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Chairman's Update: Six Month Report

Just like the football coach who after a big win, tells his team to enjoy the victory that night, but to be prepared tomorrow to re-focus on the next game - the morning after the November 2nd election, I held a staff planning meeting to start plotting our course for the 2012 Elections. The staff and I discussed lessons to be learned from the 2010 campaign, as well as what steps to undertake immediately to prepare for 2012. We decided that the party should begin immediately to plan voter registration, ballot integrity, minority outreach, and opposition research efforts. We also had a meeting with representatives of most of the major statewide office holders and Comptroller Susan Combs to discuss how to proceed forward for 2012. I was especially interested in receiving input from Comptroller Combs as she and her Executive Director Jarod Love did a fabulous job running the Victory operation and demonstrated how to be more efficient with campaign dollars.

In addition to planning for 2012, we also had to turn our attention to finishing up the 2010 election contests, as three contests actually continued beyond November 2nd. Two of these contests yielded recounts – the Solomon Ortiz vs. Blake Farenthold race in CD 27, and the Dan Neil vs. Donna Howard race in HD 48. The RPT was involved in the Farenthold race as we sent a team of RPT staffers down to the district to assist in the monitoring of the recount. Meanwhile, at headquarters, both myself and staff continually monitored the situation and put resources in place to be deployed in the event they were needed.

Fortunately the recount resulted in Solomon Ortiz conceding, and we did not need to be involved in a legal challenge. This was not the case for Dan Neil, as the RPT not only has been monitoring that situation in close consultation with the Neil campaign and legal teams, but the RPT has also committed financial resources to both the recount and election contest. The recount’s efforts resulted in the margin being decreased from 17 to 12 votes. RPT has determined that dozens of Republican votes for Dan Neil were not counted.  Moreover, it appears as though the possibility exists of both dead people and ineligible felons having voted.  The Neil campaign has determined that they will push forward with an election contest, and the State Party will be supporting his efforts.

Once the dust from the election settled, it was time for me to get back on the road and visit some of our Republican clubs, and to make public appearances on behalf of the party. The week after the election, I appeared on Bob Ward’s Austin radio show, met with Tom Leppert, the Mayor of Dallas, traveled to Southlake to speak to the Republican Women of North Texas, met with Senator John Cornyn, spoke to the Sun City Republican Club in Georgetown, and finished off the week participating in a debate-style forum at the Annette Strauss institute of the LBJ School of Government, featuring Michael Moore the campaign manager for Bill White, Matt Angle the head of the Texas Democratic Trust, Rob Johnson, campaign manager for Governor Rick Perry, and myself. I am biased, but I think Rob and I trounced them!

The next week I hit the trail again, speaking to the Ronald Reagan women’s club in Houston, keynoting the New Braunfels Republican Club dinner, speaking at the Horseshoe Bay Republicans luncheon, attending receptions for Republican legislators John Davis, Jim Murphy, Jason Isaac, Larry Gonzales, Stefani Carter, Larry Philips, Jim Keffer, Jose Aliseda, Connie Scott, Joe Driver, John Garza, Senators Kevin Eltife and Joan Huffman, and speaking to Senatorial District 5 leadership in Huntsville. On November 17th, I also held the first budget meeting as required under our bylaws to review the proposed 2011 budget.

The week of Thanksgiving started off with my appearance as the luncheon speaker for the Magic Circle Republican Women’s club in Houston, and culminated in a true day of Thanksgiving as we had a press conference in Austin to announce the party’s “Rainy Day Fund.” This event was well-attended and featured Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. The purpose of the press conference was to announce that the party had set up, with backing from Lt. Governor Dewhurst, a "Rainy Day Fund" and that Gov. Dewhurst had raised $100,000 for the party for that purpose, which has already been set aside in a CD.

The week of November 29th was a busy one, as both myself and the staff had to prepare for the fourth quarterly meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee meeting (a full report is below). I did make time that week to attend a fundraiser for Sarah Davis in Houston, a Marva Beck fundraiser in Austin, and a dinner reception for the Republican freshman legislators as well as a Center-Right Coalition meeting in Austin.  Finally that weekend, we had an excellent meeting of the SREC here in Austin.

After the SREC meeting, it was back to my duties which included attending a Todd Hunter fundraiser, Senator Craig Estes’ fundraiser, a speech before the Georgetown Republican Women’s Club, attending the annual Associated Republicans of Texas dinner, attending a fundraiser for Judge Melissa Goodwin, and ending the week attending a fundraiser for Senator Dan Patrick at the home of former State Representative Brad Wright.  Former Rep. Wright is a favorite of mine, having been named multiple times as the "best legislator" by conservative groups and maintaining a perfect 100% conservative rating during his term in the legislature. In between these speeches, I had an opportunity to meet with the telemarketing account representative and our direct mail representative to plan fundraising for next year, as well as meeting with RNC Chairman candidate Saul Anuzis here in Austin.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the Republican Caucus staff luncheon in Austin, and then spent the rest of the week getting back to the business of fundraising.  That week, I also spent time visiting with Reps. Aaron Peña and Allan Ritter, as well as local party leadership regarding their possible switch in party affiliation. These efforts along with the efforts of Governor Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus, numerous State Representatives and State Senators, and local party officials, yielded us some tremendously good news.

Two formerly Democratic members of the State House, Rep. Aaron Peña of Edinburg and Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland, joined the Republican Party of Texas. The reason this is such tremendous news, is that it puts us at 101 Representatives with the election of John Kuempel in last Tuesday's special election. This means that we have a two-thirds majority in the Texas House. This is significant because a two-thirds majority means the Republicans by themselves have a quorum, so that Democrats can’t hide out in Oklahoma again to prevent the business of the Legislature. It also means that we can suspend the rules, and pass constitutional amendments without Democratic support. In talking to the two representatives, it was clear that their decision to switch was based on their conscience and the fact that they felt the Democratic Party’s shift to the left was not consistent with their personal views. Representative Peña showed unusual political courage since his district normally only votes in the mid-20th percentile for Republican candidates, and no doubt would have easily won re-election if he had not changed parties.

In addition to the great political news that we have reached a super-majority in the State House, our RPT finances are stable and the party machinery is operating relatively smoothly. For more details, see the SREC report below.

This week marked the six month mark of my term as Chairman which means I am a quarter of the way through this term. The time has certainly flown by, as evidenced by the fact that we are now in the holiday season. In these last days of 2010, I would like to take the opportunity to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and a Happy New Year.

Steve Munisteri,
Chairman, Republican Party of Texas


The State Republican Executive Committee met on December 3-4 in Austin, TX. Friday the 3rd, was taken up with committee work. These committees included the convention committee, volunteerism committee, auxiliaries committee, resolutions committee, rules committee, organization committee, and redistricting committee. There was also a meeting of the committee chairs and myself on Friday morning. With the Officials Committee and other committee chairs, Chairman Munisteri discussed the budget which was to be presented at the SREC meeting and answered any questions.  He then sat in on the Convention Committee, and was pleased to learn that they are already busy working on the 2012 convention including obtaining lists of possible vendors, setting up site meetings with the Fort Worth Convention Bureau, and investigating hotel alternatives.

The Resolutions Committee considered a number of resolutions, but did not recommend any to the full body. The Auxiliaries Committee met to make recommendations on which auxiliaries to approve.

On Saturday, December 4th, the main business of the day was to go over and approve the budget for 2011, and to receive staff reports as to the overall status of the party.  Prior to the reports, Chairman Munisteri reiterated his desire to conduct as much of the party business in public as possible.  Consistent with his pledge for transparency, he announced that for the second meeting in a row, he did not plan to have any business conducted in executive session so that all interested Republican leadership that attended the meeting could be apprised of the current status of the RPT. Chairman Munisteri led off the meeting with his Chairman’s Report, in which he presented a slide presentation showing the financial history of the party. This slide presentation demonstrated that as far back as the staff has records for, which is 1992, the RPT has continually had debt until December 1st 2010, at which time the Chairman instructed that all bills be paid, leaving the balance of debt at zero. He also presented slides showing that the Party had a cash balance of approximately three quarters of a million dollars, after all election bills had been paid. He noted that the party was able to spend approximately $900,000 just in the month of October on elections, and had paid off all of the related election bills. He also noted that the staff had prepared a 16 page report detailing the RPT’s elections activities. You can view a full copy of this elections report at http://clicks.electionemail.com/trkr/?c=3672&g=830&u=4eb2186904c4b5d63ef7e14e9f5b777b&p=1410e9e9a093cf0913a5ec40c7755b5f&t=1

Melinda Fredricks presented a Vice-Chairman’s report detailing her efforts to oversee ballot security. She made note of the fact that she was able to put together legal teams across the state to ensure ballot integrity. She also presented an audio demonstration of the calls that were received by her hotline team, and how such calls were handled.

Borah Van Dormolen gave an RNC committeewoman’s report in which she detailed her activities as well as noting that she had been appointed to the RNC’s convention arrangements committee.

Bill Crocker put on a report detailing his recommendations which the Chairman supports for how to make the Republican Party of Texas more relevant in the presidential primary process. Specifically, he recommends the party hold a straw poll in the fall of 2011, and that the RPT ask the Republican legislators to move back the party’s primary to May.  This would allow the RPT to adopt a winner-take-all delegate system so that Texas will have a large and attractive bloc of delegates as a prize that would encourage candidates to come to Texas and stay in the Presidential race at least until the Texas primary.

Staff reports were then given, which included a video presentation by Executive Director Jesse Lewis who showed numerous examples of websites and mailers that the RPT was involved in during the elections.  The RPT sent out over 2.1 million pieces of direct mail in judicial, state house, and Congressional races this fall, as well as paying for automated phone calls, tv and radio ads, and led the coordination of three statewide blockwalks. Organizational Director Jenny Sykes presented a slide show detailing the number of offices that Republicans won as well as the results of county elections.  The final count on the 2010 elections show that Republicans gained 324 new office holders across Texas, with 270 of those coming at the county level.  Political Director Travis Griffin provided a written report on the political department’s activities.  This report detailed the volunteer mobilization efforts of the RPT through the Texas Trailblazer program and Online Volunteer Center through Hands Off Texas.  Travis also reported on details relating to the recount support in CD27 and HD48. Communications Director Chris Elam provided a report on online election activities, the party's election recap, ongoing website plans and media relations. He also spoke to the members about the importance of building the RPT's Grassroots Club, the monthly $8.25 program designed to provide a stable and ongoing base of fundraising for the party. Outreach Director Justin Hollis reported that we had finished cataloguing all minority groups in the state, and creating a calendar of their events and detailed his efforts to obtain surrogate speakers to appear at these groups meetings on behalf of the Republican Party.

Youth Director Austen Bailey provided a report which included his announcement that the Republican Party of Texas sponsored newspaper New Texas Forum was ready. You can view a copy of this by going to the New Texas Forum website.

Comptroller Susan Combs provided a keynote speech about her new rating system for school districts called FAST (Financial Allocation Study for Texas).  This study examines how our school districts and campuses spend their money, and how this spending translates into student achievement.  

The afternoon session was taken up in large part by the Chairman presenting a detailed budget for 2011 and explanation. The budget he presented called for base spending of $98,000 per month which is down from $149,500 a month when he took office on June 13th. He explained that there was enough cash on hand to sustain party operations for almost a year if telemarketing and direct mail revenues came in as projected, but that an additional approximately $600,000 needed to be raised next year to maintain the present level of cash and provide for the base budget and several hundred thousand more than this needed to be raised in order to provide the proper level of staffing for the party to provide all the basic services that it should. He detailed fundraising plans to accomplish this.

Although the budget was approved overwhelmingly, the Chairman indicated that he would not spend on items in excess of the base budget unless the money was raised first, as it is his desire to never see the party slip back into debt. He also explained that he would expect the party’s cash to fall approximately $100,000 from the time of the SREC meeting to the beginning of 2011, for the reason that the Party did not plan any fundraisers or fundraising during the month of December and the holiday season. He estimated that the party still should have in excess of half a million dollars in cash reserves on December 31st, and he anticipates the Party’s debt to remain at zero as of that date. The SREC also approved the continuation of the Victory committee and authorized the Chairman to expend funds for Victory, as long as his expenditures do not exceed what is raised for Victory. Likewise they approved a redistricting fund under the same restrictions.

A resolution relative to the two-thirds Blocker Rule of the State Senate was presented by Clint Moore, requesting the Senate to lower that threshold to 60%. That resolution passed 31 to 26.

The next meeting of the SREC will be March 26, 2011.