The host of this year’s Texas GOP Convention, San Antonio, was once again the battleground for the future of Texas. And almost 200 years later, Texans still have fire in their bellies.
While prominent Republicans like Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz rallied delegates for victory in November diligent, citizen-led committees and grassroots activists from around the state carried out the heavy lifting of convention business, winning several decisive battles in the process.
Battle for the Platform: Grassroots Activists Defend their Turf
Appointed to chair the Platform Committee, Mark Ramsey served as the admiral to a fleet of subcommittees designed based on committees found in the Texas Legislature, such as State Affairs, Business, Commerce, and Transportation.
For three days each of these subcommittees took testimony and worked through platform resolutions passed at Texas’ county and senatorial district conventions. Their recommendations were then vetted and discussed by the committee as a whole.
In that process, moderate delegates testified against planks that defend Biblical marriage and sexuality. After a relatively long fight on the issue, the Platform Committee compromised by taking out words that outright condemned homosexual behavior but preserving the plank that upholds traditional marriage.
What remained was a document that laid out Texas Republicans’ views on issues as diverse as medical marijuana, the USS Texas, and the 17thAmendment. It was this document that was presented to the convention to be approved.
On the floor of the convention, a small minority of the Platform Committee led by moderates supporting Cindy Crocker Asche for party chair presented a floor report that would slash the platform planks they deemed “too specific” or “controversial.”
Their solution was a slim platform from the current three hundred or so to less than a hundred. This was a battle that grassroots activists won in large numbers and the minority promptly retreated after the delegates caught wind of the damage this could wreak on the comprehensiveness of the platform.
Battle against Byron Cook: Goodbye, Mr. Chairman
One of the most divisive items parleyed before the Platform Committee wasn’t a plank, but a censure resolution against retiring Republican State Rep. Byron Cook of Corsicana.
Not a single member of the committee defended the actions of Cook, but the mere existence of a censure resolution was enough to create a divide among the members. Remarkably, the resolution was initially defeated by one vote, but after grassroots activists caught wind of the decision they descended on those who had voted against the resolution en masse.
It was reversed the following day and not only did the platform committee recommend the censure of Byron Cook, but the delegates approved the resolution on the floor.
Battle of Republican Priorities: An Abundance to Choose From
Chairwoman Amy Clark handily steered the Legislative Priorities Committee through a contentious process. Various public officials and citizens alike came before the committee to make their case for the priorities of the party going into the legislative session. State Sen. Bob Hall (R-Canton) urged the priority of Texas electric grid security, while former, and likely future, State Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) spoke about alleviating property taxes.
Committee member Adam Cahn shared laughs with the lawmakers, “I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying being on the dais while you’re at the witness stand for a change,” he joked.
Texas Right to Life advocated for pro-life priorities ranging from the unborn right to life, to patients’ rights in hospitals. Abolitionists insisted that the complete eradication of abortion become the top priority. Several Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) experts testified on a variety of topics, including local government overreach and annexation. And members of Texans for Toll-free Highways shared their experiences with runaway toll taxes.
In the end, the committee settled on five conservative priorities, but some in the party believed there should be more.
On the convention floor, State Sen. Bob Hall led the delegation in attempting to expand the number of priorities advocated by the RPT to eight, arguing that the Texas Legislature considers more than five priorities in a given session.
That amendment was voted down by the convention and the party’s five robust priorities were approved.
Battle for Unity: Defeating the “Blue Wave”
After defeating a bitter attempt to unseat him and winning re-election as the leader of the state’s Republican Party, Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey proclaimed peace over Republicans, counseling them to unify as they head into the mid-term elections.
“Democrats are fighting to push us back, take back ground they’ve lost, and advance their liberal agenda into every area of our state,” he reminded the delegates. “We must stand together and fight to keep winning for Republican principles.”
Grassroots conservatives left the convention victoriously. They thwarted several onslaughts from the establishment to replace the party’s leading figure with an establishment yes-woman.
Republicans in the 86th Legislature have a strong set of priorities in hand from their conservative constituents. The party has a strong Platform in place, virtually untouched by leftists. Armed with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “bigger surfboard,” delegates left San Antonio prepared to ride the supposed big blue wave in November and ensure conservative victories in 2019.