Good day Austin and San Antonio:
About two hours into yesterday’s afternoon session of the Texas Republican Convention, in the lead-up to the vote for chairman, the battle between James Dickey, the current chairman, and Cindy Asche, his rival, was truly joined.
The outcome, based on Senate caucus votes in the morning, was already clear. Dickey would prevail by a large margin but the Asche camp was persisting with some tactical maneuvers, though it was unclear to what end.
At which point, Amy Clark, the outgoing vice chair of the party, who was presiding over the session, recognized Toni Ann Dashiell, the state’s national committeewoman and a leader of the Asche forces, to speak.
DASHIELL: I have a very important announcement and I would like to yield my time to Jennifer …
JENNIFER STONER: I’m Jennifer Stoner, Republican Party accounting director … for eight years, and I have resigned my position as accounting director …
Amy Clark: Ma’am. I’m advised this is out of order.
Having cut off Stoner, Clark went called on delegate Terry Holcomb.
Terry Holcomb, Senate District 3, I am speaking in heavy opposition to this. I never thought I would say this at a Republican Party State Convention in Texas, but don’t California my Texas. What are we really talking about here? They say they don’t concur with the will of the voter.
This sounds like something Hillary Clinton would do when Trump beat her. We heard speech after speech about unity and here we are doing the most divisive thing possible. We want to burn the party down so she can be queen of the ashes.
I encourage you to vote “no” and let’s join together behind Chairman James Dickey.
Before the vote, Dickey and Asch each got five last minutes to speak to the delegates.
Dickey strode to the stage access;pained a score of well-known figures in the Texas conservative firmament.
This has been a challenging year.
It was challenging being the third chairman of the Republican Party in two years.
It was challenging standing up strongly for what we believed in and having donors and elected officials and everybody else not know what we really meant by that and not knowing that was going to be a positive things and to turn it around and have it result in growth and benefit and this amazing unity that you see up here has been so humbling. and I am so grateful that every one of you who has seen this with your own eyes and felt it with your own heart.
We have lived out leadership over the last year taking strong stands, doing the hard work that needs to be done and I will tell you there were significant obstacles to that.
When I ran a year ago, I kept getting badgered with, “Will you keep everybody from the old administration that had failed, would you keep all of those things, and, of course my response was, “I have no intention of changing things up, time will tell and what the party needs is the most important thing.”
It has been tough to try to unify the group while there has been a core faction of folks from prior leadership that were disappointed that they were out, and were disappointed that they didn’t win the election, and were trying to do everything they could possibly do to overturn the bodies who had voted and I thank you guys for looking past that, looking over that, looking through that.
You can look around and judge by your own eyes how things are going. It is so important that we move forward together. We have President Trump. We have the House. We have the Senate. We have the Texas House. We have the Texas Senate. We have city councils, school boards county commissioners and county judges. We are going expand our victories here and we can do that if we unite to win, and we have offered that olive branch and we are consistently offering.
You can decide by your own eyes, which campaign, which candidate has shown an interest in and a commitment to growing this party by being welcoming and open versus tearing it apart. And I ask you, vote for winning, let’s beat the Democrats in November. Let’s support President Trump. And let’s continue to have new donors, new supporters, new voters feel welcome and encouraged and loved so together we grow our majority.
God bless you.
Then it was Asche’s turn to take the stage.
I know many of you are not happy with me for being here right now. But I hope, I hope you will allow me the opportunity to be heard one last time.
This race is not about me. I am not running because I want to hold office.
You deserve to know the truth. You deserve to have leadership that is above reproach, because the only way we can advocate for our party’s principles and our elected officials and candidates is to be known as people of our word.
I have been accused of running a negative race and spreading mistruths, but every piece of information we’ve put out has been backed up overwhelmingly by evidence and support.
In fact, if you missed it just a moment ago, our current accounting director, Jennifer Stoner, submitted her resignation minutes ago. Jennifer has been with the party for eight years. She was hired by Cathie Adams and proudly served under Steve Munisteri. She is known by every one of those state chairmen as a professional of unquestioned personal and professional integrity.
According to Jennifer, she has resigned because, in her entire time as accounting director, she has never seen the level of dishonesty, manipulation and erroneous reporting that she has seen, that she has seen from this chairman, and her direct quote, her quote was, “He is not trustworthy.”
The crowd, about two-third Dickey supporters, was growing increasingly restive.
Please hear me out.
The information that was disseminated via both RPT email and also on James’ printed campaign literature was not approved or verified by the accounting department or with Jennifer’s consent. Unlike any previous chairman, Mr. Dickey has required that she submit an Excel spreadsheet instead of a PDF, where the data can easily be moved and manipulated and the numbers simply don’t match up. The way the numbers are communicated by the current chairman are in contrast to the processes that have been used and approved for almost ten years. And this past Wednesday, when directly asked by an SREC member at the SREC meeting if Jennifer had approved the numbers being disseminated, he lied.
She asked him publicly to retract the email and the statement multiple times but, as you know, he has not. She has offered a resignation statement but has promised me that she will return if Mr Dickey is not elected.
Talking amid some tumult not he floor, Asche ran out of time.
My time has expired because I could not complete it.
I am asking you to vote and I am praying God will give you the wisdom to make the right decision.
It was a gripping scene, and properly seen as Act II of a drama that played out a year ago when Dickey was first elected chairman by the State Republican Executive Committee.
Here are scenes from Act I, trom a June 2, 2017 First Reading: Trump loyalty an issue in Dickey-Figueroa contest for Texas GOP chairmanship
The 62 members of the Texas State Republican Executive, meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel, will choose a new Republican State Party Chairman Saturday to replace Tom Mechler of Amarillo who resigned two weeks ago because, when you get right down to it, he would rather “spend time with my 6 children, 16 grandchildren, and my beautiful wife Becky,” than the 62 members of the SREC who are so divided down the middle in all matters Mechler that Amy Clark, the party’s vice chairman and top ranking figure with Mechler’s resignation, might have to break a tie vote to determine his successor.
There are two candidates – Rick Figueroa of Brenham and James Dickey of Austin, the chair of the Travis County Republican Party. (A third candidate, Robert Morrow, tweeted he was running but that’s it so far, and he will not be a factor in the race. See my recent First Reading: Robert Morrow throws his jester’s hat in the ring for Texas GOP chair on an ‘Impeach Trump’ platform;)
On the face of it, Figueroa ought to have he edge.
He is the favored choice of Mechler, who named him ten months ago as co-chair of the Republican Party of Texas’ New Leaders on the Rise Committee, and in recent months has been crisscrossing the state with Figueroa on the Republican Party of Texas Hispanic Engagement Listening Tour.
Figueroa is also in good with President Trump, serving on his Texans for Trump leadership team and on his National Hispanic Advisory committee and now President Trump’s National Coalition of Hispanic Leaders.
And, maybe it’s me, but wouldn’t the Texas Republican Party benefit from the headlines that it had selected its first Hispanic chairman?
Dickey also comes with a couple, three strikes against him.
- He managed to lose the chairmanship of the Travis County Republican Party in the March 2016 primary to the aforementioned Robert Morrow, no mean feat and one that made the Travis County Republican Party an object of intense and sustained national ridicule.
- While he says he was never a “Never-Trumper” he was part of a movement to “free the delegates” to stop Trump, until Trump became the nominee, when Dickey climbed on board the Trump train, but for those punching tickets, that was a mite late.
- Trump won 27 percent of the vote in Travis County.
Normally, three strikes and you’re out. But in this case, I’m giving the slight edge to Dickey.
- He is a far more familiar figure to the members of the SREC, somebody who knows them, who they know, who knows the rules and seems more likely to follow their lead than lead them where he wants to go, and won’t get too big for his britches. He’s paid his dues.
- He is not Mechler’s choice.
- While naming an Hispanic chair might seem, symbolically and practically, a good thing to do, this is the Republican Party, which rejects anything that smacks to them of pandering, and are particularly disinclined to choose someone for the symbolic value if that’s the reason they are picking him
Here is a summary of the argument against Dickey from Travis County Republican Bill Crocker, a former Texas national committeeman and former RNC general counsel, in an endorsement letter he wrote this week for Figueroa.
When his county chairman’s seat came up for election in 2016, Dickey spent very limited time and money in the first reporting period campaigning to defend his turf. And in doing so, lost his seat to a conspiracy theorist who made Texas an international laughingstock. When Dickey had the opportunity to make amends for this stinging loss and be a unifier at the 2016 National Convention, he instead chose to attempt to subvert the will of Republican voters all across the nation by being a leader in the “Never Trump” and “Free the Delegates” movement. At the same time, Rick was working to unite the bitterly divided factions of our party. In fact, during one particularly heated moment in our Texas caucus, I am told that a Cruz delegate and Trump delegate were on the verge of a physical fight. Rick approached this altercation to talk with both of them, and by the end of it the three of them were praying together. The mark of true leadership is the ability to lead and find peace in even the most difficult of situations.
Mr. Dickey also has a spotty record of raising funds for the Travis County Republican Party. When he lost his seat to Robert Morrow, the Travis County Republican Party was in rough financial shape. The most important job of the Chairman is to raise funds. During election years, the RPT will need to raise a minimum of 2-3 million dollars, just to ensure we maintain our current seats. A person who struggled to keep money in the bank is not a person with the capability of raising that level of funds.
Finally, Dickey does not have a strong record of success in his current position. In addition to his inability to maintain his own seat, Dickey has failed to hold on to the precious few Republican seats in Travis County. In fact, from my research, of the 56 partisan elected seats in Travis County today, only 2 are held by Republicans. Friends, we cannot let Texas begin to look like Travis County.
Whether it was his temperament or that he thought he had it in the bag. Figueroa did not go for the kill at the forum that night.
From that First Reading,
Afterward, I noted to Figueroa that I thought he had pulled his punches a couple of times during the night, not attacking when he could have.
“You noticed that,” he said. “It was intentional.”
Figueroa said he’d like to win, but if he doesn’t, it will be OK. He has a great life for which he is very grateful.
There was also this moment at that Williamson County forum.
The question addressed this tweet, about those rumors, came up the next night, at an SREC forum on the chairman’s race, the night before the election.
Figueroa were asked by the party’s general counsel, Patrick O’Daniel, who was moderating the discussion, whether he intended to keep the current party officers and committee chairs in place.
Figueroa said he woudn’t make any changes.
Then Dickey answered:
As both Patrick and (RPT Treasurer) Tom (Washington) can confirm, I had conversations with both asking them whether they were willing to stay on if I win election tomorrow. There is a very logical process for making change. You figure out the goals. You figure out the talents and skills needed. You match people with talents and skills needed. Until I’ve got an indication we are not going to meet the goals or we don’t have the necessary talents and skills needed, my bias is to leave things alone and that’s exactly what I’d do and that’s why I extended those invitations to Patrick and Tom.
But, the next day, right after his one-vote victory, Dickey announced that he was replacing almost the entire board, O’Daniel and Washington included.
I spoke some weeks ago about this with Melinda Fredericks, a former vice chairman of the party who represents Senate District 4. She told me that as soon as they broke for lunch that day she approached Dickey.
“I pulled him over to the side of the room and said, `James, you said you were going to keep the officers and you just didn’t.’ And he said, `Wait a minute, wait a minute, Melinda, what I said was I asked the officers if I were to ask you, would you continue serving as an officer?”
But, Fredericks said she told Dickey, “You led us to believe that you were going to keep the officers,” and he replied, `I had to in order to win.’ “
“I said, `Wait James, that is ends justify the means and that is totally unacceptable and you owe us an apology,” she said.
When I asked Dickey about this last Friday (June 8), he said that’s simply wrong.
“I have consistently said, including to Melinda, that that is an absurd claim on its face. Not only would I not do such a thing but that the idea that I would do an impression of a Bond villain disclosing my plan to one of my most stalwart opponents is as ridiculous as it sounds,” Dickey said.
Dickey said that, at the forum the day before the election, “It actually was my intention at that moment to keep them, which is why there is that impression, even though there was no such blanket statement.”
The more I thought about Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions upon which he would remain, I both had concern about the specifics of the conditions and the fact that there were conditions, and so that changed my mind on that.
And Tom Washington, for the first time in his entire service as treasurer, warning the SREC members that the party was in dire financial straits and likely to be out of money by November, his choosing to hide that fact until the night before the election was, in my opinion, a breach of fiduciary duty and unacceptable, and he didn’t do that until ten or eleven o’clock that night.”
Mechler wrote a post about all this at the Houston politics blog, Big Jolly Times, at the end of May, to which Tom Washington appended his own version of events:
This is an important point. James Dickey would prefer that you pay attention to his point that he never agreed to actually reappoint either Patrick O’Daniel or myself to our former duties. The actual key point here is that James Dickey used deception with the SREC voters to mislead them on his actual intentions in order to gain votes that he would not have gotten otherwise. James Dickey had already lined up his officers in advance and announced them as soon as the election was completed. He had no intention of following through and reappointing Patrick or myself.
James asked me for a meeting during the Friday evening before the election. He asked me if I would serve as Treasurer if he was elected on Saturday. I did not know that he was asking me only to give him a chance at shifting votes in the SREC with people who wanted some stability in the RPT key officers if he was elected State Chair.
I was fine with not being reappointed by James Dickey. I had reservations about serving with James because I had known him for over 15 years. I knew that there would be benefit to the continuation of the financial condition of the Republican Party of Texas if I continued as Treasurer but I had to address my reservations. I knew that James would be under extreme fundraising pressure if he was elected. Any signs of stability that the major donors saw in the party would be helpful.
In fact, before I told him I would serve because of my reservations, I gave James Dickey two conditions that he had to agree to in advance.
Condition #1 was that he retain Jennifer Stoner as RPT Accounting Director. Jennifer does a fine job for the Republican Party of Texas and I had no desire to retrain another person in that role.
Condition #2 was that James not interfere with the Republican Party of Texas keeping true and accurate accounting records and filing true and accurate reports to the FEC and TEC for our political and financial activities. James agreed to both conditions and I agreed to serve if James was elected.
James Dickey did in fact win the election by one vote (after shifting 3 votes with his deception that James intended to reappoint Patrick and myself).
The deception came to light in Chair Dickey’s first comments from the podium after election. James read his list of officers and did not reappoint Patrick O’Daniel or myself to office. He then added for the benefit of the deceived voters that he found that both Patrick and I had insisted on conditions for our service which he, James Dickey, could not accept.
James Dickey then made the first mistake of many that morning. He invited Patrick O’Daniel and me to the podium to give our final officer’s reports. Patrick went first. Prior to giving his report, Patrick clarified that he had made no conditions to his continuing service to the Party. James stated in response that Patrick had insisted on the retention of all of the Assistant General Counsel’s currently serving. Patrick stated again that he made no conditions to his service.
I was up next. I told the SREC that I did have two conditions to my service and I was sorry that they were unacceptable to Chair Dickey per his statement contrary to his acceptance with me on the prior evening. I then told the SREC what the two conditions were. You could hear an audible gasp from the SREC members.
Perhaps some were just becoming acquainted with Chair Dickey’s brand of ethics.
James stood up quickly and clarified that he only had issues with Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions for service (Patrick didn’t make any). James then said from the podium that his issue with me was my lack of transparency in financial reporting to the SREC over my seven years of service to that body.
During my service, I had increased the financial transparency that the SREC had from previous State Treasurer’s. First as Assistant Treasurer and then as State Treasurer, the SREC received a full income statement in detail by fund as well as Cash balances by fund. The new State Treasurer has since eliminated reporting by fund to the SREC.
Two weeks later, James Dickey contacted me to apologize for his conduct and statements to the SREC involving me.
James Dickey’s conduct involving the appointment of new officers for the Republican Party of Texas illustrates James Dickey’s ethics, morals, honesty and integrity in action.
Marvin Clede, a member of the SREC from Senate District 17, also commented at Big Jolly.
The comments to Melinda Fredericks are telling. —Melinda then asked him “why did you mislead us?” He replied “I had to or I would have lost the race because 2 votes would be determined based on my response.”—
I was one of those 2 votes who expected different things from Mr. Dickey. And this does not even address the heavy handed and impolitic way he dealt with the chair of the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee who is my colleague on the SREC. At the very least I am concerned about style and character expressed in subsequent actions. There are difficult questions to evaluate in this upcoming election, which to date, has become exceptionally divisive.
Dickey won that election by a single vote.
As I wrote then,
Travis County’s James Dickey was elected Saturday to lead the Texas Republican Party, defeating Rick Figueroa on a 32-31 vote of the State Republican Executive Committee.
Dickey succeeded Tom Mechler, whose sudden resignation two weeks ago left it to the statewide Republican Party leadership in the nation’s largest red state to pick his successor in a previously scheduled meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel.
“I am deeply humbled,” Dickey said, adding that he was only disappointed by the divisions revealed by the razor-thin margin.
For Dickey, chairman of the Travis County GOP, the victory was a stunning success for a campaign that was thrown together and executed in less than two weeks, quickly piling up endorsements from conservative activist groups.
Dickey’s victory signaled the strength of grass-roots tea party leaders, who felt Mechler was insufficiently aggressive in pushing the state party’s platform at the Capitol. Texas Right to Life also backed Dickey.
After Saturday’s vote, Mechler said he was “shocked and disappointed” with the result.
The next state convention in June 2018 will decide whether to ratify Saturday’s choice or select someone else as chairman.
Figueroa said he had no intention of challenging Dickey for chairman in 2018.
“It’s not who I am,” he said.
Ultimately, Mechler couldn’t impose his choice on an executive committee that was divided down the middle between what are described, broadly speaking, as establishment and tea party wings.
Mechler’s abrupt resignation two weeks before the executive committee’s meeting might have been intended to improve Figueroa’s chances, but it didn’t work, and there was some resentment on the committee that the chairman was trying to force his choice on them.
Yesterday, Bill Crocker nominated his daughter, Cindy Asche, for state party chair. Mechler was her most prominent supporter.
Dickey prevailed, and this time it wasn’t close.
From today’s story.
The final vote was 5,680 votes, or 65.4 percent for Dickey, a former Travis County Republican Party chairman, and 3,009 votes, or 34.6 percent for Asche, a nurse from Frisco who serves as chaplain of the Texas Federation of Republican Women and whose father, Bill Crocker, is an Austin attorney who formerly served as the Republican national committeeman from Texas and general counsel of the Republican National Committee.
After the tally was announced, a relieved and smiling Dickey briefly took the stage to offer his thanks to strains of the Beatles “Come Together,” and to ask those who voted for him and those who didn’t to “come together” to beat the Democrats in November.
As for Asche’s exit music, well, there wasn’t any, but if there were, the choice is obvious.