Last year, I stated in a post on this website that I would direct my future political efforts in two major directions: education reform; and reform of our pay-for-play endorsement system that has evolved in our Harris County Republican primaries.
I started pursuing the first effort with posts last year about our educational system, but I have put further work on education reform on hold until we get a formal written order from the Austin trial court in the school finance litigation (because, until we know the direction this litigation is going, comprehensive reform—as opposed to the incremental reforms the legislature has pursued recently—will be stifled).
As for the second effort, I am pursuing that mission as an officer and board member of United Republicans of Harris County.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with United Republicans, it is one of the organizations born from the struggle for control of the local party during the early 1990s. For the last 20 years, United Republicans has focused on promoting economic conservatism, as well as the traditional Republican philosophies of liberty, personal responsibility and public accountability. This is not to say that our board members do not care about other issues that our party platform addresses—we do, and we represent a very diverse array of opinions on those issues. However, we leave it to other organizations to debate and promote those issues. Instead, United Republicans choses to focus on promoting values that are shared by virtually all American Conservatives, which in turn, promote a society of free people, free markets, strong families, inclusive neighborhoods, limited government, low taxes, and a strong national defense.
United Republicans performs its mission in two general ways: conducting periodic general meetings, open to the public, covering topics of importance to our local party; and through a transparent evaluation and endorsement of our primary candidates. This year we have held three general meetings, highlighted by talks by Ed Emmett, Steve Munisteri, and by a recent forum for the four announced candidates for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor (co-sponsored by the Texas Federation of Republican Women). All have been well-attended, and we are committed to continue these meetings, including additional forums, through the primary season and general election campaign of 2014.
In addition to these meetings, our most important activity is our candidate evaluations and endorsements during the primary season. We invite every candidate who files for a GOP primary race that will be on the Harris County ballot to interview with us before we make our evaluations and endorsements. The process involves filling out and submitting a form created by United Republicans, and participating in a face-to-face interview with the evaluation committee. For some statewide races, due to the scheduling conflicts that such campaigns have, we waive the face-to-face interview but try to substitute it with some objective evaluation. For instance, we let the candidates for Lt. Governor know that we would consider their responses to questions during the recent forum in lieu of an interview if their schedule did not permit a later face-to-face interview.
What are the criteria we use to evaluate the candidates? There are five basic criteria we use to evaluate the candidates:
- Qualifications for the position for which the candidate is running;
- Prior involvement in and support of the Republican Party;
- Support for the campaign and a viable plan for winning both the primary and general election;
- Commitment to abide by the Code of Fair Campaign Practices adopted by the Texas Legislature in 1997, and codified in Chapter 258 of the Election Code; and
- How the candidate will promote the principles of economic conservatism, and the traditional Republican philosophies of liberty, personal responsibility and public accountability—including the shared values that promote a society of free people, free markets, strong families, inclusive neighborhoods, limited government, low taxes, and a strong national defense—once in office.
This last criteria is very important to clarify. Contrary to the perception many people have had of our organization in the past, we do not screen candidates based on their embrace of, or opposition to, any specific planks of the Republican platform—we apply no litmus test to the candidates. Instead, we evaluate each candidate based on his or her commitment to the principles that all Republicans share, and on their practical ideas of how to actually govern based on those principles.
The evaluation committee is generally comprised of our board members, though for some races, we will try to expand participation this year to other members with expertise or knowledge of the positions for which the candidates are running. Once we make our evaluations, the endorsements are based on votes of the committee members involved in those evaluations. Although every member must make this decision on their own, I will recuse myself from the evaluations and endorsement votes in any race in which I have made a personal endorsement, so that my actions do not create any appearance of favoritism in the United Republican process.
Once the endorsements are made, we will publicize the endorsements through as many media outlets as our budget will allow. We do not solicit or sell advertising to candidates as part of this process, nor do we solicit contributions from candidates on the 2014 ballot who will be opposed in our primary. Let me be clear about this: the primary reason I joined the board of United Republicans was to continue its objective candidate evaluations and fight back against the apparent pay-for-play system of slate endorsements that has plagued our local primary for too long. Instead, publication of our endorsements by mail, radio, meetings and forums, or online will be paid from our membership dues or from contributions from individuals or PACs who are not running as candidates in contested primary races in 2014.
Soon, we will be notifying the announced candidates for the 2014 primary races that our form will be available for them to fill out, and that they can begin scheduling their interviews. If you agree with the mission of United Republicans that I have outlined, and especially if you wish to join me in cleansing the Harris County GOP of the appearance of a pay-for-play system in our primaries, please go to our website at www.unitedrepublicansharriscounty.com and learn more about us, and become a member.