There has been a lot of chatter on social media and mass e-mails lately about a proposal to have the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) issue a legislative “scorecard” based upon a plank of the Texas GOP Platform approved at the 2010 State Convention. This issue is not new. In 2009, when I served as a member of the SREC, a proposal was brought forward to have the Republican Party of Texas issue a legislative “scorecard” in advance of the 2010 primaries. When the resolution to assemble such a scorecard was brought before the SREC, I called a point of order on the basis that such a “scorecard” would be used in primaries and therefore violated the bylaws of the SREC. Even though we had many disagreements and I was hardly her favorite SREC member, then-Chairman Tina Benkiser sustained my point of order.
The section of the bylaws I cited as the basis of my point of order states “Funds shall be allocated for rental space and for personnel, as budgeted by the SREC. No Party funds or resources shall be used, either directly or indirectly, to influence intraparty contests.”
Many proponents of the “scorecard” have called upon RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri and members of the SREC to disregard the bylaws of the Party and accuse them of ignoring the will of the grassroots and protecting insufficiently conservative legislators if they do not. Fortunately, Chairman Munisteri has stood firm and many SREC members, including several who support a legislative scorecard, have stated that the current bylaws of the SREC do not allow it and that the Party platform is a statement of principles, not a binding policy document.
Not to be deterred, the proponents of a Party published scorecard have now set their sights on amending the SREC bylaws to allow a scorecard. Such an action would set a dangerous precedent for the Republican Party of Texas and should be avoided.
The process of assembling a legislative scorecard is completely subjective. The decisions made about how many votes to use and what votes to use rest solely upon those drafting the scorecard. There are also other questions to address as well, such as whether certain votes are given more weight than others. The biases of the scorecard drafters must also be considered. In the case of the proposed RPT scorecard, State Representative Wayne Christian is one of the key figures in the debate having submitted a proposed scorecard for consideration.
At the heart of this debate is this question- “What is the proper role of the Republican Party of Texas?”. I believe the answer to that question is to unite all Republicans across Texas to work towards victory in November. There are plenty of organizations that get involved in primaries, issue scorecards, and/or make pronouncements about who is the “most conservative.” The Republican Party of Texas is not and should not be one of them. Unfortunately, there are some who want to use the name and resources of the Party to favor candidates in primaries and shift the focus of the Party towards March, not November.
This is not about trying to hide legislative voting records or protect legislators who are not doing their job. If an elected official is casting votes that are not in line with the wishes of his constituents or is otherwise derelict in exercising his duties, that elected official should certainly be held to account. The best way to hold that elected official accountable is for individuals to come together, support a primary opponent, and communicate to others why their candidate of choice is superior. It is the role of the primary voter to decide who best represents them, and it is the proper role of the Party to support the choice of the primary voters.
One of the biggest problems many conservatives, myself included, have with groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee is their practice of becoming involved in primaries and supporting a candidate other than the candidate they personally prefer. Just as it is an unwise practice for the NRCC and NRSC to take sides in primaries, it is of the utmost importance to the continued health of the Republican Party of Texas that it avoid even the appearance of playing favorites in the primary.
There is little doubt that the scorecard submitted by Rep. Christian will be published in some form, the only question being whether it will be published under the name of the Republican Party of Texas. If this debate were truly about making voting records accessible, scorecard proponents would have no problem distributing this or any other scorecard of their choice on their own and keeping the Party out of it. Nothing prevents them from doing so. Instead, they feel they must use the name and resources of the Republican Party of Texas to accomplish what they apparently feel they cannot do on their own. By doing so, they seriously jeopardize the ability of the Party to work with all Republicans and create a situation where we create a circular firing squad going in to the general election in November.