Texas Republican Executive Committee Overturns Delegates

This weekend the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) held their quarterly meeting in Austin. During this meeting the committee upheld a ruling of state party Chairman Tom Mechler, thanks to his tie-breaking vote.

The Ruling

His ruling was that the delegates to the state convention did not understand a rule change they passed, and therefore the SREC could simply ignore the written wishes of the convention.

Specifically, his ruling was that the wording the body passed that said:

  • “SREC Bylaws or Rules shall always be amendable by a majority of the entire membership, subject only to adopted notice requirements” somehow instead meant
  • “SREC Bylaws or Rules shall only be adopted by a majority of the entire membership at the organizational meeting which has no notice requirements”.

In other words, Chairman Mechler asked the SREC to agree that a majority of both the Convention Rules Committee and the convention delegates all voted to add an amendment that:

  • Said “always” when it meant “only once every two years”,
  • Got wrong the difference between amending an existing bylaw and adopting a bylaw for the first time,
  • Incorrectly assumed there was a notice requirement for bylaws decisions during an organizational meeting, and
  • Served no useful purpose at all since it only specified exactly what is already the default in Robert’s Rules of Order.

The Justification

The argument for that convoluted translation was that:

  1. The heading for that rule section is “Organizational Meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee”. Therefore, goes the argument, nothing in that rule section can have anything to do with any other meeting. That might be a good argument, except that the Texas Code Construction Act (Sec. 311.024. HEADINGS) says that “The heading of a title, subtitle, chapter, subchapter, or section does not limit or expand the meaning of a statute.” As shown above, most of the sentence has to be ignored or twisted – not only the obvious word “always” – to have the sentence make sense at all in reference to the Organizational Meeting, much less only in reference to it.
  2. The Rules Committee Chair, when presenting the amendment for vote, said, “The next amendment is in Rule 8C, on page 4 of your handout, which deals with the Agenda of the Organizational Meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee.” (Note: two sentences were added to 8C, and one of them did deal with the agenda, so that introduction was correct but incomplete.) Chairman Mechler said in his ruling that if no one objected to how the committee Chair described the proposed amendment, then the amendment should be construed to address only what was described, no matter how much you have to twist the amendment’s words to make that possible. At best this means that from now on someone must object to every single summarized rule change at every convention, or risk the SREC ignoring the written changes passed by the convention. At worst it means any state convention committee Chair can invalidate anything a committee has done that they don’t like by just failing to include specific mention of it in their brief summary.

Why This Matters

The important thing about this vote is not whether or not it’s a good idea for the SREC Bylaws to be amendable by a majority of the SREC body subject to notice requirements. It’s about whether the SREC recognizes that it only has whatever authority it is given by the delegates to the Republican Party of Texas Convention.

Sadly, a majority of the SREC thinks it is free to take whatever authority it wishes. Thankfully it is only the barest of majorities who thinks so. Hopefully with vigilance, further such actions will be kept to a minimum.

SREC Members Who Voted to Uphold the Convention Wording

SD 1 Sue Evenwel
SD 1 Dennis Cable
SD 2 Vicki Slaton
SD 3 Terry Holcomb
SD 6 Tammie Nielsen
SD 6 Chris McDonald
SD 7 Sarah Singleton
SD 7 Mark Ramsey
SD 8 Karl Voigtsberger
SD 9 Shelly Pritchard
SD 9 Steve Atwell
SD 10 Jeremy Blosser
SD 11 Tanya Robertson
SD 11 JT Edwards
SD 12 Debbie Terry [via proxy Mark Amick]
SD 12 David Halvorson
SD 13 Melanie Flowers [via proxy Dale Gibble]
SD 13 Dale Gibble
SD 14 Jan Duncan
SD 14 Fernando Trevino, Jr.
SD 15 Gail Stanart
SD 15 Vergel Cruz
SD 16 Virginia Prodan
SD 16 Randall Dunning
SD 18 Michael Cloud
SD 19 Terri DuBose
SD 19 Scott Stratton
SD 21 Naomi Narvaiz
SD 23 Stephen Broden
SD 24 Randan Steinhauser
SD 25 Mark Dorazio

SREC Members Who Voted to Overrule the Convention Wording

Chairman Tom Mechler
SD 2 Jason Ross
SD 3 Judy Parada
SD 4 Melinda Fredricks
SD 4 Will Robbins
SD 5 Nita Davidson
SD 5 Michael McCloskey
SD 8 Candy Noble
SD 10 Merri Easterly
SD 17 Tina Gibson
SD 17 Marvin Clede
SD 18 Edee Sinclair
SD 20 Janie Melendez
SD 20 Samuel Dalton
SD 21 Michael Goldman
SD 22 Denise DeLara [via proxy Linda Hill]
SD 22 Chuck Wilson [via proxy Janet Jackson]
SD 23 Marian Phillips
SD 24 Jack Barcroft [via proxy Skipper Wallace]
SD 25 Linda Kinney
SD 26 Marian Stanko
SD 26 Fred Rangel
SD 27 Sharon Batterson
SD 28 Jane Cansino
SD 28 Drew Bullard
SD 29 Lisa Sprinkle
SD 29 Mark Dunham
SD 30 Deon Starnes
SD 30 Paul Braswell
SD 31 Rhonda Lacy
SD 31 Tom Roller

The letter from 77% of the convention Rules Committee members asking the the SREC to not do this

The full text of the RPT Rules

Full list of SREC members

Note – when the roll call is taken proxies are not mentioned. I’ve attempted to correctly reflect all proxies in my listing above, but I will of course update the list as I’m made aware of any others.

My Comments on the RNC Convention Rules Committee Meeting

The RNC organized against any changes that would make the primaries in 2020 any more conservative and orchestrated the biggest shift of authority from the delegates to the RNC and its Chair in Republican Party history.

I’m proud to be part of the Republican Party of Texas where our delegates have been able to move things toward more accountability and decentralization instead.

Do You Want to be a Delegate to the Republican National Convention?

Texas Delegation at the 2012 RNC ConventionDelegates to the Republican National Convention perform a few important functions:

  1. Vote on the rules under which the convention will operate, and under which the party will operate until the next convention.
  2. Vote on the national party platform.
  3. Vote to elect the party’s nominee in the race for President of the United States.

In most convention years the first of those duties is the most contentious and the other two are more or less pre-determined. In 2016 it seems likely that all three could be tough fights determined by the delegates on the floor, which has increased interest in being a Delegate.

Being a Delegate or Alternate is Expensive

Being a Delegate or Alternate requires a commitment of several days to a week at the convention. In 2016 that means Cleveland.

There is no fee for Delegates for attending the convention, but there are significant other costs. Delegates and Alternates pay all their own expenses for travel to and from the convention. They also pay hotel and food costs. For security and coordination reasons it’s almost mandatory that all delegation members stay in the same hotel – and those aren’t inexpensive.

Anyone considering being a Delegate or Alternate should be prepared for costs of $1,500-$3,000 for the week. Carpooling to/from the convention and sharing a room would put you on the low end of that range, assuming you can find another Delegate or Alternate from the same state interested in sharing.

From Texas there are two paths to becoming a Delegate to the Republican National Convention:

Option 1 – Be Appointed by the National Nominations Committee

The 200-300 or so Delegates present at the Texas GOP state convention in each of the Congressional Districts elect one representative to be on the National Nominations Committee. Those 34 elected representatives and the Chair, appointed by the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, review applications from anyone who wants to be considered for appointment to be an At-Large Delegate or Alternate to the Republican National Convention.

After many hours of reviewing applications, listening to interviews, and voting, the National Nominations Committee produce a recommended slate of 44 At-Large Delegates (and a matching number of Alternates). There are also 3 mandatory delegates (the Texas GOP Chairman, National Committeeman and National Committeewoman, who are all elected by the delegates at the convention).

The list of At-Large Delegates and Alternates is then presented to the state convention delegates for a vote. I am unaware of any time in recent history when the list was not approved as submitted.

The only requirement to be an At-Large Delegate or Alternate is that you be a Texas resident and registered voter and have voted in the most recent Texas Republican party primary. Given the small number of spots available, though, most open At-Large positions are awarded to elected state officials and/or heads of conservative interest/action groups.

In 2016 on the first ballot the votes of the majority of the At-Large Delegates will be committed to Ted Cruz, with the remaining going to Donald Trump. On the second ballot they’ll be able to switch those votes between those two if they’d like. On the third and subsequent ballots they’ll be able to vote for anyone they’d like.

Option 2 – Be Elected by the Delegates in your Congressional District

In addition to electing a representative on the National Nominations Committee, the 200-300 or so Delegates present at the Texas GOP state convention in each of the Congressional Districts elect three Delegates (and three Alternates) to represent the District at the National Convention.

In 2016 the state rules and voting results mean that in most of the Congressional Districts two of the three Delegates will be committed to Ted Cruz, with the remaining going to Donald Trump. In a few Congressional Districts there will be a single Delegate committed to Marco Rubio. On the second ballot the Rubio Delegates will become unbound and may vote for anyone they wish. On the third and subsequent ballots all of the Delegates will be unbound.

Anyone interested in running may be nominated from the floor of the Congressional District caucus. After nominations are closed, elections begin for each of the National Delegate slots and each candidate is offered some time to address the caucus and make a case for why they should be selected over the other candidates for the spot. The secret ballot results are counted and the winner is named. Then the process is repeated for the remaining Delegate and Alternate spots.

Some people elected as National Delegate are so well known and loved across their Congressional District that they simply appear at the caucus, state their interest, someone nominates them, and they win the vote.

The opposite extreme is the full-blown campaign. In this case the candidate has called every member of their Congressional District caucus to ask for their vote, has mailed multi-color brochures on their qualifications to each member, had multiple nomination speeches presented on their behalf, distributed flyers at the caucus, etc.

In the past, interest groups have coordinated efforts, making sure their preferred candidates never compete against each other. This coordination has even taken the form of synchronized text messages with voting suggestions during the caucus election process.

The Bottom Line

The likelihood of any one person becoming a Delegate to the Republican National Convention is very small. From the 10,000 Texas GOP State Convention Delegates and Alternates, 155 will be elected.

The odds of success vary substantially according to who else is in the same Congressional District.

Still, it’s an open process, and like the rest of the Texas GOP organization, it’s built from the ground up. If you’re committed and can make the case for why you should be one of the very few, go for it!