On Saturday, the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) will choose a new Chairman, and out of the four candidates running, Dallas County GOP Chairman Wade Emmert has earned popular support among the state’s Young Republicans.
The election is to replace outgoing Chairman Steve Munisteri, who is leaving his position to serve as an adviser to Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) as he prepares a potential presidential campaign. As Breitbart Texas reported, Munisteri earned praise from Republicans across the state for his work recruiting chairs for all 254 county party organizations, eliminating the RPT’s debt, and continuing the Republicans’ streak of electoral wins.
Whoever is elected on Saturday will serve the remainder of Munisteri’s term, until a new Chairman is elected at the RPT’s state convention next May. Only the members of the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC), which is comprised of representatives elected from each Senate District, are eligible to cast a vote.
Besides Emmert, the other three candidates are Texas’ Republican National Committeeman Robin Armstrong, Texas GOP Treasurer Tom Mechler, and former Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill. A report by The Texas Tribune described the race as “wide open,” noting that after a series of debates and straw polls, there was no clear frontrunner.
Among Young Republicans, however, there are signs that Emmert has emerged as the consensus favorite. The Texas Young Republican Federation (TYRF) conducted an online poll of their active members from February 23 to March 5, 2015, and Emmert received 58.1 percent of the vote from those who responded, a strong majority on its own, but even more so in a four-way race. Mechler came in second with 35.5 percent, then Armstrong with 12.9 percent, and Woodfill last with 6.5 percent.
Current TYRF Chairman Richard Morgan told Breitbart Texas that he had decided to do the poll after attending multiple debates between the RPT Chairman candidates, and hearing each candidate say that youth engagement needed to be a priority for the RPT. Morgan said that TYRF members were “very active” during the 2014 general election, making over 100,000 volunteer phone calls in the final month of the election alone, showing their dedication to the party’s success.
“I felt it was important that our members have the opportunity to voice their opinion on this race before the vote,” said Morgan. “I think that our poll results indicate that our members are looking for a CEO-type who will run the state party effectively and organize to win elections, rather than an activist-type who would treat the state party as a personal megaphone.”
Woodfill’s weak showing in the TYRF poll is especially worrisome considering the high participation in the poll from Harris County Young Republicans, who should know him best. Among the Harris County YRs who chose Emmert over Woodfill is former TYRF Chairman Mark Brown, who sent out an email to the SREC members endorsing Emmert earlier this month.
In his email, Brown describes Emmert as “the candidate who is in the best position to build upon the work of Steve Munisteri and take the party to the next level,” as well as praising his ability to reach out to younger conservatives, and people from all demographics. “Wade’s leadership style and willingness to include conservatives from all backgrounds has helped the Republican Party in Dallas become younger and more diverse, while increasing the number of active precinct chairs as well,” wrote Brown.
These sentiments were shared by H Scott Apley, the Galveston County Young Republicans Chairman. In an email to Breitbart Texas, Apley described the survey results as “a direct response to the frustration shared by many Young Republicans across the state…many of us feel as though we are viewed as not much more than a labor pool that is better seen and not heard,” despite the hard work that many YRs contribute to the party. However, continued Apley, “in the case of Wade Emmert, I think it shows that when you make an effort to break that mold and engage Texas’ younger republicans, we notice.”
Brian Bodine, TYRF’s Policy Director is also supporting Emmert. “Bottom line: Wade can fundraise for the state party,” said Bodine. “He appeals to more of a cross section of the party, and that makes him our best option.”
“I spent a lot of time working with Wade Emmert during the last cycle, and I can say with confidence that he knows how to manage a winning party,” said attorney and digital strategist Amy Miller, a Young Republican who worked for Senator John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) campaign during the 2014 cycle. “There’s a way to tailor your message to minorities, or millennials, or women, or whomever else you want to talk to without compromising your principles, and the fact that we were able to figure out that perfect mix is one of the main reasons we did so well in Dallas County last cycle. Wade understands better than anyone how to fuse that type of nontraditional strategy with traditional grassroots outreach. It’s going to be key going forward, and we need that brain power heading up the party.”
Breitbart Texas reached Emmert at his law office Friday afternoon and asked his reaction to the TYRF poll. “I’m honored that their faith in me reflects my faith in them,” said Emmert, adding that he believed for Texas to continue to thrive, and remain a red state, it was essential to reach out to young voters.
Emmert was optimistic and hopeful about Saturday’s election, telling Breitbart Texas that he was just focusing on getting through the first round of balloting. “I think the SREC members have a good idea who we [the candidates] are, and what our strengths are.”
Mike Goldman, the SREC Committeeman for Senate District 21 and an Austin Young Republican, has not yet decided which candidate will earn his vote. “I’m looking for the candidate who can carry on Steve Munisteri’s legacy, and that means growing the Republican Party while staying true to our ideals and providing a platform for all conservatives,” he said.
Breitbart Texas spoke to Goldman on the phone as he was leaving the Governor’s Mansion, where Governor Greg Abbott and Texas’ First Lady Cecilia Abbott had hosted a reception for the SREC members. “I’m waiting to see who Pancake endorses,” joked Goldman, referring to the Golden Retriever puppy recently adopted by the Abbott family.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.