It’s Legislature Time in Texas!

Today was the first day to file bills for the next session of the Texas legislature. With session only going for 140 days every other year it’s always a rush. Fortunately our founding fathers put in a system that makes it very difficult to pass a bill and very easy to kill one. When we want reform that’s annoying, but it prevents a lot of bad ideas from becoming law, and that’s a good thing.

Whether you’re interested in getting a bill passed or killed, or just discussing an idea with your legislator, this panel featuring Texas Representative Jonathan Stickland, Senator Van Taylor, and Representative Matt Rinaldi offers some great tips on what to do and not do to further your cause:

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!

The Runoff is Coming!

Candidates crossing the finish line

Republican voters in Texas have at least three more choices to make in the 2016 Republican Primary Runoff Election.

The last day to request a ballot by mail is May 13. Early voting will be held May 16-20. Election day will be Tuesday, May 24, 2016.

Only 3.5% of registered voters participated in the 2014 Lieutenant Governor race Republican primary runoff. That means your vote in this runoff will carry 10-20 times the weight it would carry in a general election. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be informed and have a significant impact.

The Court of Criminal Appeals

The Court of Criminal Appeals is the supreme court for criminal issues in the state of Texas. This court, among other things, literally decides life and death issues in death penalty appeals cases. Two of the three statewide runoff races are for positions on this crucial 9-person court.

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2

Mary Lou Keel – Harris county District Court judge for the last 20 years. Former Assistant District Attorney.

Ray Wheless – Collin county District Court judge for the last 15 years. Air Force veteran. Former prosecutor. Former private practice experience. Long history of involvement in the Republican party.

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 5

“Scott” Walker – His real first name is Richard. He did not answer a single editorial board questionnaire or have a web site during the primary. Lost the lawsuit he filed to get out of credit card debt.

Brent Webster – Assistant District Attorney and General Counsel for the Williamson County District Attorney’s office. Actually campaigned for the job. Long history of involvement in the Republican party.

Railroad Commission

The Railroad Commission is the most powerful elected regulatory agency in the nation. It no longer has anything to do with railroads – it oversees the critical Texas oil and gas industry.

Texans elect three Railroad commissioners who operate independently of each other. There is an elected chairperson who has some administrative duties, but otherwise the three commissions have the same authority and responsibilities, and one of those positions is up for election this year.

Railroad Commissioner

Gary Gates – An apartment developer in the Houston area. Lost races for the Texas House of Representatives in 2002 and 2004. Lost the District 18 Texas Senate race in 2006, and lost a special election to Lois Kolkhorst in December 2014. No experience with/in oil & gas.

Wayne Christian – Served in the Texas House of Representatives between 1996 and 2012. Was involved in oil and gas regulatory and legal issues while serving on energy-related committees in the House. Former president of the Texas Conservative Coalition.

Texas Senate

Texas State Senate District 24 There are only 31 Texas State Senators, and there are 34 Texas members of the U.S. House of Representatives. So a Texas State Senator represents more Texans than their U.S. Congressman counterparts. It’s a big responsibility, with almost a million constituents per district.

In addition to the three statewide races above that apply to all Texas Republican voters, residents of Senate District 24 also have a runoff in their State Senate seat.

It’s a huge district, stretching from near San Antonio to Abilene.

Texas Senate, District 24

Dr. Dawn Buckingham – An eye doctor, trustee on the Lake Travis ISD School Board, vice chair of the State Board of Educator Certification, and the Lieutenant Governor’s appointee on the Sunset Commission.

Susan King – Served in the Texas House of Representatives from 2007 to 2015. Surgical nurse by training. Co-owner and co-director of Elm Place Ambulatory Surgical Center. Received fiscal responsibility grades ranging from F to C from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.