Chairman's Update - June & July
The big news of June was that the Republican Party of Texas was able to successfully hold our biannual State Convention, despite the numerous obstacles created by the redistricting litigation of the past year. Normally, we hold precinct conventions with our primary at which time, district convention delegates are chosen, and from them, state convention delegates. Having the precinct conventions at the same time as the primary allows the precinct chairmen to remind all Republican primary voters of the precinct convention that evening. Unfortunately, due to the litigation, we had to separate out the delegate selection process from the primary. As has been previously reported in other updates - this presented numerous logistical problems that we had to overcome. Thus, I had some concern that turnout for the State Convention would be significantly down from 2010. In turn, a significant decrease in attendance could have also resulted in the Party losing money on the State Convention. State Conventions in the past, in a good year have netted around $100,000 and in bad years, have lost as much as several hundred thousand dollars.
Fortunately, approximately 8,900 Republicans paid registration fees for the Convention - which is roughly equivalent to the number of delegates that attended in 2010. Moreover, we estimate that the total number of attendees exceeded 10,000 when you take into account the number of elected officials, their staffs, RPT staff, sponsors, vendors, guests, etc. As a result, we had a successful three-day convention which preliminary figures indicated netted approximately $180,000, despite the fact that we incurred several hundred thousand dollars more in expenses as compared to previous conventions in order to upgrade the production values and entertainment. Fortunately, we sold a record number of booth sponsorships, met our goals on corporate sponsorships, and had a very successful fundraising gala which exceeded 1,000 attendees.
We will be providing a full report on the Convention shortly. Our staff is working to compile official videos, a detailed recap of all the speakers and performers, and other highlights from the three-day event. We will announce those updates when they are prepared.
At the State Convention, we elected 62 members of the State Republican Executive Committee, of which 24 are new. Borah VanDormolen was re-elected as National Committeewoman and Dr. Robin Armstrong was elected as National Committeeman. Melinda Fredricks was re-elected as Vice-Chairman and I was re-elected as Chairman. I am so very thankful for the hard work of our Convention Committee, which was formed to provide recommendations as to how to provide improvements to the convention experience. While we still have a few issues that we plan to work on prior to the next convention, overall, the feedback from delegates indicate that the goal of an improved convention experience was achieved.
Convention Committee Chairman Hal Talton and his committee, composed of: Vice-Chairman Becky Berger, Jane Burch, Angie Flores, David Halvorson, Janet Jackson, Neal J. Katz, Angie King, Jan Koehne, Bonnie Lugo, Jean McIver, Rena Peden, Montie Watkins, Tom Washington and Rebecca Williamson - deserve a big "Thank You" for all of their fantastic efforts.
Also, the Host Committee and Volunteerism Committee deserve a tremendous amount of credit for turning out hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, without which, we could not have had this convention. These members were co-Chairs Jane Burch and Neal J. Katz, Kaye Moreno, Shanda Perkins, David Wylie, David Halvorson, Mark Gonzales, Leslie Recine, Jim Borchert, Jennifer Hall, Brandon Moore and Hal Talton.
The week following the Convention was spent on convention wrap-up, mainly involving financial accounting. Primarily because of the upgraded registration system, we were able to complete this task several weeks earlier than in 2010. A special Thank You needs to be extended to Jennifer Stoner, RPT Accounting Director, who did an excellent job overseeing this effort. The week after the State Convention was a bittersweet week for the RPT as our Executive Director for the last two and a half years, Jesse Lewis, accepted a new challenge as the Associate Director of State Government Affairs for Bristol-Myers Squibb. Despite knowing that he was leaving for his new job, weeks before the State Convention, Jesse manned his battle stations until the very end - making sure that we got through the State Convention and even coming in for a week after that to help wrap up. Jesse has provided invaluable assistance to our new Executive Director Beth Cubriel and our new Deputy Executive Director Chris Elam.
Since Beth was our Organization Director, her promotion created an opening in that position. Cassie Daniel, who had been the Assistant Organization Director, was promoted to Organization Director. Because Chris Elam was promoted to Deputy Executive Director, we also had to hire a new Communications Director. Marie Mazzanti was hired as our new Communications Director. Marie previously had experience working in Congressional campaigns, working for the Media Research Center, and most recently from a job in the private sector where she was working as a marketing coordinator. The RPT was fortunate to receive dozens of applications, including many from well-qualified individuals, so it is a testament to Marie's communications knowledge that she was offered this position, as a result of her demonstrating superior skills regarding website administration, databases, and other software critical to our Party's success this November. In order to keep expenses down, at this time we are not replacing the position of Assistant Organization Director, since we added the position of Deputy Executive Director. However, I do have plans to expand the staff in the future if we continue to make progress on the fundraising front. The Party at one time had as many as 70 employees, and had over 30 only four years ago. In order to balance the budget, I reduced the staff to 6 full-time RPT employees during the fall of 2010, of which two were Accounting personnel. Because of the improved financial position of the RPT, we have now built the staff back up to 11 full-time, permanent employees, two consultants on monthly contract, and have just added two additional Victory personnel. To view the current Organizational chart of the RPT, please go to this link.
During the third week of June, our Victory Chairman Ed Emmett was in town and we continued moving forward with our Victory plans. Tentative plans were made for opening several Victory centers around the State, dependent upon Victory meeting its fundraising goals. We will have some announcements regarding the specific centers in the very near future. That week, I also had an opportunity to appear on several radio shows. I recorded a show with Herman Brune, whose radio show airs in the Columbus area in Colorado County, and I was also a guest on the Laura Ingraham show, which is nationally syndicated. At the end of the week, I had a chance to meet with several Hispanic Republican leaders from around the State about increasing our Outreach efforts, and I then had a chance to make a presentation to the Associated Republicans of Texas (ART) as to the current status of the RPT, our Outreach, and our election plans.
Numerous candidates were in town to interview with ART so I used that opportunity to visit with several of them as well, including Dr. Mark Shelton who is running for the State Senate against Wendy Davis in Tarrant County. That State Senate seat is the Democrats' number one priority and it will be ours as well, as it is in a swing district and the race is currently considered a toss-up. If Dr. Shelton beats Wendy Davis, that will put us at 20 State Senators - meaning that if we can pull an upset somewhere else, we will be at the magic number of 21 which represents a two-thirds majority in the State Senate. This is significant because it means the Democrats can't break quorum, nor can they block bills with a one-third minority as is currently allowed.
The last week of June, I had an opportunity to travel to San Antonio to speak to the San Antonio Pachyderm Club, which was held in conjunction with the Young Republicans. They had an excellent turnout which I would estimate to be in excess of 100 people and I received a report that the clubs are doing very well. I also had an opportunity that week to visit with former State Chairman Tom Pauken and to pick his brain about the upcoming National Convention and how to best prepare for it.
I had a rare opportunity to start July off with a vacation. I had not had a single weekend off since Christmas, so I planned to try not to think about politics or the RPT for at least a week. I traveled to Boston to watch the July 4th fireworks and listen to the Boston Pops play patriotic songs. While I was up in Massachusetts, I had the wonderful opportunity to view the USS Constitution travel out to sea on her annual voyage to maintain her status as an active-duty naval vessel. The USS Constitution was commissioned in 1799 and is still on duty. The Blue Angels flew overhead and amazed the crowd with their aerobatics.
All the patriotic fervor inspired me to visit Bunker Hill, Breeds Hill, Concord Bridge, Lexington Green and numerous historic forts in the area. I couldn't help but think of our duty as citizens to protect the legacy of liberty that has been handed down to us as a result of the sacrifice of so many brave patriots. When I was standing on Lexington Green, which is much the same as it was when the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired - I could imagine what it was like for those farmers, shopkeepers, tavern owners, etc. - to face the British regular forces a few feet away, knowing that if they opened fire to protect their liberties, they were risking immediate death (and if they survived - charges of treason and execution.) When I looked at the monument on the ground, and read the words of the commander, which instructed his men to "Stand your ground, don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." I realized how brave these men were and how willing they were to sacrifice everything for freedom. I also learned that the first shots of the Revolution were not initiated as a result of the Tea Party, but the impetus was the British decision to try to confiscate the arms of the local citizens. It turns out that these patriots were fighting for our second amendment rights before we even had a second amendment. You can still see the bullet hole in the door of the tavern, as well as observe a monument stationed above the ground where 7 of the 8 patriots are buried who lost their lives that day. Most striking is the house across the green which still stands, where one of the patriots who was mortally wounded, crawled to the steps in order to die in his wife's hands.
Concord Bridge is equally moving and the house where Longfellow observed the battle and wrote the poem containing the words "the shot heard 'round the world" is still there. Finally, I had an opportunity to go to Breeds and Bunker Hill, and read about the 1200 militia that assembled to take on the 6,000 British regulars that invaded Boston and read about how they repulsed two British attacks successfully and were only overrun by a third when they ran out of ammunition. What struck me the most was one of the commanders, after the battle during which the militia inflicted 1,200 casualties upon the British, exclaimed "we will gladly sell them another hill at the same price." Understanding the sacrifices that have been made by the generations that have come before us, fighting against oppressive government, excessive taxation and for the right to bear arms, freedom of expression, etc. - when I got back to the office, it made me more determined to put our maximum effort into winning the election this fall, when our freedoms are also at stake. It strikes me that we are called upon to do so little - knock on doors, stuff envelopes, make phone calls - in comparison to what those brave patriots had to suffer.
The remainder of July, the RPT staff focused on Victory planning with Judge Emmett and in making sure that our county organizations were prepared for the July 31st primary runoff. I also had an opportunity in July to be the keynote speaker at the Caldwell County annual fundraiser and auction, as well as being one of the speakers at the Polk County GOP fundraiser and auction a week later. Dr. Robin Armstrong also spoke at the Polk County event, and that night, I was honored to receive a donation from the Polk County GOP to the RPT for $500 - great thanks to County Chairmen Arnold Alonzo of Caldwell County and Benny Fogleman of Polk County. I also want to give special thanks to the NE Tarrant Republican Club who made a generous donation to the RPT for $1000 in memory of Estelle Teague, one of the founders of the club, its first President 40 years ago, and one of the most beloved and influential Republican volunteers and community leaders in Hurst for many years.
At the end of the month, our Outreach Director David Zapata and I traveled down to McAllen and the Valley to assist our State Senate candidate Raul Torres, as well as engage in additional Outreach efforts. That morning, I had a breakfast meeting with State Representatives Aaron Peña and Raul Torres and our Outreach Director David Zapata - during which, we discussed ways that the RPT could assist South Texas Republican candidates as well as expand our outreach into the Hispanic community. From there, we all traveled to a luncheon with local Party leadership from multiple counties where we were joined by State Representative John Garza. From there we headed out to speak to members of the College Republicans at UT-Pan America. I was especially touched that when I got out of the car, about a dozen of the members of the club had a small welcome rally. Not only did I have a chance to address the club, but they gave me a UTPA t-shirt. What particularly impressed me was the fact that the club membership included so many young Republicans of Hispanic descent that were enthusiastic, articulate on the issues of this election, and interested in conservative government. This made me optimistic that the Republican Party of Texas has a bright future in these growing areas and among this generation. Following that meeting, we held a press conference with local media outlets in the Rio Grande Valley and got excellent coverage in both the print media and local TV stations. That night, I attended a fundraiser for Raul Torres with a great crowd of fired-up Republicans where I spoke on Raul's behalf. As you might expect, July 31st was a very busy day for our staff - ensuring that the runoffs that occurred around the state went smoothly. We would like to congratulate all of those that won the runoff and would like to especially thank former Solicitor General Ted Cruz and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst for stepping forward to both run spirited campaigns for the U.S. Senate. We congratulate them both on working so hard during this long election season. The RPT will be committed and looking forward to working as hard as we can to elect Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate, and we also look forward to working with Governor Dewhurst to continue to promote the conservative agenda here in Texas.
On the financial front, we continue to pay our bills to zero every two weeks. All convention bills that we are aware of have been paid. We ended July with total cash on hand in all accounts at $1,169,197, of which $911,834 was in unrestricted, non-dedicated accounts. We now have close to $100,000 in the CRC account, thanks to the fine work of Chairman Jane Cansino and we have pledges in hand which will push us well over the $100,000 total. The Party's financial position continues to be solid.
Lastly, I wish to thank all of you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your State Chairman another two years. Out of the 8,093 delegates and alternates who had registered at the state convention as of Friday - only one voted against my re-election, and he came up to me and told me he did so as a matter of principle because he does not believe that anybody should be elected unanimously. I am very grateful for this tremendous show of support and pledge to do my best over the remaining 23 months of my term to continue to ensure the Party's financial and organizational stability, provide effective assistance to our nominees, and lobby hard for bills at the next session of the Legislature which are consistent with our Republican principles and platform. It has been an honor to be your Chairman.
Steve Munisteri, Chairman, Republican Party of Texas