Last year, incumbent Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Mechler resigned abruptly, triggering a special election by the State Republican Executive Committee that featured two candidates: former Travis County GOP Chairman James Dickey and Houston businessman Rick Figueroa.
Texas Scorecard reached out to both candidates and provided them a questionnaire that included items we believed important for Texas Republicans. Each of them responded and we published their remarks unedited for the public.
Dickey ultimately prevailed in a very narrow victory and has served as party chairman since June 3, 2017. He is currently running for re-election to his position and faces Cindy Crocker Asche, a Republican activist from Frisco who Texans for Fiscal Responsibility endorsed for City Council in 2016. Asche was not successful in that election.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility does not endorse in party races but once again made a questionnaire available to both candidates and their remarks can be viewed here. The election for RPT Chairman will be decided by delegates at the Texas GOP’s state convention this June.
Here are their responses without edits:
Why are you a Republican?
James Dickey: Fundamentally, the Republican Party’s principles represent my core beliefs – including the sanctity of life, limiting government, and personal responsibility. I was also blessed to grow up in a home that modeled those principles, voted Republican, and encouraged my involvement in the Party at a young age.
Cindy Asche: My parents raised me in a strong Christian, conservative home and instilled in me at a very early age the conservative values I hold so dear today. I’m a 5thGeneration Texan and attended my first Republican Precinct Convention when I was just 4 years old. However, I’m not a Republican just because I was raised in a conservative family – I’m a Republican because I truly believe in the values our Party holds dear – the values of life, liberty, the right to keep and bear arms, limited government, fiscal conservatism, conservative immigration reform, and low taxes. I’m proud to be a Pro-God, pro-life, pro-gun Republican. I believe that strong families are the most critical element in preserving a healthy society, and I’m a Republican because our society – this great state and nation – has the greatest chance to succeed when government adheres to these principles that are the foundation of our Party’s platform.
Why should Republicans choose you for party chairman?
JD: My long track record of helping the Party be more successful, both as a County Chair and now as RPT Chair, shows that I am the most qualified choice. I have put together an amazing team that managed a record-breaking Primary, provided a record amount of data to help Republican candidates, achieved multiple fundraising records, and defended the platform in the media, in the legislature, and in court.
Not only is the staff working more effectively as shown in all our results, the SREC is more unified and working better as well, with more votes per meeting and fewer close votes.
Every advancement that our team has made in the short amount of time I have been Chairman will continue to grow and become stronger if Texas Republicans re-elect me.
CA: Our country is threatened by a radical, liberal ideal of government, and the only thing standing between California and New York and the complete take-over of our country is Texas. The fate of our nation hangs on our ability to withstand the forces of liberal Democrats who want to take over our state and elect Democrats to office. To prevent this catastrophe from occurring, it is imperative that Texas has a State Party that is financially sound, unified, and committed to engaging voters in every corner of this great state. As a former ER and Trauma manager in two of the largest hospitals in Texas, I know what it means to lead in high-stress, fast-paced environments. I’ve managed multi-million-dollar budgets and large staffs, while simultaneously ensuring effectiveness at all levels of the organization. If elected as your next Chairman, I’m committed to using these business management skills to ensure our Party is run efficiently and effectively. I will also maintain the utmost commitment to integrity each and every day.
What three planks in the current platform are the most important to you personally?
JD: It is critical that the Party Chair support the grassroots’ positions in the platform regardless of the Chair’s personal opinion on any individual item. However, long before I became State Chair I fought for – and testified before the Legislature on – pro-life, pro- gun, and school choice bills.
CA: Plank 88 – The Right to Life: Our greatest charge as Republicans is to stand up and speak out for those without a voice. I believe all life is created in the image of God and begins at conception. Our Party must serve as a powerful voice for the unborn. It is my hope and prayer that one day we will be known as the generation that puts an end to abortion. The RPT should continue to fight until all life is valued and legally protected from conception to natural death.
Plank 13 – The Rights of Sovereign People: Plank 13 is imperative to our very identity as Christians and Conservatives. This great nation was founded upon the God-given principles of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Similarly, our Constitution clearly stipulates the protection of religious liberties – liberties that were fundamental to the establishment of this country. Our Party can and must reflect the belief that government’s most basic role is to protect these rights that are endowed by our Creator – not granted by the government. As an Advisory Board member for the First Liberty Institute, this is an issue that is near and dear to my heart.
Plank 149 – The Right to Keep and Bear Arms: The 2ndAmendment is the safeguard that protects all other rights. The right to defend ourselves, our families, our property and our freedom is a God-given, Constitutionally-guaranteed right. As an NRA Endowment Member and LTC holder, I’ve worked tirelessly to educate the public and fight for our 2nd Amendment rights.
Party finances are a perennial concern. What steps have you taken and/or will you take to strengthen the party’s financial position?
JD: With $1.2 million raised in the last eleven months, which does not include funds raised for our State Convention, Victory or Candidate Resource Committee, the Party is currently on track to have our best fundraising year since Chairman Steve Munisteri. Every category of fundraising – direct mail, email, major donors, and events – has performed significantly better due to our dedicated focus and attention in these areas. We will continue focusing on raising funds, being fiscally responsible with the funds we have, and building our grassroots financial base.
CA: As Chairman, I will be committed to ensuring the RPT is run efficiently and effectively. The first step is to ensure every dollar raised and spent is utilized to ensure the greatest impact. Measurable goals will be implemented to ensure the highest return on investment for each area of the office. The Chair and Vice Chair will personally engage major donors that have donated to the RPT in the past, but who have not donated to the RPT in the last year to six months. To get our Party finances back on track, we must develop a strong finance team to help raise funds from a diverse audience across the state. We must work to expand the Grassroots Club to help fund the day-to-day operations of the Party. In addition to expanding membership, the Grassroots Club should keep its promise to not solicit funds from active members. Accurate financial information will be produced and made available to the SREC to ensure transparency and accountability throughout the process. Our party is strongest when our funding comes a from a broad base of donors. Whether it is a donor that can give $5 or $5000, each plays an important and invaluable role in our party’s make up, and we are obligated to ensure that every dollar is spent wisely.
A great number of issues more directly affecting Texans are decided in “non-partisan” city, school, and special-district elections. What, if anything, can or should the Republican Party do to cultivate and support candidates for those races?
JD: The Republican Party can and should provide support and infrastructure to county parties as they take a stand on our principles locally. When I was the Travis County Republican Party Chairman we worked to get conservatives elected and worked conservative issue campaigns at the local levels using both obvious and innovative strategies. I brought this experience with me to the RPT and we have been supporting our counties with data and marketing resources that will benefit their efforts to recruit candidates and fight for our conservative principles. In addition, thanks to recently changed SREC rules, the Republican Party of Texas was able to directly get involved in the May 5th municipal elections. That activity helped ensure crucial city council victories in both Williamson and Brazoria Counties. The team is excited and prepared to significantly expand those kinds of efforts moving forward.
CA: For far too long, the Democrats have held a monopoly on municipal races. By failing to engage at the local level, we’ve been standing idly by as liberal Democrats have taken control of our schools, cities, and local boards. This phenomenon has resulted in skyrocketing taxes and progressive policies – just two of the reasons that I ran for City Council in Frisco. These local elected offices are critical to the future of our state, and the RPT must engage with our county GOP offices to help recruit, identify, train, and elect conservatives to run for these important positions. The RPT must serve as a resource for data, training, and support in these local races.
Some have alleged there are “pay-to-play” slates in which candidates or their surrogates must pay to receive an endorsement and publicity mailing. What, if any, steps can/should the party take regarding this practice?
JD: Historically, county parties have handled these matters on a case-by-case basis locally. The SREC has been looking into this issue and has yet to reach a conclusion they believe is appropriate statewide but will continue to track these concerns. RPT staff has and will continue to provide our county parties with any assistance they need interpreting rules or the election code as they deal with this or any other issue.
CA: The RPT should take a proactive and bold stance against this unethical form of campaigning. A resolution passed by the SREC or the inclusion of a plank in the platform would send a powerful message that we do not tolerate unethical political games. Pay-to-play slates are in direct contradiction to the grassroots, bottom-up structure of our Party. Elections should be decided based on character and vision – not by the candidate who can afford to buy the most support.
A number of Republicans believe the RPT should move to a closed primary system. What is your stance on the issue? Why?
JD: This is an issue that should be decided by our delegates and not solely by the Legislature. As Chairman, I will support the decision our delegates make either way, including seeking legislative support and, if necessary, defending in court the party structure and rules our delegates choose.
CA: I am personally in favor of a closed primary because I believe it protects the integrity of our primary election process and prevents Democrats from interfering in selecting our Republican Party candidates.
The lifeblood of the Republican Party are its grassroots volunteers. What will you do as chairman to increase and encourage activists to be engaged in the party?
JD: Increasing communication and engagement on issues is key to gaining and keeping our grassroots activists and volunteers. During my time as RPT Chairman, our team produced:
- an unprecedented amount of grassroots communication and involvement during the special session with our Strategic Texas Activist Team (S.T.A.T.),
- a huge coordinated effort during Hurricane Harvey with our RPT Serves program,
- the tools the grassroots needed to file as a candidate and run successfully, and,
- critical information for would-be delegates on the process from Precinct to State Convention.
We will continue these types of initiatives and expand them as our resources allow.
CA: Texas is the greatest example in the nation of a state that prospers because of its conservative government. Our continuing ability to elect Republican leaders is due to the many thousands of grassroots volunteers that carry our message every day. I saw firsthand from my work as the Dallas Area Captain of the Mighty Texas Strike Force that our grassroots activity and enthusiasm across the state and nation is unmatched. To maintain the enthusiasm and broad range of activity, we must empower our grassroots with more training, increased volunteer opportunities, chances to engage with Party staff and elected leadership, and an increased availability of resources to help advocate for the principles in our platform.
As Texas grows, so too must the Republican Party. What will you do to increase party involvement from Texas’ growing and changing population?
JD: We have launched an extensive, well-managed and data-focused field effort earlier in this election cycle than in the past. Our diverse team – including volunteer teams that are fluent in Spanish – has worked in previously unreached Texas communities to share our Republican principles, win support, and provide critical voter identification information that our candidates will need to win going forward.
We have also increased the ways in which we have incorporated Auxiliary and Coalition organizations that can grow our impact in diverse communities. Thanks to their work we have seen fantastic results. As part of these efforts, we recently welcomed our newest party-switching elected officials, including Waller County Commissioner Jeron Barnett, the county commissioner whose district includes our state’s largest historically African-American University – Prairie View A&M. We are now working with him to begin training students there and building a strong, meaningful, and long-lasting Republican base of volunteers in a previously unreached community.
CA: To keep Texas red and to push that red line into urban areas that our opponents take for granted, we must engage in non-traditional Republican areas of the state. In just two short years, the majority of the Texas voting age population will be made up of ethnic minorities. If we fail to build meaningful, long-lasting relationships in these communities and bring these voters into our Republican family, it will not be a question of “if” Texas will turn blue – it will be a question of “when.” We must be out in the community frequently to listen and work to build bridges in these areas. One of my first acts as Chairman will be to reinstate the minority engagement program that was dissolved by my opponent.
A vocal minority of Republicans have repeatedly attempted to weaken the party’s platform and messaging when it comes to immigration issues. Will you support the party platform and oppose any path to citizenship or other legal status for illegal immigrants?
JD: I have and will continue to support the party platform and will conduct a fair, transparent, and open process by which the delegates will determine these policy issues. During my tenure as Chairman, the Republican Party of Texas has built a strong track record of clearly and successfully fighting to implement and defend the policy decisions made by the delegates.
CA: Absolutely. Amnesty must never be allowed and there should be no path to citizenship afforded to those in our country illegally.
Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have all called for Texas to expand parental choice in education and the issue was voted a legislative priority by the SREC. Do you favor school choice? If so, what proposals do you support?
JD: As RPT Chairman, I support all the Platform planks, including those on school choice. I consider that my duty. In addition, three years ago as Travis County GOP Chairman I testified for a school choice bill and participated in multiple School Choice Day events. My own experience graduating from a magnet high school convinced me that a range of educational options can meaningfully help those for whom the one-size-fits-all educational model is not well suited.
CA: Education is critical to a child’s success in life and to ending the cycle of poverty. I believe every child should have access to a quality education and every parent should have the ability to direct their child’s education. I am in favor of school choice reform that upholds and promotes the rights of the child’s greatest advocate – his parents.
Some individuals say the current party platform is too long and should be shortened. Do you agree? If so, what portions of the platform would you advocate eliminating?
JD: The ultimate decision of the content and length of the Platform lies with the delegates. With about 6,000 bills filed in the Legislature and about 1,000 bills passed, having a position on a wide range of issues is helpful in providing direction and reference for the Party and our elected officials.
CA: The decision regarding the length and content of the platform should be solely determined by the grassroots of our party. I believe convention delegates represent the will and beliefs of our party, and I have total confidence in their ability to accurately and effectively craft our party’s statement of beliefs.
Gov. Greg Abbott has advocated capping property tax increases at 2.5% with additional increases requiring a public election. Do you support Abbott’s plan?
JD: It is up to the delegates at the June convention to determine if it remains so, but the Platform plank and Legislative Priority currently call for the abolishment of property taxes. I fully support that goal and am in favor of any steps that get us closer to it.
CA:Absolutely. I believe we as homeowners, taxpayers, and Texans should have a greater say in determining where and how our hard-earned monies are spent. But, I believe the 2.5% cap is only the first step. We must not stop fighting until we fully eliminate property taxes in Texas. Under the current system, you can never truly own your own home.
Despite being the top legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas, constitutional carry failed to receive a vote on the floor of either chamber of the Legislature during the last legislative session. Other priorities failed as well. If elected, what will you do as chairman to ensure the RPT’s legislative priorities are advanced by Republican lawmakers?
JD: I would continue the unprecedented progress we began in the Special Session in 2017, such as communications with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House outlining our Legislative Priorities, meeting with key legislative staff, coordinating with groups who support those initiatives, and recruiting and empowering volunteers from across the state to advance those legislative priorities.
CA: I believe we must work to foster better relationships with elected officials and open channels of communication between lawmakers and the grassroots. One way I plan to help encourage that communication is by hosting town halls across the state to discuss the legislative priorities highlighted by our convention delegates. By opening the channel of communication between the grassroots and our elected leaders in their home areas, I believe we can work toward meaningful discussion and tangible results on these key issues.
Texas Republicans control every statewide office and the Texas Legislature by impressive margins. What measures must pass this upcoming session for it to be declared a success?
JD: Success will depend on what the delegates determine to be our Legislative Priorities at this convention in June and the implementation of them during session. Passage of a significant portion or all of those priorities will most certainly be a success.
CA: It is up to the delegates of the convention to determine which issues should be our Party’s top priorities in the upcoming legislative session. And as your Chairman, I look forward to fighting for those priorities along side you.
Currently the Republican Party of Texas has a rule prohibiting the party from allocating resources in support of candidates who fail to comply with the pro-life planks in the party platform. However, that rule is often not enforced. Do you believe it should be? Why? How?
JD: RPT Platform Plank 95 states that financial assistance should only be given to candidates who support the right to life platform planks but does not get into specifics of what “should” means or how universal support needs to be (the platform planks call for nullification of federal court rulings, but very few in our legislature have expressed support for this position, for example). The State Convention Rules committee will be asked to look at this topic. If they fail to address it and similar wording in the platform remains, then the SREC should set the applicable guidelines, and I will request that they do so and abide by their decision. As my track record shows, I am both a pro-life individual and a pro-life Chairman.
CA: I believe the rules established by the body should be enforced. The issue of protecting life- from conception to natural death – is paramount to our identity as conservatives, and I believe it is an issue we should expect our elected leaders to support.
Outside of the primary elections, should there be a mechanism to hold Republican elected officials accountable when they vote or work against the party platform? If so, what?
JD: As Chair, I support letting the delegates answer these questions, as they did in 2016 with the adoption of Rule 44, which provides a mechanism to hold elected officials accountable outside the primary process.
CA: I believe the grassroots should wield the ultimate authority when it comes to holding our elected leaders accountable.During the Primary election, the voters have the opportunity to decide who best represents the values of their respective district. I support the ultimate form of holding our elected officials accountable – utilizing the ballot box. I do not believe the state chairman – a central authority figure out of Austin – should have the authority to tell the voters of a given district what is right or wrong for them. That is directly contradictory to the bottom-up structure our party holds dear.
As state chairman you will be one of three delegates to the RNC. What changes to the national party will you advocate for in that capacity?
JD: The most important change, and one that I already have been advocating for, is to change the presidential delegate weights so that more Republican states have a bigger impact on the nomination. While there are bonus provisions within the rules, the end result still does not give heavily Republican states as much influence as they should have on the final outcome. I have been working on this and am now doing so as State Chair and a member of the RNC to give Texas a bigger impact on the selection of the Republican presidential nominee.
CA: After numerous attempts by the Never Trump/Free the Delegates crowd to cause chaos at national convention and thwart the will of voters, I would advocate for an overhaul of the nominations process to ensure the will of the voters and integrity of the process is maintained. It is unfortunate that my opponent, Central Texas Leader of the Texas Free the Delegates movement, chose to promote the agenda of a few over the will of the voters. I would advocate for reform so that attempts to promote individual agendas over the will of the voters and the good of our Party and nation cannot happen again.
One of the reasons former chairman Tom Mechler cited in his resignation letter was the stress on his family resulting from his frequent travel from Amarillo to Austin (where the RPT headquarters is located). Would being in Austin frequently be a burden for you, your business, or your family?
JD: Being local to Austin is of great benefit to my ability to perform the job as RPT Chair and crucial in allowing me to still get quality time with my wife and children.
CA: Last May, I retired from my career, which frees me up to be a full-time chairman. My family understands what the time commitment will look like and are 100% behind my decision to run. In addition, we have purchased property in the Texas hill country just a short commute into Austin, and will have the ability to make that our permanent residence should we decide that it is the best option for our family.
Should you be elected, what tangible metrics should Republicans use to determine if you have been successful?
JD: The RPT will be successful if we are able to continue raising funds and providing resources to our county parties, coalitions, auxiliaries, clubs, and grassroots supporters, breaking Party records, winning elections, defeating Democrats, fighting for our principles, and ensuring our legislative priorities are enacted.
CA: Money raised, number of Republicans filing for office, decreased number of Democrat candidates without Republican opponents, increase in grassroots club numbers, improved engagement efforts as evidenced by increased numbers of Republican voters registered, Republican candidates elected in areas and communities traditionally held by Democrats, and passage of more Republican Legislative priorities that indicate an improved relationship with elected officials.