The recent series of political earthquakes and aftershocks were felt again this past Monday (December 4th) night with the resignation of Bexar County Republican Party Chairman Robert Stovall and the election of Mark Dorazio to replace him. With this change, a long era of establishment domination of the local party came to an end. Mark Dorazio replaced Jeff Judson (me) on the State Republican Executive Committee in 2015 when I resigned from the SREC to run against Speaker Joe Straus. Mark has long been involved in politics and state conventions, but with a worldview that places God and the Constitution above politics and money. More about this worldview below.
Monday night, Robert Stovall’s hand-picked successor, Dwight Parscale, failed to win a majority of votes from the assembled precinct chairs, as did former party chair Kurt Nelson. With three candidates, a runoff was certainly expected but Mark Dorazio won on the first ballot (Dorazio 86, Nelson 36, Parscale 28). Dwight Parscale is the father of Brad Parscale, owner of the local web design and social media firm that ran Donald Trump’s social media during the Presidential campaign. But Dwight Parscale was a total unknown to the precinct chairs assembled. He has never been involved to any great extent with the local party, and coming with the endorsement of Robert Stovall hurt his chances of being taken seriously. But he appears to be a serious person. In his nomination speech, he stressed his ability to raise “$500,000 to $1 million” for the local party.
While this is encouraging, it may also reflect the deep-seated bias of the Republican establishment that puts money above all else in politics. Having a million dollars to spend along with a re-energized grassroots base and active candidate recruitment and training would be the path to victory. But without the grassroots component, the money will be wasted and nothing will change. We look forward to getting to know Dwight in the coming weeks to discern who he is and what he stands for.
Bexar County has been stuck in the political establishment swamp for many years. Our local Republican Party has long underperformed simply because it could not tap into the energy of the grassroots, where energy to win elections must happen. Instead, the party was largely funded by incumbent politicians like Joe Straus, Lyle Larson, Kevin Wolff, Lamar Smith and their donors, and most of these politicians only, at best, tolerate rather than embrace the grassroots and the issues the grassroots think are important to their daily lives. In the case of Joe Straus, many issues important to Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, Attorney General Paxton, President Trump, and the grassroots were killed in the crib – school choice, property tax reform, tax limitations, anti-sanctuary city policies, religious liberties, and protections of the unborn.
When issues of such importance fail to pass year after year, and the local party leadership wants to avoid talking about them, something has to give. Grassroots energy suffers greatly, as evidenced by the 470 vacant precinct chair positions out of the 722 precincts in Bexar County. The local party has not been a place of positive energy to recruit and elect Republicans. County Executive Committee meetings are generally contentious and unproductive. Smart, productive people who want to get involved to make a difference generally go elsewhere to serve. As a result, our bench of talent for Party volunteers and up and coming candidates for elected office is VERY shallow. In the past Mayor’s election, three Democrats were the leading contenders for the seat and Republicans who ran did not come through the local party.
Tensions between Speaker Straus and our state leadership were finally exposed for public view this year. Beginning with the passage of a resolution of disapproval against Speaker Straus in Bexar County, 60 counties have now passed such resolutions, which undoubtedly helped convince the Speaker that his continued obstruction of conservative legislation in the House was unsustainable. He announced last month that he would not seek reelection.
With the retirement of Lamar Smith (who I would not put in the obstructionist category), and Joe Straus, some major sources of funding for the party were going away, and the Smith Congressional seat became open – which Robert Stovall is running for. And with Stovall’s retirement, the local party has the opportunity to start to rebuild the party.
Stovall’s tenure as Bexar County chair was agonizing. He started off with some excitement with the acquisition of much improved office space for the party. However, by insisting on always defending Speaker Straus and other liberal Republicans, the Party was never going to stand for anything or help motivate the grassroots to work, join, or serve by talking about their issues. Fundraising suffered, volunteer recruitment suffered, and the party languished.
The establishment puts politics above all else, with allegiance to the Republican Party as an institution at the top. The grassroots – the powerful movement in America that elected Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick and Donna Campbell to office — places God and the Constitution above all else, including above the Party. The issues we hold dear fall out of God’s design which grants us our rights on earth, on which our Constitution is written, and which require the primacy of the natural family and property rights in creating a stable society and economy. These fundamentals are under harsh attack from the radical left and our nation was at a tipping point prior to the election of Donald Trump.
But it is a new day in Bexar County. Mark Dorazio will be reshaping the local party over the next few months until his successor is elected in March or May of 2018. We plan to greatly increase recruitment of new precinct chairs, and start creating a political environment of vigorous and interesting debates about policy issues of the day that will attract energetic winners to want to get involved and to run for office.
In the upcoming March primary, a number of people have expressed their interest in running for the permanent Republican Chair position for a two year term — Dwight Parscale, Grant Moody, Cynthia Brehm, Andres Holliday, and Michael Holdman. More may surface or drop out before the December 11 filing deadline.
Please stay tuned to this race for permanent chair. What Mark Dorazio gets started in a new and improved local party could easily be undone by the wrong permanent chair elected next Spring.
Jeff Judson is a Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute. The views expressed are his own and not that of the Heartland Institute.