After a heated, two-week campaign, Travis County Republican Party Chairman James Dickey was elected to lead the Texas GOP by the party’s executive committee on Saturday.
Prevailing in a 32-31 vote over Houston businessman Rick Figueroa, Dickey now takes position as the head of the party—an office held by Tom Mechler until his sudden resignation in mid-May.
“I am humbled and honored by your trust and support,” Dickey said after winning the close vote, adding that he was only disappointed by the divisions in the party.
Those divisions pre-date the competition between Dickey and Figueroa, but they couldn’t have been clearer in their brief campaigns for the position. In short, the battle between the men was merely a manifestation of the internal battle between conservative and establishment members of the Texas GOP.
Figueroa was the handpicked successor of Tom Mechler, an establishment commodity whose refusal to aggressively advocate for the party platform rankled party activists, and undoubtedly represented the establishment faction of the GOP and bore their support in his campaign.
Meanwhile, Dickey was the conservative candidate with both a proven record of bucking the party’s establishment and a strong list of conservative supporters such as SREC member Mark Ramsey, Texas Right to Life, and State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood). His victory represents the first time that conservatives have held the reins in a number of years.
In an interview after his election, Dickey said that he hopes to make the Texas GOP a stronger organization that aggressively advocates for conservative principles.
“Almost no one is attracted by lukewarm water, we either want it hot or we want it cold and unfortunately we’ve been lukewarm for a while and we need not to be,” he told KXAN.
“What I’m hoping for is a very clear communication of the principles we believe in, that truly lead to a better life for everyone,” he added. “And that more opportunity, more freedom, more self-control is better for all. You can see it in spots in Texas and it’s our mission to make it more visible. And I hope that everyone– they see where it really benefits where the economy takes off.”
Though Dickey and conservatives have captured the chairmanship of the party, they’ll need to maintain their zeal and enthusiasm going forward. Both qualities will be pressed into service as Republicans enter a potentially perilous campaign season where midterm elections and probable redistricting will give Democrats a leg up in a number of races.