The choice for Travis County GOP chairman is clear: James Dickey

Dear friends —

I am writing today because, like you, I care deeply about the Travis County Republican Party, where I have served as a Precinct Chair, and where I had the honor of serving as Vice Chairman from 2014–2016.

As we all know, we have a distinct challenge in the bluest county in Texas.

We must soberly admit the size of the challenge, and dispassionately analyze what is required to build a growing, successful, stable party here in Austin.

The Travis County GOP exists for two reasons:

  1. To certify candidates for the primary ballot, hold the primary election and certify the primary results, and
  2. 2. To elect Republicans in general elections.

Everything else is secondary.

The first responsibility is perfunctory. The second responsibility is foundational.

How do we win elections in Travis County?

We must have strong leadership that can recruit the best candidates possible, make promises they can keep, recruit and organize volunteers for general elections, and, most importantly, raise money.

Campaigns in red counties without money do not win. Campaigns in blue counties without money get crushed.

As it relates to today’s executive committee vote for Travis County chairman, I do not believe the choice is a close one.

I appreciated and enjoyed being your Vice Chairman, and I love owning my own political consulting firm. I know first-hand what a challenge it would have been to have to turn down a great campaign opportunity because that campaign was in a contested race in Travis County. But that is exactly what a party Chairman would have to do since they’re legally responsible for the impartial management of the primary election. They can have no real or perceived conflicts of interest. So while Brendan Steinhauser is a talented colleague, and his wife Randan is off to an excellent start on the SREC, Chairman is the one position for which he should not run. As it was in my case, though, I’m sure there are other roles the party needs that he could admirably fill — and I hope he does.

David Duncan is a genial fellow. His wife Jan is also off to an excellent start on the SREC. David was an adequate parliamentarian who was generous with his time at monthly meetings. However, I do not recall him ever playing a significant role in any major decision, effort or campaign while I was Travis County GOP Vice Chairman. Not once.

James Dickey worked immensely hard to serve as Chairman, in an unpaid job that offers nothing but headaches. During his tenure, we successfully elected three GOP members of the city council, running independent expenditures totaling more than $30,000 to help elect them. I’ve lived in Austin since 1984 and I do not recall ever having a Republican member of the City Council.

Here is what you get with James Dickey:

 > A Christian man of honesty and integrity

 > A consensus builder

 > A solid conservative

 > A Chairman that has strong relationships with every Republican elected official in Travis County, including statewide officials

 > A Chairman that has raised over $100,000 dollars for the Travis County GOP, and will do so again, quickly

 > An experienced Chairman that understands what the job requires and how to build a team

James was defeated by Robert Morrow in a quirky reelection race where he was listed second on the ballot. He signed up to run for a second term to complete the job. He is asking to have that chance to complete the work that is undone.

As someone that runs campaigns and provides political analysis for a living, I can think of no person I would rather have than James Dickey as our Travis County GOP chairman for the remainder of the unexpired term.

This is how I felt before Aug. 26.

Then, on Aug. 26, something happened.

That morning at the press conference where Executive Vice Chairman David Duncan announced that Robert Morrow effectively resigned as Chairman when he filed for President, I was shocked and appalled by what I witnessed.

David Duncan told the media that he “inherited an organization with no office, no money, no fundraiser planned and bills due.” He specifically blamed James Dickey for having to “dig out of that hole.”

It is important that you understand two things about this:

  1. David Duncan was on the leadership team during Dickey’s tenure as Chairman, and not once did he raise any of these issues. In fact, the Executive Committee vote to transfer the majority of our existing funds to local candidates passed by a significant margin, because we did not know what the future would hold with Morrow as Chairman. We did not plan a fall fundraiser (because a new Chairman and leadership team would be coming in), we closed the office and we limited as many bills as possible. This was the fiscally prudent thing to do.
  2. 2. James called David the night before the press conference, to give David a heads up that James was being asked to run again for Chairman and to privately inform him (as a courtesy) that he was considering it. David’s response was to viciously and dishonestly attack James Dickey to the media at the press conference the next day.

This one moment showed David Duncan as one who acts both unscrupulous and without the necessary awareness of the damage a poorly handled press interaction can cause. After the party’s experience with Robert Morrow, the critical skill of getting the best out of every press interaction is more crucial than ever. This experience makes clear that the TCRP cannot afford to have David Duncan as its Chairman.

Most importantly, in the 12 weeks since he has been Executive Vice Chairman, TCRP has received a paltry $6,000 in donations. Fully $5,000 of that came from a generous and unsolicited gift made by Gerald Daugherty. David had not asked for a donation, and had not charged anyone else with doing so either. The other $1,000 also came from unsolicited donations from concerned donors who knew the party needed continued support — including James Dickey.

I have not run into one major GOP donor in Austin who knows, has met, or has heard from David Duncan in the months since he became Executive Vice Chairman. Reaching out to major donors should have been his first task. He either doesn’t know them, doesn’t have time, or is unwilling or unable to make the effort. On that basis alone, he should not be elected Chairman.

If James Dickey is elected Chairman, he will immediately work to help elect as many of our local candidates as possible, acting quickly to raise the tens of thousands of dollars needed to open an office, organize our volunteers, assist our candidates, and explore independent expenditures.

His actions in the last few months provide zero confidence that David Duncan can or will do this.

You don’t have to share my opinions on this matter. I clearly feel strongly about this.

All you have to ask yourself is who would be the best Chairman of the Travis County GOP?

The choice is clear: James Dickey.


Matt Mackowiak

Travis County GOP Vice Chairman, 2014–2016