If you want to know why the results of the Texas Republican Convention last week at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio should be of interest to all Texans and if you’re even vaguely curious about who the winners and losers were among the power brokers and factions who descended on the downtown convention center in the Alamo City, read on. Your correspondent was one of 8,700+ Republican delegates from all over the state who participated in the largest Republican convention in the nation.
The purpose of the biennial state convention is to elect state party leaders, vote as Republican grassroots leaders on the priorities for the next legislative session in 2019 and on any modifications to the party’s guiding principles, platform, and planks, to showcase our political leaders, and to train and prepare for the next elections.
A week-long endeavor, party leaders broken down to 31 senatorial districts came together on Friday and Saturday last week to elect state party leaders and discuss, debate, and vote on platform changes. It is a relatively grueling process with caucuses and floor votes, listening to proposals and debates between fellow delegates.
Highlights: Speeches by Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Senator Ted Cruz
Texans should be interested in the Governor’s “state of the state” report card for his first four year term as Texas’ head of state since assuming office in January 2015:
- “Spurred our economy by cutting taxes and regulations”
- “Unemployment rate … better than it’s been in the past 40 years … benefited all demographics in Texas from African American, Hispanic, Asian American, Anglos, and women”
- “More Texans have jobs today than ever before in the history of our state”
- “Texas has created 750,000 new jobs since [Abbott] took office”
- “US now leads the world in oil production with Texas leading the way”
- “Because of Texas, America is now energy independent”
- “Texas is home to the largest medical center in the entire world”
- “We’ve ranked number one for technology exports. Texas is number one in producing things like cattle and cotton, sheep and goats, wool and mohair”
- “If you combine all the goods and services produced by all the people and businesses in Texas, we have an annual GDP of 1.7 trillion dollars”
- “Our high school graduation rate is not just higher than four years ago – it’s higher than it’s ever been”
- “We have doubled the number of Tier One universities in Texas”
- “During Hurricane Harvey, heroic first responders saved thousands of lives … Texans with bass boats, kayaks, and canoes rescuing their neighbors. The worst of storms brought out the best in humanity”
The Governor laid out a blueprint of his priorities for the state’s legislative session in 2019:
- “Reining in your property taxes … announced legislation to limit your property taxes and to give you the power to fire your property tax appraiser and to elect a better one”
- “Make our schools even better. I want to give our teachers the pay raise they deserve, and I want to end once and for all the Robin Hood scheme that has failed our students”
- “I [will] enforce the ban on sanctuary cities and continue to secure the border, I will also expand the crackdown on gangs like MS-13 and I will work to end human trafficking in Texas”
- “Keep Texas a pro-life leader”
- “Pass laws that prevent voter fraud”
Governor Abbott’s final rallying cry to the Republican delegates:
“It is a battle to protect our constitutional rights and uphold the rule of law. It is a battle to limit the growth of government and let you keep more of your hard-earned money. It is a battle to preserve religious liberty and ensure every child has a chance at life. It’s a reminder that our liberties come not from government, but from God almighty.“
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick also gave a rousing speech. He spelled out the Senate’s accomplishments under his leadership and his priorities for the next session:
- Patrick successfully engineered the change in the 21 vote rule in the Senate which shifted the balance of power towards the Republican majority.
- 49 of the 50 priorities in the legislative sessions were passed in record time after the rule was changed to prevent blocking moves by Democrat members of the Senate.
- The Texas Senate banned sanctuary cities in the state, the first legislative body in the nation to do so.
- The Senate passed a record number of pro-life bills.
- Open carry, concealed carry fees were reduced by 80%.
- The Senate cut red tape by requiring government agencies proposing a new rule to cut an old rule.
- The Senate protected the Rainy Day Fund.
Legislation passed in the Senate in record time which were priorities of the Governor – “property tax (reform), school choice, spending cap, real ethics reform, the Privacy Bill” – were killed or watered down and were prevented by Straus and Cook from being voted on in the House, according to Patrick.
Dan Patrick also reported that of the 1.5 million Republicans who voted in the Primary elections for 11 propositions, almost all voted for conservative values: Reduce (cap) property taxes (93%), No toll roads without vote (89%); Protect Women’s Privacy (90%); School Choice (78%); E-Verify (90%); Elect the Speaker from the Republican Caucus (85%).
In the 2018 primary elections, results show that Republicans voted overwhelmingly for the re-election of Gov. Abbott (90.4%), Lt. Gov. Patrick (76%), Sen. Ted Cruz (85.3%).
The Lt. Governor laid out some of his top priorities for the 2019 legislative session:
- Senate Bill 1 will be about school security
- Reduce property taxes and trigger automatic vote if taxes are raised beyond low threshold
- Freeze all taxes for seniors over 65
- Better pay for teachers to retain the best and the brightest
His parting remarks addressed the root cause of violence targeting schools and churches which he believes is about the culture which has “kicked God out of school, kicked out the ten commandments, broken families everywhere, violent video games that dehumanize life”. He commented that “there is no civil war in our party – just a few people who haven’t gotten the message that it’s over. We need to come together as a party and unite and work to elect Republicans.” George Soros is targeting district attorney races. Republicans need to vote all the way down the ballot.
Senator Ted Cruz spoke to the delegation, to a packed hall and enthusiastic crowd with Cruz signs raised throughout the arena. He spoke effusively about the accomplishments of President Trump in detail – tax reform, regulations reforms, lower unemployment, withdrawing from the climate deal, repeal of Obamacare mandates, confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and appointments of many appellate court justices, the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, ending the disastrous Obama/Iran nuclear deal.
Senator Cruz announced new emergency legislation he was proposing to keep families together at the border. He pleaded for support for the coming election which he believes is a battle for the future of the country commenting that “Pelosi as majority leader (of the House of Representatives) will paralyze the Trump administration”.
The battle between incumbent State Party Chairman James Dickey and challenger, Cindy Crocker Asche, was rancorous and vitriolic to the bitter end directed at Chairman Dickey with Asche and her allies focusing on saturation bombing delegates through emails and direct mail with negative ADs throughout her campaign. Many delegate voters found her messages excessive, and in the final days, cloying and irritating. It was shocking to witness her emotional meltdown the final day of the vote, challenging the supermajority vote that was decidedly against her. She could not bring herself to concede defeat graciously and most delegates were left shaking their heads convinced that she destroyed her political career.
While the secular press obsessed about one or two elements of the party’s legislative priorities and platform planks (i.e. the privacy bill and medical marijuana), overall, most political and advocacy group leaders I interviewed during the convention concurred that the delegates did an outstanding job completing the task of preparing the party platform for the next major election in November and legislative session in 2019.
Texas Representative Matt Shaefer (R-Tyler) thought that the party’s grassroots leaders won a tremendous victory with these leaders backing State Party Chairman James Dickey who came from their ranks. Jim Graham of Texas Right to Life thought that House Speaker Joe Straus’ establishment supporters waged a last ditch battle at the convention to regain power over the state Republican Party and they lost. Speaker Straus, third most powerful Republican state leader, may have skipped the convention but his presence was felt.
Organizations and influential party celebrities driving the rebellion against the state’s conservative leaders – the Governor, Lt. Governor, RPT Chairman Dickey, the conservative members of the state Senate and the Freedom Caucus in the House, the party platform, and the values of grassroots leaders – were the Texas Federation of Republican Women (TFRW) and Toni Anne Dashiell, Cyndi Krier and the Associated Republicans of Texas, Janet Jackson of the Texas Republican County Chairmen’s Association, Texas Alliance for Life, and other like-minded middle of the road Republicans and party socialites who have one thing in common – a smoldering resentment about the formal censure of their champion, Speaker Joe Straus. They hold Chairman Dickey ultimately responsible.
Janet Jackson of the TRCCA was asked by CHNI reporter, John Austin, about the clash of factions at the GOP convention. According to Ms. Jackson, “It’s my personal opinion that under the leadership of James Dickey, the party has accelerated the divisiveness that is leading us away from our core principles. The libertarian wing of the party has been nurtured and grown under his leadership.”
This is nonsense. The libertarians I talked to at the convention were supporting James Dickey. The clash at the convention was mostly between grassroots conservatives and the establishment wing of the Republican Party. I asked several delegates to define what an establishment Republican is in their view. The best answers, I thought, are expressed in this profile:
“Establishment Republicans are country clubbers (but not exclusively), economic conservatives but social liberals or see social issues as secondary considerations which allow compromise; big government is no problem when their personal interest is at stake; they are insiders, Big Business comes first before moral values; they have problems defining themselves; traditional conservatives are embarrassing to the group at cocktail parties when we bring up school choice, reducing the size of government, don’t want our sons in foreign wars, talk about abolishing abortion or stand up for the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman.
“Establishmentarians are a closed and selective group who control an organization or institution for their own agenda and power. They determine what’s best for the entire group because they know what’s best. They’re smarter and more important than the average.
“They will support practically any candidate with an ‘R’ behind their name regardless of their views and values for the sake of winning elections. Winning is everything.”
Winners and Losers
Winners – President Donald Trump, Grassroots Republican leaders, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Republican Senate Caucus, the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, Alma Jackson – new State Vice Chair from San Antonio, new conservative members of the state Republican Executive Committee and County Party Chairmen, conservative advocacy organizations like Grassroots America, Texas Right to Life, Empower Texans, the State Republican Party platform
Losers – Cindy Crocker Asche, Speaker Joe Straus, Rep. Byron Cook (R- Corsicana) who was censured by a supermajority of delegates, Rep. Lyle Larson (R – San Antonio), a crony of Straus who was conspicuously absent, Toni Anne Daschiell, Karen Newton, the Texas Federation of Republican Women, Cyndi Taylor Krier and the Associated Republicans of Texas, Janet Jackson, outgoing president of the Texas Republican County Chairmen’s Association, Joe Pojman and Texas Alliance for Life, the authors of the Platform Committee Minority Report, the Texas Democratic Party, and all the state and county executive committee members who supported and voted for Cindy Asche
Most Memorable Quotes
“This is a battle for the soul of Texas … We will keep Texas red. We will keep Texas free, and we will keep Texas the greatest state in the United States of America.” Gov. Greg Abbott
“They want to make Texas like California. They talk about the blue wave with money pouring in from Hollywood, New York and leftists all over the country because we stand up for what is important. We’ll just build a bigger surfboard.” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
[The opinions expressed in this article are those solely of the editor, Phil Sevilla]