The first email message sent to Republican Party of Texas (RPT) members from newly-elected Chairman Tom Mechler had many speculating that he was declaring war on Michael Quinn Sullivan, the Empower Texans President. Sullivan’s organization is known for criticizing Republican elected officials when they stray from conservative principles. However, after exclusive interviews with both men, Breitbart Texas can report that they are hoping for a more positive working relationship and are interested in sitting down to talk.
As Breitbart Texas reported, Mechler was elected as the new RPT Chairman at the beginning of March after former Chairman Steve Munisteri resigned to serve as an adviser for Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) as he prepares to enter the 2016 presidential race.
Mechler’s first email message as Chairman contains a call for unity, a predictable enough theme for the newly elected head of a large state party organization. However, eyebrows were raised by several lines in the email that called out “divisive” outside groups that attacked Republicans. “Diversity is healthy; divisiveness is not,” wrote Mechler.
Continued Mechler, “I will work to correct the record when I see special interest groups deliberately distort the intentions of those who are nominated by the primary voters to influence a third party agenda, especially when these groups describe themselves as ‘conservative’ but refuse to identify as Republican, help to elect Republicans and refuse to attack liberal democrats. The distorted rhetoric of these groups must and will be confronted.”
Several sources who did not wish to be named forwarded the email to Breitbart Texas; one commented, “I think he is declaring war on Michael Quinn Sullivan.”
Sullivan, through his work with Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, has been a vocal critic of a number of Republican legislators with more moderate voting records, both by comments to the press and through the “Texas Scorecard,” which grades legislators on their votes. Sullivan has been especially pointed in his criticisms of Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and his leadership team and other allies in the House, frequently blaming them for conservative legislation that fails to advance in the House.
Breitbart Texas reached out to Mechler for comment, and he expressly denied that the email was intended to target Sullivan. “We purposely did not name any names” in the email, said Mechler, who said that there were “several” groups that inspired the email’s language, not just one. He declined to name any of the groups and would not say if Empower Texans or anyone associated with Sullivan was included in that list. “[The email’s message] was meant to be very broad,” he said. “We were not naming names and not looking to poke anybody in the eye.”
Instead, said Mechler, the goal of the email was hopeful that conservative groups who attack Republicans would “reconsider their tactics, their approach, and work to be a part of the Republican team.”
Naming names, continued Mechler, would create “an adversarial relationship,” something he wanted to avoid. “My goal as the state chairman is to bring all the different parts of the party together…we want to build toward the future.”
Mechler praised his predecessor, Munisteri, for sending “a strong message to the business community…we’re hoping to build on what he started.”
Mechler also told Breitbart Texas that he had met Sullivan years ago, and they had not interacted much since, although he had seen him at the RPT’s convention last year.
When asked if he would be willing to sit down with Sullivan and discuss these issues, Mechler said he was “absolutely” interested. “I’m happy to have that conversation,” he said.
Sullivan took a similarly friendly approach, telling Breitbart Texas that he, too, was “absolutely” willing to sit down with Mechler.
“Our focus is on getting conservatives elected,” said Sullivan, “and that’s why we’ve been proud to be sponsors of the [RPT] convention the last several conventions in a row, and always have a booth.”
“We absolutely want to work with anyone who’s interested in getting conservatives elected, who will work to enact the tenets of the Republican platform,” said Sullivan, describing the theme of last year’s booth, honoring the “taxpayer champions” who had received an “A” grade or better on their Fiscal Responsibility Index. All of the honorees were Republicans and many stopped by the booth to take photos and greet conservative activists from around the state.
“What I would stress is we have been and look forward to being sponsors of the Republican conventions” and working with the RPT to elect conservatives, said Sullivan, adding again that he was definitely interested in meeting with Mechler.
Breitbart Texas will continue to follow this story and will report if Mechler and Sullivan do have a meeting.
Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Mechler’s email message dated March 19, 2015:
Dear Fellow Republicans,
It’s been almost two weeks since I had the honor to be elected Chairman of your Republican Party. In the last 13 days, I have been asked the same question by members of the legislature, party leadership, grassroots activists and reporters:
“Tom, What is your vision for the party?”
I thought I’d answer this question publicly, because it’s something I want our entire party to understand and to hear from me directly. I hope you’ll agree with me and join our team, or contact me should you have any questions.
First and foremost, this party must be united. And, of course in a party the size of ours, with 1.4 million primary voters, approximately 10,000 convention goers, and over 3,600 elected officials, comes different perspectives and approaches to keeping Texas the strongest state in the union while also tackling the challenges that are presented to our state and local governments.
I think that everyone in our party can agree, as we state in the Preamble of our Platform:
“…It is our solemn duty to protect life and develop responsible citizens. We understand that our economic success depends upon free market principles. If we fail to maintain our sovereignty, we risk losing the freedom to live these ideals.”
I recognize that voters, volunteers, party officers and elected officials from every corner of our state, whether they live in one of America’s largest cities, or in rural Texas, on the border or in one of our booming suburbs, will bring unique perspectives and solutions to the problems that face our great state. I also believe that anyone who runs in our Republican primary and is nominated by the primary voters of that respective district deserves our gratitude and support as that person proceeds to govern with the purpose to defend life, promote legislation that allows our state’s vibrant economy to flourish and to protect our state’s sovereignty. And we all must consider that the details of how to achieve these objectives will look different to someone from the Texas Panhandle than to someone who lives in Dallas, Houston or San Antonio.
It is not the Republican Party of Texas’s job to tell primary voters who to select – you need to nominate the candidate that best represents the conservative principles in your district. And when there is disagreement among us, I will encourage those differences to be argued respectfully and on point – without personal attacks or false accusations. Diversity is healthy; divisiveness is not.
This approach is working for us, and our Republican voters should be proud of many legislative accomplishments. Just in the past few legislative sessions, some of the most important planks of our party platform have been adopted into law:
- Neither the late term abortion ban nor the sonogram bill would have passed without our conservative Republican, pro-life leadership in the House and Senate.
- Voter ID, emergency funding for border security, raising the cap on charter schools, and repeal of the Rosebush-Blocker bill in the Texas Senate, would have never passed without conservative Republican legislative leadership.
As your Chairman, I have already met with and will continue to meet with members of the legislature to advocate for even more of our platform to become law. And, I will be assertive in bragging about our elected officials when they are successful in doing so.
Just as important, I will work to correct the record when I see special interest groups deliberately distort the intentions of those who are nominated by the primary voters to influence a third party agenda, especially when these groups describe themselves as “conservative” but refuse to identify as Republican, help to elect Republicans and refuse to attack liberal democrats. The distorted rhetoric of these groups must and will be confronted.
Finally, I believe that all Texans, regardless of the Republican voting strength of their precinct, deserve to hear our message and to be represented by candidates who have the interest of promoting life, economic opportunity and state sovereignty. Therefore, I am committed to keeping and expanding our engagement program:
- We need to give more resources to our field staff working in these communities and to county parties who are working to establish a foothold in traditionally Democrat strongholds, especially in those counties that make up Congressional District 23. We cannot and will not cede Will Hurd’s district back to the Democrats in 2016.
- We will work to build precinct organizations in our most competitive state legislative districts. We will retain the legislative seats we usually win in “off years” but lose in Presidential years. I will work tirelessly to prevent Obama and Clinton’s political pals, who now call Texas home, to take out good conservatives like Gilbert Pena or Rick Galindo.
- And, in the 2016 election I’d like to even take out a Democrat or two. In my opinion, every Republican seat will be defended and Democrats who have gotten a free ride in the past will be challenged.
I hope you will join us as we continue to make the Republican Party of Texas bigger, stronger and even more effective in Texas. If you’re interested, please show your support by signing up to volunteer or donating money to continue funding our efforts.
God bless you and God bless Texas,
Chairman, Republican Party of Texas
[Disclosure: Michael Quinn Sullivan is a Breitbart Texas contributor.]
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.