At the second largest political gathering on the planet (second only to the meeting of the Communist Party in China) delegates to the Republican Party of Texas’ 2016 Convention will be making decisions that echo beyond the state’s borders.
Yet no decision so directly personifies those tasks as the selection of the party’s state chairman.
Steve Munisteri, elected in 2010, left the seat more than a year ago to help his college friend Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. The vacant seat was filled, per party rules, when the State Republican Executive Committee appointed Tom Mechler to the post.
He is being challenged to a full term by former Harris County GOP chairman Jared Woodfill.
Both men accepted the opportunity from Texas Scorecard to answer questions expressing their vision for the RPT. Neither this publication, nor it’s parent entity Empower Texans, has endorsed in the race. Both candidates’ answers are reprinted in full, as submitted and without edits, in a special GOP convention print edition of the Texas Scorecard available at the Empower Texans convention booth (711).
A mechanical engineer and graduate of Texas A&M, Mechler served as RPT’s treasurer during the successful fundraising years of the Munisteri chairmanship.
Woodfill, a Houston attorney who graduated from the University of Texas, is widely known for his work successfully fighting the “bathroom ordinance” promoted by Houston-area Democrats.
A party chairman is responsible for overseeing the budget of a major political and grassroots operation. Mechler says the RPT is debt-free and has more than $1 million cash-on-hand. He criticizes Woodfill for having “left the Harris County Party in shambles and broke when he was voted out of office.”
Woodfill, however, contends that he was “able to raise an average of over a million dollars a year” and left the party with “over $100,000 in the bank.”
“[W]e took bold stands and were not afraid to criticize Republican elected officials when they deviated from the Republican Platform,” says Woodfill.
As the visible face of the party, a chairman must represent the party’s policy positions. During the last legislative session, a measure supported by more than 80 percent of Republican primary voters passed the Senate but was killed by an appointee of House Speaker Joe Straus. The bill would have protected employee paychecks from automatic deduction of dues by government labor unions.
Woodfill says officeholders “must… be held accountable” when they vote against the party platform. “I have a long history doing just that in Harris County. When liberal State Representative Sarah Davis voted with pro-choice Democrats against the pro- life plank of our Republican Platform, I called her out publicly.”
Woodfill added: “Establishment politicians like Tom Mechler don’t like it when I hold elected officials accountable.”
For his part, Mechler says he “worked hard” for the measure and was “disappointed when it didn’t pass.”
“We will continue to communicate directly with lawmakers and make sure the voice of the grassroots is heard,” wrote Mechler. “I will make it clear to our Republican representatives that Republicans want results on pro-life initiatives, sanctuary cities and lawsuit reform. “
Woodfill has been endorsed by grassroots-focused groups like Texas Right to Life, and Texas Values. Among his individual supporters are WallBuilder’s founder David Barton, Liberty Institute CEO Kelly Shackelford, State Sen. Bob Hall, State Reps. Matt Rinaldi, and Matt Shaheen, as well as tea party leaders Julie McCarty and JoAnn Fleming.
Mechler has earned endorsements from establishment-oriented groups like Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Texas Alliance for Life. Among his individual supporters are former Republican National Committeeman Ernie Angelo and State Reps. Craig Goldman and Jodie Laubenberg, as well as tea party leader Toby Marie Walker.