Political parties have not been major players in recent Texas politics. The Democratic party apparatus is essentially a collection of major county chairs, and the Republican party hasn't been a force since Fred Meyer was ousted as chairman. The election of Steve Munisteri as GOP chairman at the state convention this past weekend could alter that trend. Munisteri defeated interim chair Cathie Adams, the longtime leader of the Texas Eagle Forum, and Amarillo businessman Tom Mechler. Munisteri's election represents a victory for fiscal conservatives over the social conservatives who have dominated the party in recent years and elected a string of lackluster chairs. Even so, Adams might have won another term had it not been for the huge fiscal mess the party is in. According to the latest FEC filing, RPT had $264,863 cash on hand and $501,174 in debt. This became a central issue in the chairman's race.
An interesting aspect of the race: In recent years, conservative strategy in chairman's elections has been to slow-play the last day of the convention on the assumption that many delegates will leave early to get home, but the hard-core will stay for the floor fight and balloting to the bitter end. It didn't work this time.
Some friendly advice to Munisteri: Respond to the open records request regarding the party's finances filed by Mark McCaig, an SREC member who has been a frequent dissident on the way the party has been run. McCaig filed his request with the RPT on May 5, but Adams stonewalled it. Too often the party been run like a private fiefdom, with lucrative contracts handed out to friends of party insiders.
In addition to the fiscal issues, there are a couple of other problems Munisteri must deal with. One is the party's stand on immigration. Republicans (Rick Perry excepted) are blind to the demographic realities of Texas's future. Their platform--overseen by Wayne Christian, no less--makes no overtures toward Hispanics. Norman Adams, A GOP activist and blogger from Houston, offered a "sensible immigration policy" for inclusion in the platform and got nowhere. (I will post separately about his efforts.)
The second issue is the continuing insistence on party purity by hardline conservatives. This became manifest when conservatives, led by former party vice-chair David Barton distributed material to delegates that was highly critical of Joe Straus. Straus's speech to the convention was punctuated by occasional shouts of "RINO." Looking pleased in the back of the hall--or so it was reported to me; I didn't see it firsthand--were Craddickites Wayne Christian, Phil King, and Geanie Morrison. (More on that later as well.)
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