Chairman's Update: February 2012

Other than the San Antonio three-judge federal panel conducting a trial involving the RPT on the State Senate map, attending Court hearings on the other maps, the Court issuing new redistricting lines, having to completely rewrite the State Party rules because of court orders, and holding an emergency SREC meeting to deal with the crisis - nothing much happened in February!

All tongue-in-cheek comments aside, as has been reported in our previous emails, most of the RPT's and my attention in February was consumed by the court cases pertaining to redistricting and in then dealing with the fallout. Despite all the distraction, I was actually able to undertake some normal State Party Chairman duties and also traveled to several events this past month. During the first week of February, I had the opportunity to sit down with new TFRW President Carolyn Hodges to discuss how the TFRW and RPT can work better together. I also filled her in on the preliminary Victory 2012 plans drafted by Victory Chairman Ed Emmett.

Later on in the week, I had an opportunity to speak to the TFRW Leadership Day. This event was exceptionally well attended with several hundred enthusiastic TFRW representatives from around the state. Carolyn Hodges was actually a teacher of mine, as well as two of my siblings, while we were students at Memorial Junior High in Houston - so I am absolutely delighted that she is the new TFRW President. In between TFRW events, I had the opportunity to travel to Denton County to speak to the Denton Republican Club. Denton County GOP Chair Dianne Edmondson was there, along with SREC member Tom Washington. A couple of days later, I traveled to Collin County to attend the Collin County Lincoln Day Dinner. The guest speaker was Star Parker, who put on a dynamic performance. Collin County GOP Chairman Fred Moses did his usual outstanding job as the event was exceptionally well attended with hundreds of Collin County Republican supporters.

The following Monday, I drove from Houston to Tyler to attend a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Texas hosted by State Senators Kevin Eltife, Bob Deuell and Robert Nichols. SREC Committeewoman Dianne Caron also attended and helped represent the RPT. The event was very successful and we will be providing a full report on it shortly. I then drove from Tyler to Williamson County, where that evening, County Chairman Bill Fairbrother pulled off a coup by having Governor Rick Perry as a featured speaker. There was tremendous press coverage for the event since Governor Perry was giving his first major speech since returning to Texas. The Governor's speech was particularly fiery and well received. During the time I have been Chairman, Governor Perry has made himself available many times to both local parties and the State Party to assist with fundraising and other events. I know I speak for all Republicans in Texas when I say how appreciative I am of his help and efforts. The following night, we had our statewide leadership call and had a special guest - Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Senator Hutchison provided an update to statewide leadership as to the events going on in Washington, D.C. and even had time to answer a few questions.

The following day, RPT lawyers appeared at the redistricting trial involving the State Senate maps and Wendy Davis' district and I was actively in consultation with them throughout the day. The week drew to a close with two events - for the first event, I drove up to Milam County where I was one of the keynote speakers at the county party's annual dinner in Cameron. It was amazing to see such a strong and healthy county party in a county which is traditionally Democratic. County Chairman Bill Whitmire should be applauded for his work - they had a full slate of candidates speak to the group. The second event I had the pleasure of attending was the Fort Bend County Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Sugar Land, with several hundred other enthusiastic Republicans. County Chairwoman Sharon Roberts emceed the event at which Star Parker spoke, as did Justice Don Willett and U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions. Congressman Sessions is the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and gave an update on their efforts.

The next week was almost totally consumed by the redistricting lawsuit. During the trial, I traveled to San Antonio along with the RPT attorneys to attend court hearings pertaining to redistricting issues. I was supposed to spend my week traveling to Taiwan as part of a delegation from the RNC, but my trip was a casualty of the Democrats' antics. Hopefully I will someday get another opportunity, but if I don't - the results obtained by General Abbott and his team were well worth missing the trip.

After the hearings, I was able to travel to Rockwall County to speak at the Rockwall County Lincoln Day Dinner. Despite Rockwall County not being as large as many of our urban counties, they turned out a high number of attendees comparable to the number who attend some of our larger county functions - congratulations to Chairman Tony Fisk and his team. The event was packed and was particularly meaningful because my longtime friend from my days in college and the Ronald Reagan campaigns, State Representative Jodie Laubenberg, was recognized for her service. Because of redistricting, she will no longer represent many of those in attendance so it was a bittersweet moment. Everyone in attendance was appreciative of her solid, conservative record representing the area and her steadfast commitment to principle. I have known Jodie for 36 years and can personally attest to the fact that she always stands up for what she thinks is right, not expedient. I also had a chance to sit next to Congressman Ralph Hall and it is always a delight to visit with him.

The following week, I had the honor of serving as a keynote speaker for the Hopkins County Republican Party "Denim and Diamonds" Dinner at the invitation of County Chairman Donnie Wisenbaker. I purchased a coconut cake at their auction, and I am happy to report that the RPT staff gobbled it up swiftly! On Friday morning, I was invited to attend an event in Austin for Rick Santorum at the Headliner's Club. Although I have not yet decided who I will cast my vote for in the Presidential primary, I have been hoping to meet all of the candidates and was pleased to go to the event. Senator Santorum gave a passionate speech in defense of conservatism, and afterwards, I had a chance to speak with him for a few minutes. I thanked him for paying attention to the State of Texas during his campaign, and was impressed by his genuine friendliness and knowledge of the issues. Later that morning, I  traveled back to Houston to attend the funeral for Paul Bettencourt's mother, Dorothy. In addition to the touching eulogy delivered by former Harris County Tax Collector-Assessor, former treasurer of the RPT, and current RPT redistricting committee member Paul Bettencourt, I was struck by the fact that the mourners composed a Who's Who of Harris County Republican politics. It was clear that Paul's commitment and dedication to the Republican Party was instilled in him by his activist mother. Former Harris County Executive Director Jeff Yates presided over the service and his words were both comforting and inspirational to those in attendance.

The next day I traveled to Richardson to speak to the Richardson Republican Women's Annual Tea. The event was well attended by the SREC members from the area, who included Paige McAleer, Candy Noble, Tom Washington, Neal Katz, Dan Pickens, and former SREC member Chris Davis. During a month where I was a little beat up from the redistricting mess and being in court, the presence of so many good friends (and particularly the kind words of Paige in her introduction), provided some much needed support and was appreciated. Immediately following the Richardson event, I drove over to Denton County to lead the pledge of allegiance at the annual Denton County Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner. County Chairwoman Dianne Edmondson and the event chair Nancy Dillard, did an outstanding job as usual. They had approximately 800 people in attendance, which probably makes that dinner the largest Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner this year. Also during this week, we scheduled several statewide telephone conferences with the SREC and County Chairmen over the new rules (see previous report). The last day of the month was taken up with our emergency SREC meeting - please see our previous report for a recap on that event.

On the financial front, the Party paid all of its bills to zero at the end of February. That marked the sixteenth monthly report in a row where we have reported zero debt and obligations. Our usable, non-dedicated cash at the end of February was approximately $690,000. On one hand, this number is very encouraging as we have been able to maintain a healthy cash balance despite coming off of a difficult fall fundraising season where we were in competition with so many Presidential and other campaigns. On the other hand, there is cause for concern that money could get very tight in the next few months for several reasons. First, part of our cash balance is due to our membership renewals and typically the Party has more cash at the beginning of the year than at the end of the year. Second, we have legal fees resulting from the redistricting lawsuits and other legal conflicts which are draining some of our cash. In February alone, we incurred approximately $40,000 worth of legal fees. Third, and of particular concern, is having to advance money for the State Convention without registrations coming in. Normally we would have our Senatorial District Conventions at the end of March, so that the Party could normally expect to receive registration monies and sponsorships during April and May to help offset the cash drain from the convention. Because of the uncertainty over redistricting, sponsorships have been delayed and the delay in the Senatorial District Conventions by approximately a month will mean that our cash flow from the convention will be about a month behind. However, we will still be required to advance several hundred thousand dollars toward the convention. Thus it is expected over the next few months that our cash reserves will be depleted significantly and probably to their lowest levels since November 2010. Hopefully, once we get through the convention we will be able to recoup all of these costs and perhaps even make some profit which should put us in decent shape coming out of the convention - but in the meantime, things could get very tight. Therefore, if there was ever a time that any of you were thinking about giving to the Republican Party of Texas - now would be an excellent time!

Now that we are apparently having our primary on May 29th and we have new rules for our State Convention, we can turn our attention over the next three months to doing our best to accomplish both having a successful Convention and Primary season. Because we are picking delegates through a new and untried process forced upon us by the Courts, I am asking everybody to be extra patient, tolerant and cooperative as we work our way through our convention and delegate selection process. There are bound to be some problems and snafus and I hope everybody will be understanding and kind to each other during this difficult situation and especially towards the volunteers who will be struggling to help all of us pull off this massive undertaking. Hopefully I and the RPT will be out of the courts for a little while, and now we can all focus on the business at hand - which is to nominate our best candidates for office and start preparing for the November elections.

Steve Munisteri, Chairman, Republican Party of Texas