When former Republican Party of Texas Chairman Tom Mechler stepped down last year, grassroots forces lined up behind James Dickey to replace Mechler in a narrow victory decided by the State Republican Executive Committee. This year, however, Dickey faces re-election at the Texas GOP’s state convention in June and today he received his first opposition in the race from Frisco Republican Cindy Asche.
Since taking the reins of the RPT in June, Dickey has placed a renewed focus on the party platform, engaging grassroots organizations, and holding elected officials accountable for failing to live out the party’s principles, and those positive steps helped to excite and energize the party’s base. Around the state party activists have mobilized and advocated for the party in ways not seen for a long time.
Shortly after taking office, Dickey held informational sessions inside the Capitol to reacquaint Republican legislators and staff with the priorities of the party ahead of the special legislative session called by Gov. Greg Abbott.
After many of those priorities were killed at the hands of liberal House Speaker Joe Straus, the Freedom Caucus led a movement to urge the Texas House GOP to amend its bylaws to allow for the election of a Speaker candidate in caucus, in a move to eliminate the situation in which Straus relied on Democrats and a small group of Republicans in order to take the gavel in 2009.
The RPT under Dickey listened to and affirmed this grassroots-driven measure and even allowed for candidates to attach an optional pledge to their filing that they would support a Speaker candidate elected by Republicans.
Shortly after, the Bexar County Republican Party—Straus’ home county—passed a Rule 44 censure resolution condemning him for repeatedly obstructing conservative legislation by subverting and ignoring the rules of the House.
Rather than ignore or otherwise try to stifle these actions behind the scenes or otherwise, Dickey allowed the process to play out all the way to the SREC. When the body required the chair’s vote to decide the fate of the resolution, Dickey cast a yes vote along with the supermajority, affirming grassroots conservatives’ dedication and work to hold Straus accountable, commenting at the time, “The Republican Party of Texas believes in its principles and supports the work of its delegates, voters, precinct chairs, and elected officials in upholding those principles.”
By all measures, Dickey’s short tenure so far as RPT Chairman has united grassroots by exhibiting a return to the conservative principles on which the party is founded. Given his record so far, today’s announcement by Cindy Asche that she is seeking to challenge Dickey at the convention comes as a surprise to many Texas conservatives.
In her announcement, Asche said, “I did not seek this position. However, I could not fail to answer the call for a candidate who could bring honesty, integrity, fiscal responsibility, and unity to the RPT.”
It’s unclear exactly what actions specifically Asche is taking issue with, as the conservatives are arguably more united now than ever and Dickey’s adherence to the party platform has caused an influx of new grassroots donors to the party.
Opposition to Dickey was not unexpected, especially with establishment groups seeing themselves be forced out the door with Straus’ departure. The name is surprising, as many conservative activists are expecting a more outspoken critic of Dickey to jump into the race.
Party delegates will have their opportunity to elect the Chairman for the next two years when the convention meets in June in San Antonio.