Harris County Republican Party: A system we should be ashamed of

Ed Hubbard

I had promised myself, my family and my friends that I would stay out of Republican primary battles this year, and simply prepare for helping GOTV efforts after the State Convention.  Maybe that promise became one of the many casualties of the protracted primary season here in Texas, but I can no longer stay silent on the state of our local party in Harris County.  If what I am about to say affects a local race in our primary—one way or the other—so be it.  But after I received a copy of this memorandum circulated to the Advisory Board of the HCRP last week (Harris County Republican Party Speaker Fees), I could not stay silent any longer.

In fact, I believe what this memo reflects is so wrong, that I am driven to tell you that I am ashamed of our local party leadership for implementing this plan—yes, I said ashamed.  But, to be just as honest, I also am ashamed that you and I have let our local party deteriorate to the extent that this plan could even be considered.

Let me first say this—I know that I lost the last election for HCRP Chair, and that the primary voters chose to continue with a different approach to party organization and management than I was proposing.  The purpose of this post is not to re-fight that campaign, because I respect the voters’ decision.  However, one of the reasons I wanted to change the organization and management of the party was to address the very problem this memo shows has worsened over the last two years.

I am going to be very blunt in what I am about to say—very few activists or primary voters have any real say in who wins most, if not all, of our local GOP primary races any more.  In large part, you have no say because there is no functioning party organization in Harris County to provide a level playing field for our primaries.  In fact, over the last 10-15 years, our local party apparatus has been gutted.  And it has been gutted on purpose.

Today, we have precinct chairs in less than half the precincts in the county, largely because a small group within the party has chosen to keep precincts positions open, rather than allow people to participate in our party who may reflect the diversity of thought or demographics of the conservative voters in those precincts.  They have kept the party financially broke, so it could not be used as a power center against their preferred candidates and platform issues.

As they have gutted the party, they have allowed a private pay-for-play system to evolve within our party, whereby primary candidates have to hire a specific consultant, and/or have to pay for “advertising” in a “newsletter,” in order to have an opportunity to get the endorsement of one or more of three men whose mailing lists gets their endorsements into the hands of every GOP primary voter.  A statistical analysis of the effect of these endorsements shows that these three men now effectively control who wins our primaries.  Moreover, anecdotal observations of primary voters show that most of them take one of these three endorsement lists into the polling places as references as they vote, which reinforces the accuracy of the statistical analysis.  This pay-for-play system not only effectively rigs the primary before a vote is ever cast, and constitutes a tax on our candidates just to participate in the electoral process; it also creates a public appearance of potential impropriety when one of these three men is receiving court appointments from local judges that he endorsed—appointments that have paid him almost $400,000 in legal fees in recent years:

If allowing this private pay-for-play system to evolve and thrive within our party wasn’t bad enough, now the party has gotten into the act, as shown in the memo to the Advisory Board, by taxing our primary candidates between $500 and $5,000 just to have a little time to speak to party activists at a public meeting before the primary—our SD Conventions on April 21st, which are a mandatory part of the delegate nomination process contained in the Texas Election Code.  I simply cannot put into words the level of disappointment I now feel as a Republican with my own party over this state of affairs.

But those of us who find this situation intolerable need to look in the mirror.  Those of us who have run for office allowed this system to evolve by empowering these three men over the years:  we agreed to the interviews; we agreed to hire the consultants; and we agreed to pay for the “advertising”—or we simply remained quiet as we saw this system evolve.  Those of us who were activists and watched the process unfold, but did nothing to stop its empowerment, enabled this system to thrive.  And, those of us who

  • voted in GOP primaries,
  • used the three men’s endorsements to choose our candidates, rather than do our own homework, and
  • ignored and didn’t contribute time or money to the local party, so it could develop an organization to support our candidates and fall tickets independent of these three men,

were the ultimate enablers.

In a year when we have so much interest in public participation in our party’s primary, either as candidates or as voters, is this the system we want for choosing our candidates?  Is this a system that we would be proud to explain to a middle school or high school civics class to promote the GOP to our children?  Will a perpetuation of this system provide us with the tools we Republicans will need to meet the great challenges we have to address over the next two decades, including:

  1.  Reforming the federal government to return power and responsibility to state and local governments, which will allow for reform of federal spending and taxation;
  2. Reforming state and local governments, and school districts to prepare them to accept and effectively manage the re-invigorated powers and responsibilities they will have to manage, which will require reform of state and local spending and taxation, and policies;
  3. Expanding our party demographically to reach young people, and to reach into precincts where we currently have no infrastructure; and
  4. Identifying, developing and supporting candidates for all offices who will effectively promote Republican principles and our agenda?

If you answered these questions with a resounding “no,” than we have some work to do.

First, stop enabling the three men by using their mailers.  If you get any mailer to request an absentee ballot or that contains an endorsement slate for the upcoming primary from one of these groups

  • Conservative Republicans of Texas;
  • Conservative Republicans of Harris County;
  • Texas Conservative Review; or
  • The Link Letter;

throw those mailers away and do your own homework.  I am not asking you to vote against the candidates on those slates—they are fine people who have been trapped in this system we enabled.  All I am asking you to do is to do your own due diligence about the races on the ballot.

Second,  if you get other mailed slates, check into the organizations who sent the mailer to determine how they arrived at their endorsement—and then, do your own homework before you rely on them.

Third, watch for another post soon, in which we will provide some mechanism for contributing to the cost of the upcoming SD convention in Harris County.  Our intent is to provide a mechanism for covering the cost of the convention in a way that assures that the money will be used to fund the convention, while assuring our candidates that the ill-advised speaker’ fee will be canceled by the party.

Finally (and most importantly), get involved and pay attention to what is going on in our local party, so that this private pay-for-play system eventually is stopped and this type of system is never used again.

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Comments

  1. Erin lunceford says

    Ed, you have hit the nail on the head! Thank you so much for addressing this issue as it is an abomination in our local party organization!

  2. Becky Bowyer says

    I’m sending your article via email to everyone I know and will ask them to do the same. If you are reading this comment, please do the same as we need to start an email/social media campaign to warn as many Harris County residents as possible not to trust these pay to play “voter guides.” Thank you Ed for speaking out!

  3. MARY LYNN FAULK says

    Thank you, Ed. This needs to be made known to all Republicans. They need to know how they are being duped by the system as it exists in Harris County and how their votes are being bought and paid for..

  4. Marvin Clede says

    Ed,

    The solution for this situation is to actively support Paul Simpson for party chair to replace the current chair who has been in office for over 10 years; we are overdue for a freshening up and a move to allow more of a headquarters responsive to the grassroots and tea party movements all across the county.

  5. says

    AGREED 100%!!!! The HCRP should be helping all candidates rather than us working to finance the HCRP while they pal around in their elite little cliques – the Harris County GOP should be bigger and better than this. It is extremely difficult for me to justify paying $1,250.00 just to be recognized momentary at a meeting while we’re trying to pay for signs, letters, etc… I’m not for sale to the lobbyists so our donations aren’t overflowing our piggy bank and shouldn’t be wasted on things like this anyway.

    The current system often forces candidates to compromise their principles just to be accepted in certain circles and to obtain financial support to pay-to-play in these “endorsed candidates” publications. I asked one of the big name consultants last year about these paid endorsements, he thought they were fine and necessary. Why not endorse on issues and merit instead of who has been bought and paid for by the special interests groups?

    Government bureaucrats and politicians often are bad investors primarily because they use other people’s money and listen only to those with the money. Every day we are subjected to laws and regulations that were bought and paid for by lobbyists and special interest groups. This must change. The voters, not the lobbyists, elect our state leaders one vote at a time. Until we have real lobbying reform, we will not get genuine representation of “We the People.” I will support lobbying and campaign finance reform for all elections held within the state.

    Lastly, I’m pleased to hear about the upcoming SD Pct Chair meetings/training but I question are the meetings actually for the Pct Chairs or for extra exposure for the Chair of HCRP?

  6. Larry Korkmas says

    Ed: Thank you for having the courage to take the lid off this garbage can. What is being offered in pay for play is nothing more than a different type of voter fraud where disinformation misleads the trusting voter.
    As to the HCRP, it is clearly evident that long term poor planning at the top has created this problem. There are some very good people trying to make things work but long term neglect cannot be fixed in a short period of time.
    Asking candidates to pay for access to the conventions is akin to a reverse poll tax. The lesser funded candidates are further disadvantaged by this scheme and it would appear as another barrier to entry for those seeking office..
    It takes guts to poke a snake and we owe you a great deal of gratitude for your candor.
    Larry Korkmas

  7. says

    Outstanding article that I will share with everyone I know who votes in Harris County … and beyond. I’m looking forward to becoming a Precinct Chair. Time for real change. And a lot of hard work. Thanks for getting the word out, Ed!

  8. TOM COTTAR pct 0386 says

    I completely agree with a change in leadership! We remain “duped”, by the 4 mentioned mailings that, by their own intentions of greed, make decisions for us or at least create the illusion that “in our best interests” the enclosed endorsements represent the best interests of the Party! BS! In one particular race a few years ago, The Link Letter endorsed a moderate over a very conservative and it was because this moderate could pay the $5000 fee to be endorsed by Mr. Lowry. I called Mr. Lowry, who did not answer his phone, so I left a message for him which said: Terry you are nothing more than a political whore for this endorsement. If you disagree with me please call back and let’s discuss. There was no return call, so a few days later, still madder than haides, I left the same message……… almost 10 years later still no return call. You draw your own conclusions!
    Tom Cottar

  9. Clyde Bryan says

    Well written piece Ed. For those that are already aware of this situation, you have just stated the
    obvious. For those voters who receive the pay for play endorsements in the mail and assume they are legitimate, your article will be transformational. Well done.

  10. GoldBacon says

    I can’t wait to see what the Texas Patriot Statesman has to say about this article. I’m sure that it will be “humorous, in the spirit of Ronald Reagan” and will probably excoriate Mr. Hubbard for “using the tactics of Democrats” to bring down our local party.

  11. Nancy Scott says

    I am incensed that our party is extorting money from Republican candidates who sacrifice their time, money, and emotions to run to represent us. The Republican Party should be providing support for them with organization and leadership. Delegates to the Senatorial Convention expect and anticipate hearing from our candidates and we certainly do not expect them to have to pay for the privilege.
    Gary Polland makes money with his Conservative Republicans of Texas publication taking advertising from Democrats as well as Republicans looking for his endorsement. We have voted him down twice at the Republican Executive Meetings for this practice and using a name that we hold dear.
    Ed, thank you and Big Jolly for bringing this to light and leading the battle.

  12. snapped says

    AMEN!

    Why is this blatant fraud not a violation of some election law and why has the media who shows blatant contempt for the Republican Party not all over this story?

    I am sure that most conservative voters have no idea how corrupt the Lowry/Hotze et al pretenders really are.

    I am voting for the candidate not endorsed by these puppeteers as a show of protest

  13. bob42 says

    Good job Ed.

    More and more I’m reaching the conclusion that regardless of party, we have more of a political industry than we do a political system. Best of luck, and gratitude is due those who are trying to change it. You are facing an uphill battle.

  14. Melissa Rowell says

    I just found out that the Senate District convention is going to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000. I had no idea. The HCRP could come out and ask all the precinct chairs and volunteers and candidates to pitch in a little and help raise a little, so that everyone pitches in and the primary candidates don’t get hit hard in the pocket book if they want to speak. If the building and function costs so much, then I don’t mind helping out some. On another note, in reply to what was said about precinct chair vacancies, I don’t think precinct chairs candidates are being turned away (are they?) but that we just don’t have the people to fill those positions. Am I wrong?

  15. Steelbutterfly says

    Since the Harris County Republican party convention is scheduled for April 21 then we have some time to spread the word and propose a rule change to the county GOP rules to disallow any future fees be requested or required of candidates registered to run in any GOP election to be held in Harris County. How lucky for us that we can all be delegates to this convention! There will be strength in numbers. This needs to be submitted in every Senate District meeting at the convention as a rule change for the county GOP.

  16. G.F. " Hookman " Brown says

    Thank God I’m an independent and no longer believe in the integrity of either major political party.
    As ya’ll can see from Ed’s post, it’s not about being a Republican, or being a conservative.It’s only about the money.
    As each of you have said, the Democrats are corrupt and it’s only about the money for those leftist liberals, let’s look within and realize THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE between the parties at the national level, and very little at our local level.
    It’s mostly just hate-filled rhetoric.
    Rhetoric designed to keep Americans divided.
    Accept it or not, but Barack Hussein Obama is really a closet Republican.
    Compare what he promised the Democrats BEFORE the election to what he has done since the election :
    Guantanamo Bay
    Afghani War
    Iraqi War
    Cutting funding for Social Security(What true Democrat would do that?)
    Obamacare(Written by Republicans to be the same as the Republican Romneycare in Massachusetts)
    Obama has cut regulations in the poultry industry.
    Obama cut government inspectors in the Ag department.
    Obama’s JOBS Act cuts regulations on the banks, investors and financiers that caused the recession.
    Obama’s justice department has gone after Medicare fraud.
    ALL of these things have been on the Republican wish list.
    Just as ya’ll are now understanding that only three wealthy men control Harris County Republican politics, there are just a handful of super-rich men who control politics in our nation.
    And for them, party affiliation means nothing.
    They will buy and own a Democrat presidential candidate just as quickly as they will buy and own a Republican presidential candidate.

    It would not have mattered if John McCain had won, the same few would still be in control.
    It doesn’t matter whether Romney or Obama wins in the fall, the end result will be NO CHANGE to government policies and only slight change to the rhetoric.

    I wish it were different, but as long as we continue to argue R vs D, it will not change.
    Remember your history or you will repeat it :
    “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”
    “Divide and Conquer”
    “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand”

    G.F. ” Hookman ” Brown
    Houston, Texas

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