The Quiet Rescue of the Republican Party of Texas

June 7th, 2012

Via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

When Steve Munisteri, a retired Houston lawyer and businessman, campaigned to be state Republican Party chairman two years ago, he noted that he had been politically active for 38 years.

As Munisteri’s first term comes to a close and he stands ready to be re-elected (unopposed) to what he says will be his last two-year term, it is clear that he was the right man at the right time. In a difficult situation, he did what he said he would do.

When he was elected on June 12, 2010, the party reported $500,000 in debt. On June 17 he learned that the debt was $680,000.

Fixing the party’s finances was his mission. His campaign pledge was “to stop the party’s deficit spending, eliminate the debt completely in two years and to not deficit-spend ever again.”

That required reaching out to major donors, many of whom had either been ignored by the party or grown frustrated and stopped giving.

Within three months, by logging hundreds of hours on the phone and enlisting the help of many of the party’s historically most generous donors, Munisteri had brought in more than $250,000 of $500,000 pledged.

Munisteri asked everyone to pick up a shovel — and they did.

Meanwhile, the party was revamping internally to help Republicans win elections, launching a Trailblazers program to train and deploy more than 2,000 volunteers into targeted districts. The party also began significant minority and youth outreach and organized statewide block-walking activities.

Munisteri crisscrossed the state to attend party functions, fundraisers and candidate events, and he chaired the quarterly State Republican Executive Committee meetings.

By Aug. 31, 2010, the state party reached a crucial milestone — financial solvency. It had more cash on hand than debt.

Soon came the launch of a Grassroots Club of donors willing to contribute $8.25 monthly in return for invitations to regular conference calls with the chairman, a special event at conventions and a promise that solicitations would end.

By January 2012, the club had more than 1,300 members, with a goal of more than 2,000 by the end of this year.

It all adds up.

In happily reporting on the major election victories of 2010 for Republicans across the state (99 elected House Republicans that night, as well as a net gain of three in Congress), Munisteri said that under his administration the party had received more than $1.1 million in pledges, of which $876,000 had been put into the bank by Election Day.

Within six months, Munisteri had cut more than $370,000 from the budget he inherited.

The party launched a website and trained volunteers and campaign staffers. Munisteri’s team negotiated contracts for the 2012 state convention, which hosts more than 12,000 people and is larger than the national party convention. It supported Republicans during the legislative session. Munisteri personally recruited Harris County Judge Ed Emmett to serve as the victory chairman for 2012.

By June 2011, Munisteri reported that all debts were paid and that the party had more than $100,000 in a rainy-day fund, apart from nearly $800,000 in cash on hand. Last week, he told the executive committee that the party had $1.1 million in the bank.

State party Vice Chairwoman Melinda Fredericks summed up Munisteri’s work by complimenting him as a “team builder” who is “inclusive,” “dedicated,” and a “true leader in that he shares praise and credit.”

This year has brought, as Munisteri noted, “redistricting lawsuits, three different primary dates, a new process to select delegates and alternates [and a] reduced timeline.” Yet those challenges are being met.

On the most pressing issue, fixing the party’s finances, Munisteri has kept his promise. The party has been debt-free for more than a year.

Munisteri has quietly, resolutely and courageously led the state party, and all Texas Republicans are blessed that he will continue as chairman for another two years.