by Dale Huls
Let me say that this is a hard article to write. I supported James Dickey for Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Chair when Tom Mechler saw the light and abruptly resigned from the RPT. I encouraged and campaigned for Mr. Dickey to the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) members who elected James to finish out Mechler’s term by an SREC vote of 32 to 31. For the next year, Chairman Dickey was the reformer we in the grassroots had been hoping for. Finally, rid of the old school Republican establishment, conservatives were ready for a fresh start in Texas politics. For that year, as James worked to reform the financial disaster that the RPT was in, he stayed engaged with the conservative grassroots. He understood that with a year to go before the next State Convention that the Republican elites that he had defeated would be gunning to reclaim the RPT Chair in 2018. For a time, he was indeed the conservative champion the grassroots had worked so hard to put in place.
Indeed, when the State Convention finally arrived, James did indeed have a chosen opponent representing the elite wing of the party. Cindy Ashe was tailor-made to take on the likes of this upstart from Travis County. However, the grassroots rallied around James Dickey and held off one of the most vicious campaign challenges for the RPT Chair this State has ever seen. Even though Cindy Ashe had a campaign war chest of $200,000 dollars, the grassroots held firm and James was elected by a margin of 22 to 9 Senate Districts. In a last gasp effort, Ms. Asche demanded a floor vote whereby the delegates sealed the election with a 65% to 35% margin.
Now that James had been popularly elected for his post by the Republican Party, it was assumed that he would continue to stay engaged with the Grassroots and conservative activists who supported him. However, the establishment is an insidious creature! As James worked to right the RPT financial ship, he started to fall under the sway of powerful donors, politicians, and consultants. The Austin Swamp runs deep and very motivated to regain its grip on power within the Republican Party. Faster than we could have imagined, a separation opened between the conservative grassroots movement and the RPT machine that Chairman Dickey was now driving.
This shifting of loyalties was not immediately noticed by activists in the grassroots and James himself probably wasn’t aware that he was moving away from the people who stood by him and elevated him to the top Republican Party position in the State of Texas. Even today, many in the grassroots are unaware of how far James has moved to support the establishment wing of the party. Many of the casual activists and supporters look at his record in rebuilding the financial strength of the party and infrastructure and are pleased with the results. However, we didn’t seek to oust the Republican elites simply to put an accountant in charge to balance the books. We sought to put a leader in place to give voice to our values and principles. To listen to the Texas Republican Party and convey the wisdom of the people to our elected leaders. The conservative grassroots are more concerned with protecting our values and liberty than protecting Republican incumbents. We understand that to the establishment wing of the party, the only thing that matters is whether an elected official has an R or a D after their name. Now, with the 2020 RPT State Convention looming, it is again time for the Republican Party of Texas to make a choice. Will the RPT be a party beholden to incumbent politicians, donors and consultants or will it be a force for constitutional law and order, religious-based morality, and personal liberty in Texas?
Allen West will be challenging James Dickey for the Chairmanship of the RPT this summer. Personally, I am ambivalent regarding Mr. West and his ability to lead the Party. He seems to say the right things but until he is put to the test, only time will tell if he was up to the challenge should he win. Many are happy with the job James Dickey has done with the party infrastructure and finances. Yet, what about those issues that cause activists to be activists? To motivate regular men and women to engage in the fight for the future of Texas, indeed, the very United States of America? Who can inspire the heart and soul of the conservative liberty movement in Texas to donate what they can, give up their nights and weekends, and challenge the forces of evil that are arrayed against our nation? I submit to you; James Dickey is not that man. He has had his chance and has fallen short of the great expectations that conservatives across the state had for him. Consequently, this is not an endorsement for Mr. West. Should he win, he gets the same opportunity Mr. Dickey has had. If he does not measure up, he will be next on the list. No this is not about Mr. West – this is about James Dickey and his actions.
At a recent meeting of conservatives in Bowie County, I was asked why I was opposing Chairman Dickey in favor of Allen West, I started to explain how he had turned his back on the conservative grassroots and how he was more in line with the establishment elites today than with those who put him in office. Unfortunately, as I made my arguments, it became apparent to me that these conservative men and women were not buying a superficial condemnation of somebody they didn’t think they had a problem with. That caused me to go back and re-examine why I was opposed to Dickey in the first place! Afterall, if I had problems explaining why somebody new should be given an opportunity to serve as the RPT Chair, shouldn’t I go back and make sure I was on the right side of the issue.
Therefore, I went back and checked the record. Not the record you will find on a spreadsheet or a financial report; but the human record of what was said and what actions were taken with respect to Texas conservative grassroots issues. The following is an indictment regarding James Dickey and why he is unfit to lead our Texas Republican Party in these dark times of turmoil:
Conservative activists first noticed a change in how Dickey interacted with the grassroots and the conservative SREC members during the legislative session. On March 31, 2019, the Coalition for the Protection of Parental Rights held a press conference to challenge Republican efforts to enact red flag laws and mental health bills (e.g., SB10). This coalition was composed of conservative SREC members, Texas Eagle Forum, Grassroots America – We the People, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, North Texas Citizens Lobby, Women of the Wall, and Gun Owners of America. Subsequently, at a lunch meeting after this press conference, James Dickey in his capacity as the RPT Chair berated and castigated the activists and SREC members for daring to call out Republican legislators. JoAnn Fleming, one of Texas leading conservative voices, who was present when James Dickey harangued the SREC members who stood during the press conference, said he treated them “like they were dogs” and that they had no business challenging Republican elected officials. Consequently, Mr. Dickey began a campaign whereby he or his representative Chris Howe [RPT Parliamentarian] would scold the SREC members during the weekly legislative priority conference calls for daring to oppose Republican supported bills not in line with the 2018 RPT Platform. He repeatedly covered for the Big 3 (Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen). Indeed, after the legislative session ended, James Dickey closed ranks with the elected Republican leadership and parroted the line that the 86th legislative session was the most conservative session ever. After the grassroots showed the true outcome of the session, Dickey and the Republican leaders switched from proclaiming the session to defending that it wasn’t as “purple” session as it seemed.
Speaking of Republican leaders and elected officials, the second point against Mr. Dickey was his refusal to speak out about Speaker Bonnen’s proven and documented lying and corruption. He never once called on the Speaker to step down nor did he call for the Republican caucus to remove the Speaker. To this day, Speaker Bonnen controls the interim charges in the House, makes committee assignments and maintains a grip on power prior to the next legislative session. In fact, Dickey was one of Bonnen’s most fervent defenders before Michael Sullivan released the tape documenting the corruption and bribery forcing the Speaker to not seek re-election. Even in the face of truth, Chairman Dickey could not bring himself to call for Bonnen’s ouster. But it seems that Chairman Dickey was an equal opportunity defender of corruption. When Democrat Poncho Nevarez dropped his cocaine out of a legislative pouch at the Austin airport, James Dickey never said a single word about the incident. Rather than demanding that Speaker Bonnen remove Rep. Nevarez from the House Homeland Security & Public Safety committee, he remained silent. Why would the leader of the Texas Republican Party refuse to carry the fight to an enemy of liberty when given such a golden opportunity? Unfortunately, we will probably never know or understand why Dickey remained silent on this egregious violation of the public trust.
On the other hand, due to an uproar over some social media posts by the Harris County Republican Chair-elect and the Bexar County Republican Chair, Dickey took it upon himself to decide what was or was not acceptable speech by Republican County Chairs. He initiated a “witch hunt” through the public social media Facebook accounts of sitting county chairs and accused 12 chairs of having “questionable” posts in which he determined they were racists or Covid-19 deniers. He subsequently asked these 12 county chairs to resign. When asked why he would go after his own Republican grassroots, he used the excuse that they were not following party principles and that Democrats were using social media to attack Republicans and he needed to purge the party to protect it. Where was this outrage and moral fortitude when Bonnen was discovered to be corrupt and a member of the opposition dropped his drugs in front of police? With all the issues that arise in some county Republican Executive Committees, we find it odd that our Party Chairman is doing the work of the Democrats at the county level.
Unfortunately, Chairman Dickey did not stop at seeking to purge Republican county chairs. When James Dickey became the RPT Chair, he brought in Rachel Malone, one of the Lone Star state’s foremost gun rights advocate, was brought in to be the RPT Director of Operations. For a year, in her RPT capacity, Rachel toured the state speaking to grassroots groups and instructed them how to press the grassroots agenda from the ground up. However, when the Republican Party stated principles began to diverge with the vested interests of Republican elected officials, Ms. Malone’s days were numbered. At the behest of the State’s top Republican leaders some say included Governor Abbott, Dickey fired Rachel Malone for working with the grassroots who wanted the agenda set by citizens which angered those in power who pursued their own personal priorities and self-interest. Yes, after a year in office the honeymoon with the Conservative grassroots liberty movement was over.
So, where will the Republican Party of Texas be headed under the continued leadership of James Dickey?
Many in the Party remember the unparalleled ability of past RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri to shutdown the grassroots as they fought for conservative planks in the RPT Platform. Unfortunately, Mr. Munisteri has returned to Texas politics with a vengeance. He is now a consultant for the RPT reported making a $156K salary (higher than Mr. Dickey’s $150K salary). In collaboration with Karl Rove, consultant and confidant of the Bush never-Trump clan, Munisteri has built a shadow State party, under the guise of the RPT Volunteer Engagement Project. This project is supported and managed by the Republican establishment elite with the goal of electing Republicans supported by Governor Abbott and Rove. Although increased Republican registration is a good thing, why are such high-profile political operatives spending their efforts on a Republican registration project? With other groups like the super PAC Engage Texas whose massive $11.8 million-dollar war chest dwarfs the RPT effort which has raised approximately $1.8 million, one has to wonder what is the pay-off from this effort? What better way to cut the grassroots out and back establishment candidates? Don’t believe me? Why else is Munisteri splitting his time between the RPT, Senator Cornyn’s campaign and the Texas Republican Senate Caucus. All this is happening with Dickey’s full voiced support. In fact, Chairman Dicky stated “With over 47 years in politics, Chairman Munisteri brings a political aptitude that will help us turnout more Republicans and defend Texas in 2020. We look forward to working with him to achieve our monumental goals and deliver Republican victories in Texas.” While the question is whose “goals” and what kind of Republican victories is he talking about? Will all these “new” volunteers be beholden to a future 2024 Abbott Presidential Campaign?
Ultimately, Chairman James Dickey has become a creature of the Republican establishment. He has demonstrated that he will not hold wayward Republican office holders to account, When asked during an event promoting his re-election campaign at the Keller Republican Club, he was asked “how could he hold elected Republicans accountable, his answer was “That depends on what you guys put in the platform and our rules.” He was also asked whether he supported a “special session” to enact the Lone Star Agenda (a set of priorities from the 2018 RPT Platform) he refused to stand with nearly 300 Texas organizations, SREC members and other conservative leaders in refusing to call for a special session.
This is my case concerning the re-election of James Dickey as the Republican Party of Texas Chair. I see the machinery of the Party being wrested back from the grassroots into the waiting hands of the establishment. We fought so hard to make our voices heard, to stand for principle and to hold those who proved to be unworthy accountable. Unfortunately, we are on the verge of giving it all away. Back to the very same people who almost bankrupted our party and squandered their majorities in the State Legislature. We must not let that happen! As State Rep. Matt Schaeffer (R-Tyler) once said: “The behavior we tolerate, becomes the standard we set.” Until we can change our leaders as easily as we change our shirts, we will never be the force for change that we all feel is necessary to beat back those seeking to destroy our country. I urge you to take these thoughts into consideration as you or your Senate District Delegates for the future of the Republican Party of Texas vote for the 2020 RPT Chairman.
Dale Huls is a long time conservative and tea party activist. In 2017 Dale won the Empower Texans’ Conservative Leader award.