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Republican Party of Texas elects Conservative James Dickey as Chairman

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In a stunning 32-31 victory, James Dickey became the Chair of the Republican Party of Texas.

Dickey, the former Travis County Chairman, replaces Tom Mechler who resigned two weeks ago citing personal reasons.  The winner was decided by the State Republican Executive Committee which is comprised of 1 man and 1 woman from each of the 31 Texas Senate Districts and the Vice-Chair of the party.  The votes were cast by secret ballot and each candidate had a designated “watcher” who observed the votes as they were counted and recorded.

Rick Figueroa who had also thrown his hat into the ring, currently is co-chair of the New Leaders on the Rise committee and has been travelling the state reaching out to Hispanic voters through organized efforts led by the RPT.  Figueroa lost a bid for Republican National Committeeman at the ’16 convention when we ran against the current sitting chairman Dr. Robin Armstrong of Texas City.

Figueroa announced his run for the chair two days after Mechler resigned.  State Republican Executive Committeeman Mark Ramsey of Houston was expected to run, but decided against it.  Ramsey later threw his support behind Dickey.  Ramsey had this to say about Dickey’s win on Saturday,

“I am pleased that in a very short two-week period, a smooth transition to a new chair for the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) has taken place.  I congratulate James Dickey and am hopeful that Rick Figueroa will continue to be involved with our party, the largest GOP organization in the country.”

During several forums that were held in the week before the vote, both Dickey and Figueroa spoke about the issue of the division that currently exists with the party rank and file.  Both spoke of the immediate need for healing within the party if it is to work towards keeping the state red.

As soon as the votes were tallied and the winner was announced, Dickey took the reigns of the party and in a move that left some SREC members in disbelief, he announced replacements for the current party officers.  Especially troublesome to these SREC members was the replacement of General Counsel Patrick O’Daniel who has served the party for 7 years.

The previous evening, the SREC had held its own private forum in which the following question was raised: Will you keep the current party officers and committee chairs in place? If not, who will you replace? Dickey responded,

“As both Patrick and Tom (the RPT Treasurer at the time) can confirm, I had conversations with both, asking them whether they were willing to stay on if I won the election tomorrow.  There’s a very logical process for making change.  You figure out the goal. You figure out the talents and skills needed.  You match the people with the talents and skills needed.  Until I’ve gotten an indication that we’re not going to meet the goal or don’t have the necessary talents and skills, my bias is to leave things alone and that’s exactly what I’d do and that’s why I extended those invitations to Patrick and Tom.”

As the meeting progressed it was apparent that Dickey’s replacement of the party officers was causing distress to the body.  Dickey made the following statement:

“Some of you, based on what I said last night, may be a little bit surprised about the appointment of party officers.  Unfortunately, in my conversations with a couple of the people that I had intended to appoint and retain, they put conditions on their willingness to serve with me that I was not willing to accept.  As a chair I will do things openly and transparently and would not do anything that would require quid quo pro.”

As the past officers were asked to give the officers reports for the meeting, O’Daniel came to the mic and made the following statement:

“Just to be clear. As I announced during the forum last night, I certainly would serve with whoever we elected and I’m glad that James Dickey is the new chair and I did tell him that I would prefer to have the continuing Assistant General Counsels given their experience and their knowledge about election law.  I did not make it a condition to me serving however, but I would always serve whoever is the chair and it’s always their decision on who is to represent them and so I continue to congratulate you.  Just want to make that clear.  It must have been a miscommunication on my part. I’m sorry for that and I want to thank all of you for the 7 years that I’ve had as your General Counsel.  Thank you for that time.”

Later in the afternoon as it was still apparent that there were concerns over the way in which the party officers were replaced, Dickey made the following apology to the body,

“….I said last night very clearly was that I had spoken to the treasurer and the counsel and that they had both agreed to serve. True statements and at the time that I said them it was absolutely my intention to ask them to serve. I had not yet done so and later I learned new information that forced me to change my mind. To those of you who felt that one of my first actions was therefore misleading you have my sincere, honest, humble apology. That was not my intention. It never is my intention and it was a difficult choice that I did not take lightly. As importantly, I regret that due to the requirement that at least the treasurer and counsel at least be presented literally the very next item in the agenda, I had not had time to address that with those people personally in private and instead it was in public.  That is never my preference and that is not my wish and so for the first time, and absolutely not the last time, I ask for your forgiveness, I ask for your grace, and I ask for your approval for these officers.”

Dickey then went on to say after a question by SREC member Marion Phillips, Senate District 23-Desoto, that he had spoken with O’Daniel after O’Daniel’s comment to the SREC and asked him to reconsider and that he understood O’Daniel’s decision not to.

SREC member Stephen Broden, Senate District23-Dallas, asked for a point of personal privilege. He said, “You offered an apology and I would like to receive your apology. I receive your apology.”

He then went on to say:

“Second of all, we were in a very tense moment, no question about that this morning, and as the vote came in many were crushed. It was a divided house and that tension existed prior to the vote and our Vice-Chair led us this morning in prayer.  ……and starting at the point of your apology, I’m asking for us as a body to rally behind your leadership. Recognizing that none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes and that many of us in the body are Christians and that as Christians we are forgiven and we must forgive.”

Chairman Dickey then led the body in prayer.

The new party officers as appointed by Chairman Dickey and approved by the SREC is as follows:

Thomas Gleason, Finance Chair; Larry Hicks, Treasurer; Holly Alt, Parliamentarian; Chris Howe, Assistant Parliamentarian; Chris Gober, General Counsel; Trey Trainor, Assistant General Counsel; Nelda Epps, Sergeant at Arms; Jeremy Storey, Chaplain; and Wayne Thorburn, Historian.

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