In an exclusive interview with Texas Scorecard publisher Michael Quinn Sullivan, Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi discussed his time thus far leading the Texas GOP, the party’s recent foray into local elections, and the future of the party in the upcoming elections.
Rinaldi—a former state representative—was chosen to lead the Texas GOP following Allen West’s departure from the role last July ahead of his unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.
“I think it’s going well; we’re strong financially as a party. I think we’re more united as a party than ever before going into these runoff elections and into the convention and, ultimately, into November. And we’ve got the wind at our backs. I mean, with Biden and his low approval ratings, I think it’s going to be a good election year for Republicans,” said Rinaldi.
This year, Rinaldi and the state party have pushed into new territory, endorsing in “nonpartisan” local races, such as those for school board.
Rinaldi says national issues have placed a spotlight on the importance of local elections.
“Lately, obviously, we’ve seen the Biden administration basically nationalize school board issues by Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice, effectively saying they’re going to target parents that criticize their school boards over things like critical race theory or sexualization of children in schools,” Rinaldi explained. “So, we thought it was important.”
“Also, the Democrat Party has been making these elections partisan for years,” he added.
The party’s move to endorse in these races was met with great success, with Rinaldi saying his endorsements had a 75 percent success rate.
When asked about the party’s primary runoff elections next week, Rinaldi stressed the importance of electing lawmakers who will fight for the party’s legislative priorities.
“I can tell you, as a member of the Legislature, the status quo is essentially what would happen, unless you have people who are disrupting the status quo and trying to fight hard in order to get something done. We need to identify who those people are in the primary and elect the right people, or Republican priorities won’t go anywhere,” said Rinaldi.
While neither Rinaldi nor the Texas GOP endorse in contested primary elections, that doesn’t mean the party has been silent.
“We will make statements like, ‘The Republican Party of Texas supports school choice,’ which is a statement of fact and one that … should draw people’s attention to particular issues—especially in the primaries, where candidates may differ,” said Rinaldi. “I mean, every candidate is going to say they’re pro-life. Every candidate is going to say they’re pro-Second Amendment. But on issues like school choice, this is an opportunity for Republican voters to ask the candidates when they’re campaigning and lock down their position, so when they do get elected, they’re going to have to fulfill that promise to voters.”
Another issue he sees Republican voters united on? Getting rid of Democrat chairmen in the Legislature.
“I think it’s united people from all wings of the Republican Party—moderate [and] conservative,” said Rinaldi. “When we win these elections, we should be appointing Republicans to run the Texas House, not Democrats.”
Looking ahead to the Republican Party of Texas convention, which is slated to be held in Houston from June 16-18, Rinaldi underscored the importance of grassroots involvement in crafting the party’s platform and priorities, which he called his “marching orders.”
“We have the power of holding the Texas GOP brand in the state of Texas, which says something to voters when we’re talking about issues like school choice, pro-life, opposing gun control. It means something, and this is giving our marching orders on certain issues so during the legislative session, we can say Republicans support school choice, we support the protection of life, we support ending taxpayer funding, etc.”
And Rinaldi’s message to lawmakers who have ignored the party’s platform in the past?
“They should care because unlike in most states, the Texas GOP is not merely just a cheerleading society for elected officials,” said Rinaldi, adding that voters get frustrated when they see Republicans not turning electoral victories into policy victories.
“We’ve been trying to protect the Republican brand name in Texas so that when we are asked to opine on issues before the Legislature, we make statements and it hopefully means something.”