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:
- Reforming the federal government to return power and responsibility to state and local governments, which will allow for reform of federal spending and taxation;
- 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;
- Expanding our party demographically to reach young people, and to reach into precincts where we currently have no infrastructure; and
- 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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