by Mark McCaig
As the race for State Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas comes to a close, I wanted to share some last-minute news surrounding the race as well as some closing thoughts as the state convention approaches.
Incumbent Vice-Chairman Amy Clark announced several months ago that she would not be seeking re-election to her position. There are currently two announced candidates for this position. Under RPT rules and the Texas Election Code, the State Chairman and Vice-Chairman must be of the opposite sex.
Here is a little bit about each of the announced candidates:
A longtime fixture in Bexar County Republican Politics, Alma-Perez Jackson served as a Republican Precinct chair for from 1987-2016 and was a member of the SREC from 2014-2016. Perez-Jackson has also been a Republican candidate for public office, having been the Republican nominee for State Representative District 125 in 2015 and a Republican candidate in the State Senate District 26 special election in 2015.
Former Republican National Committeewoman Denise McNamara was also running for Vice-Chairman until last week. McNamara’s campaign gained endorsements from Republican National Committeeman Robin Armstrong, current SREC members Stephen Broden (SD 23), Sue Evenwel (SD 1), J.T. Edwards (SD 11), and Mark Ramsey (SD 7), and the Conservative Coalition of Harris County. McNamara endorsed Jackson upon her withdrawal from the race and many of those who endorsed McNamara have followed suit in endorsing Jackson.
The only announced male candidate for Republican Party of Texas Vice-Chairman, Rangel has established himself as Cindy Asche’s unofficial running mate. A member of the SREC since 2016, Rangel was a candidate for San Antonio City Council in 2005, 2011, and 2015. Rangel also serves as a public member of the Broker Lawyer Committee of Texas Real Estate Committee, having been appointed to the position by Governor Abbott in 2016.
Although politically active for many years, Rangel is a newcomer to the Republican Party. Voting records obtained from Bexar county show that Rangel voted in a Republican primary election for the first time in 2012. Prior to that, Rangel consistently voted in Democratic primary elections.
Campaign finance records on file with the Texas Ethics Commission also reflect Rangel’s recent conversion to the Republican Party. Rangel made several contributions to the Northwest Democrats of Bexar County PAC between 2002 and 2012, with his last contribution made just one month before the 2012 Presidential election. Rangel did not begin making contributions to Republican candidates and organizations until 2015.
Rangel’s Facebook page touts endorsements from many of Cindy Asche’s biggest supporters including Asche’s mother, Donna Crocker, former RPT Chairman Tom Mechler, former RPT State Chairman candidate Rick Figueroa, and a handful of SREC members.
Anonymous Attacks Against James Dickey
Fred Rangel has also used his Facebook page to share content from “Texas Conservatives for Liberty and Freedom”, an anonymous Facebook page and e-mail list that has recently popped up as a vehicle for attacks on incumbent RPT State Chairman James Dickey. “Texas Conservatives for Liberty and Freedom” was soundly denounced by many conservatives for its use of strong invective and personal attacks against Dickey and graphic images it published portraying a villainous-looking Dickey alongside splattered blood.
Cindy Asche’s campaign even attempted to distance itself from the tactics of “Texas Conservatives for Liberty and Freedom”, issuing the following statement:
Our campaign received several questions about an email that was sent out about my opponent this morning and some social media posts that have followed.
I want to make it abundantly clear that neither I nor my campaign consultants or staff were aware of this group’s existence prior to the email this morning, nor do we know who is behind the group. This content was sent out without our knowledge or approval.
While we have provided information on relevant legal issues related to this race, every statement we have made has been backed up by extensive legal documentation. We do not condone smear campaigning.
At this point, we do not know if the person behind this is trying to help our campaign or hurt it by making it look like we are running a smear campaign.
If you receive any questions about the email or Facebook ads, please refer people to this statement. Let us know if we can provide any additional clarity.
Despite this denunciation, Rangel and many of Asche’s most prominent supporters have not hesitated to disseminate these smears against Dickey.
Campaign Fundraising and Spending
The recently released “8-day” campaign finance reports, covering campaign activity between May 6th through June 4th reflect James Dickey’s campaign having raised $35,509, spent $33,712, and no outstanding debt and Cindy Asche’s campaign having raised $1,900, spent $141,421.50, with $145,613.38 in outstanding debt (all personal loans) during this reporting period.
Asche’s extraordinary self-funding of her campaign has raised many eyebrows, especially since the office of State Chairman is a volunteer position and she has not previously been actively involved with Republican Party of Texas activities nor been a major donor to the Republican Party of Texas.
While Asche and her supporters have called Dickey’s fundraising ability into question and claim that Asche will be able to attract major donors to the Party that are not currently giving, Asche’s lack of fundraising for her own campaign calls into question whether she would be able to successfully raise funds for the Republican Party of Texas if elected. To the extent that Asche has raised money for her campaign, nearly half of those raised funds ($6,000) have come from former RPT State Chairman Tom Mechler.
As I wrote here several weeks ago in a post defending James Dickey against unfair personal attacks lodged against him by the Asche campaign, I expressed my desire that the contested race for State Chairman would elevate to a contest of ideas about how to grow and strengthen the Republican Party of Texas. Unfortunately, this has not occurred.
Particularly troubling to me are the accusations from the Asche camp that many hardworking grassroots activists who have spent many years working within the Republican Party to grow the party and promote limited government, pro-family public policy are somehow Libertarian infiltrators who have worked to hijack the Republican Party and promote abortion and marijuana use. This rhetoric is not only wholly meritless (the vast majority of liberty-minded Republicans I know are strongly pro-life, just as Ron Paul and Rand Paul are), but completely undermines the message of party “unity” they claim to promote.
It’s also peculiar that they would accuse longtime Republican Party volunteers of trying to “infiltrate” and “hijack” the Republican Party, but at the same time embrace and promote the Vice-Chair candidacy of Fred Rangel who was voting in Democratic Party primary elections and making financial contributions to Democratic organizations in San Antonio when these liberty-minded Republicans were hard at work to bring new voters to the Republican Party and oppose the disastrous Obama agenda.
While this race has been unnecessarily divisive, we must not lose sight of what is at stake in November. Democratic candidates across Texas, and particularly Harris County, are increasingly embracing socialism openly and disparaging those who practice traditional Christianity. The Republican Party must make a clear distinction between pro-growth, limited-government policies we stand for and the socialist views espoused by many on the Democratic ticket. We must embrace those who have previously been apathetic politically or have been turned off by the Democratic Party’s shift to the far left.
While I personally support James Dickey, I know many of Cindy Asche’s supporters to be good people who care deeply about the success of the Republican Party at the ballot box and the Republican Party platform in the halls of the legislature. Despite the heated rhetoric of the campaign, it is imperative that all Texas Republicans unite around the Party leadership elected by the state convention delegates. Our time and effort after the convention must be focused on fighting Democrats, not other Republicans.