At a Republican Party fundraiser in Lubbock last Saturday, newly appointed Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler defended the Austin business establishment and the record of the coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans who control the Texas House. Mechler also attacked grassroots accountability efforts, implying that criticism of House leadership was dishonest. Audience members were reportedly shocked when Mechler went so far as to compare some grassroots activists to criminals.

Speaking to a group of more than 350 West Texas GOP donors, Mechler spoke against grassroots organizations that hold public officials accountable through the use of “scorecards” and other rating measures, alleging that the accountability tools are deceptive and that the organizations promulgating them are promoting private agendas.

Mechler was appointed chairman of the Texas GOP by the State Republican Executive Committee in March after former chairman Steve Munisteri stepped down to work on the Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. Mechler had previously served as treasurer for the GOP.

In 2014, Mechler helped lead the effort to include controversial language supporting a “guest worker” program in the state party platform that was dubbed the “Texas Solution.” Mechler’s immigration plan was soundly rejected by the party delegates in a major floor fight during the convention.

In his first email to Republican Party supporters after being appointed chairman, Mechler signaled that he would become involved in primary elections to attack those who criticize the records of incumbent Republicans.

Mechler’s recent attacks on the conservative grassroots and the general concept of accountability come as a bit of a surprise, however, based on Mechler’s own experiences during the 84th session and his private statements.

During the recently concluded legislative session, Mechler worked with a coalition of business leaders to advance Senate Bill 1968, legislation that would have prevented state and local governments from automatically deducting union dues from public sector employees’ paychecks. It was a reform that has passed in a number of other states. The bill would have taken around $7 million per year away from the Democratic Party.

Mechler reportedly viewed the bill as a no-brainer that ought to bring the Republican Party grassroots together with big business interests against the liberal Democrats.

Yet when the bill was passed by the conservative Texas Senate under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, it was ruthlessly attacked by House leadership.

State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), one of the closest allies of House Speaker Joe Straus, refused to vote the bill out of committee and killed it. Cook reportedly killed the bill in order to fulfill a promise he made to the public sector employee unions. More recently House Speaker Joe Straus personally attacked Mechler’s efforts to lobby for the passage of the bill, deriding it as “the poorest job lobbying he has ever seen.”

Since the death of SB 1968, Mechler has been privately acknowledging that Straus and the coalition government of liberal Republicans and Democrats must be removed from the Texas House. He has also privately called for Cook’s defeat in next year’s primary elections.

One wonders which is the real Tom Mechler. Is it the Mechler who privately expresses concern about the governing coalition in the House, or the one who publicly attacks conservative groups and their efforts to hold public officials accountable?

Republican Party members need to evaluate and decide which side Mechler is on. Does he support the Republican Party grassroots and their platform, or does he support the business establishment and oppose holding elected officials accountable when they stray from Republican principles? In either case, Texas Republicans will have an opportunity to hold him accountable when he stands for reelection before the party faithful at the 2016 Texas GOP convention.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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