Austin, Houston, and Conroe, May 30 – Texas Republicans face an existential threat in their choice of the leader of the GOP at the State Republican Convention in June. Since 1968, Party leaders have steadily lost influence, thanks in large part to the shift away from Party caucuses and conventions for the selection of Republican candidates to Republican primaries where even democrats can vote for the Republican nominee should they decide to switch parties for the primary election. In 2016, however, Republican state convention delegates fought back for the first time in half a century in passing a mechanism to require Republican elected servants to follow the Party Platform.
The existential threat is in the race for State Republican Chairman. The incumbent is James Dickey. His opponent is Cindy Asche. In order to understand why Asche is a threat to the very existence of the Republican Party, it’s important to see the contest in its historical context.
Rule 44: should the Republican Party insist that Republican candidates and officeholders stick with the Republican Platform?
In 2016, delegates to the Texas Republican Convention, which was the largest gathering of Republican activists anywhere in history (including national conventions), voted to adopt Rule 44 to the Rules of the Republican Party of Texas. Rule 44 empowered county GOP executive committees to vote (comprised of the Precinct Chairs) to censure a Republican officeholder or candidate by a mandatory 2/3 vote for taking actions which violate the Republican Party Platform while in office or as a candidate. The State Republican Executive Committee then could take the recommendation of the county from which the Republican officeholder or candidate came and vote whether, under Rule 44, to censure at the state level, which such censure would result in the Republican Party withholding funds or resources from the officeholder or candidate.
Rule 44 finally gave Republican grassroots activists a hammer by which the Republican Party could rap the knuckles of “Republicans-in-name-only,” or RINOs.
Republican activists spend tens of thousands of hours every two years in precinct, senatorial, and State conventions where they carefully write and adopt the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Republican activists have engaged in that process for decades. Adherence to that Platform – and nothing else – is what defines a person as a Republican. There is nothing that distinguishes Bill Clinton from Republicans other than hundreds of major and minor policy issues where there is a difference. Bill Clinton is not Pro-Life, in favor of the rights under the Second Amendment, or for reduced government spending and taxes. It’s in the adopted Planks of the Republican Party of Texas Platform where Republicans define themselves as Republicans, a definition Mr. Clinton could never meet.
Without the Platform, Republicans are little more than a social club. The failure of Republicans at the federal level to adhere to Republican principles is precisely the reason that so many Americans have become disheartened with all three branches of the federal government.
The primary distinction between the two candidates for Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas is precisely this issue. The incumbent State Republican Chairman, James Dickey, supports Rule 44 and voted in favor of a Rule 44 censure on the one occasion when the issue came to a vote before the State Republican Executive Committee on January 27, 2018.
His opponent for State Republican Chair is a nice lady by the name of Cindy Asche. Asche made clear in two important situations that she does not believe the Republican Party should censure or admonish candidates and officeholders who refuse to follow the Platform.
Dickey and the censure of Texas Speaker Joe Straus
On Saturday, January 27, 2018, the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) voted to concur with a resolution censuring Texas House Speaker Joe Straus that the Bexar County Republican Party had previously adopted. The Bexar County resolution cited multiple occasions where Speaker Straus’ actions hindered and obstructed legislation that would advance Republican Party principles and priorities and requested the SREC to concur and apply the censure penalties available under the Republican Party of Texas’ Rule 44.
Since this censure resolution arose under Rule 44, it required a 2/3rds vote of the full SREC (43 in favor) to pass. After hours of debate, the SREC voted 44 to 19 to grant Bexar County’s request, concur in their resolution of censure, and apply appropriate penalties.
Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey and Vice Chair Amy Clark cast the deciding votes to pass the resolution. They acknowledged that this was a difficult vote on an issue that has received much discussion. Nevertheless, they ultimately believed it was appropriate and necessary for the Party’s health and unity to recognize the concerns which Republican voters and county parties had raised across the State by adopting this resolution and moving forward.
“Please know, we do not do this lightly, and it does not necessarily reflect any personal opinion on particular details in this discussion,” Chairman Dickey said. “This is us being committed to supporting the convention, the delegates, Republican voters across Texas in unifying our Party to move forward.”
During debate on the resolution, SREC Committeeman and Bexar County GOP Chairman Mark Dorazio stated, “In 1992 we passed the most conservative platform in the history of Texas, and that platform stands today. And all of those grassroots people that we represent have put in years, and money and their sweat and toil just to have their own elected representatives undermined. We have had control of the state legislature and we can’t get bills out of our house because of the obstruction of the speaker. This platform we have is to unify us. ”
“The Republican Party of Texas believes in its principles and supports the work of its delegates, voters, precinct chairs, and elected officials in upholding those principles,” said Chairman Dickey. “We must now move forward and focus on our goal of growing the Party and electing Republicans in critical races up and down the ballot in 2018. That is and will continue to be the Party’s number one priority in the weeks and months to come.”
Asche’s candidacy: the direct challenge to the Republican Party Platform and Rule 44
Less than one hour after Dickey voted with the SREC to censure Straus under Rule 44, Asche announced her candidacy to run against and try to defeat Dickey with Straus supporters Tom Mechler and Toni Anne Daschell endorsing her.
At least twice, Asche has made clear that she doesn’t believe the GOP should use Rule 44 to censure or admonish officerholders and candidates who refuse to follow the Platform. One of those occasions was in writing. The other occasion was at a candidate forum with Dickey just last week.
Empower Texans, one of the largest grassroots conservative organizations in Texas, sent a candidate questionnaire to Asche and Dickey for the Republican Party of Texas Chairman race. In response to one of the questions, the Rule 44 issue came to the fore. A screen shot of the question and the Dickey and Asche answers follows: