prior to April 1st.
I am also happy to report that our Grassroots Club has been growing and we are now at approximately 400 members which is up from approximately 200 members in early December and we continue to add every week. We put a request into the RNC which they are considering, to not call or mail our Grassroots Club members (presently if you join the Grassroots Club, the RPT takes you off its call and mail lists.)
Although we face some staff challenges and fundraising is always a constant concern, I believe the party overall is on an upswing as we have been able to continue the fundraising momentum which in turn has allowed us to add three new staff members - Beth Cubriel, Keri Mason and Yvonne Palmer. We are moving forward with plans to expand the political department, the fundraising department and field organization. I am optimistic that we can accomplish strengthening the party structure while at the same time accomplishing our priority legislative goals. I would like to thank all Republicans for their phone calls, cards and letters in support of our priority legislation. I am very optimistic that we will have a most successful year!